I am excited about the upcoming Barnstorming events in Detroit, Traverse City and Hillsdale County. These events feel a little bit like a wedding to me. I get to spend time with people who I really appreciate and share a great love affair with them. That, and we always have great food.
I am also conflicted at these events. There are so many people who I legitimately love, and they have each made sacrifices to be at something we are doing. There just isn’t enough time to spend the amount that I want with each person. I inevitably have to cut conversations short because I need to be responsible for something, need to meet someone new, or want to check in on my staff team. It is a precursor to heaven and there we will have eternity together. At the end of these occasions there are heartfelt promises to reunite sometime in the near future. Those subsequent meetings do not happen often enough.
Ministry is a lot harder than most people think. Missions work is exponentially more difficult. The basic reason for the struggle is that the majority of the Christian world misunderstands their roles in global evangelism. Wrong perception, very often relegates missionaries to the place reserved for telemarketers and door-to-door evangelists. All too often, people assume that being passionate about ministry to a particular people group, indicates that all you want is their cash. That is not close to true. I’m afraid that many misunderstanding friends hope to keep all missionaries away.
Just recently one of our newest missionaries attended a meeting with a local church’s missions committee. This would be the group of people who are entrusted with the decisions regarding funding and other forms of support to the people God has called to do evangelism, church planting and ministry training in parts of the world not reachable by the committee itself.
As our candidate began his presentation, one of the gentlemen stated that he could not believe that our organization was sending another missionary to the committee to ask for funding. He then instructed this young man called by God to cut to the chase. He had family waiting lunch for him at home. I wish that was uncommon.
It did accomplish one thing for our young obedient servant. It humiliated him. It demonstrated that this church does not understand its role. God forbid, that a meeting with a church’s primary sending group would dissuade a missionary from finding the field he was called to. The incredible dichotomy here is that the same evening, I was approached by a young girl from the same church who was selling pies in order to fund a summer missions trip. I bought one.
We have an increasingly evident problem.
Even as most American Christians enjoy a lifestyle that is far more luxurious than the rest of the world, The United States is experiencing a decline in missionaries. Something is wrong.
Just yesterday I had a conversation about raising support with another one of our prospective missionaries. A friend of his explained to him that he did think anyone in Pennsylvania would be interested in supporting a ministry in Michigan. I was shocked. It is a misunderstanding of our call to win the world.
I explained to my young Padauan learner that his friend needs to understand that He is not being asked to come behind an organization or a state, but a friend. I shared that my refrigerator door is covered with pictures of missionaries whom I support financially even though I have never been to the place where they are ministering. I am thrilled to share in the joy of the gospel reaching a place that I cannot personally go.
Beyond that principle there is an important Biblical injunction. The disciples were told to go into the world. They were called to be Christ’s witnesses, “in Jerusalem (or in this case, Pennsylvania) Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8
One of my favorite movies, Hoosiers, has a line that I love to quote when it comes to responsibility.
“Look, mister, there's... two kinds of crazy, a guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and a guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter, the second one you're kinda forced to deal with.”
I am called by God to deal with the need that I stand face-to-face with. It has been my ambition to do something about the needs that I can see. This week, thankfully, God asked me to buy a pie. I’m really glad it wasn’t cake.
When I see friends at events, I want to be able to tell them about the students that are coming into a relationship with Jesus. There is a chance that I will have to end the conversation too quickly. That’s Okay! We should have eternity to talk.