Some folks have taken the call to overseas missions as THE call of God as though it were the ONLY call of God for the average Christian.
I am convinced that far more of us are actually called to minister right where we are, right in our own town, school, county, church, right in our own backyard.
This, in too many cases, is considered near heresy. But let me state emphatically that if God confirms your calling is to serve short or long-term on a foreign field, by all means obey him and do it! If you know much about me, I've done a load of missions trips with Rez Band, solo, my wife Wendi and I, etc, for many years - and I intend to do more Lord willing.
Still, consider that there are many good reasons for ministering to whomever we are with, to those we see most every day, or weekly in any case. There are several excellent opportunities daily for most of us to share the Gospel with those who do not know and follow Jesus and/or to encourage spiritual growth and maturity (discipleship) in the life or lives of believers we associate with on some regular basis. Right? But this is not as romantic nor always as "fun" as missions weekends, overseas trips and the like.
It doesn't take as much time, money, effort (in one sense anyhow), but it's also not as glamorous or attractive as going somewhere more exotic to a land where not as many people have heard the Good News.
Have you considered that Jesus shed his blood equally for every man, woman and child on the planet regardless of their race, ethnicity, country, culture or language? They may be in desperate poverty or rich beyond imagination and they are all - every one - loved EQUALLY by God. They are each offered eternal life by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He did not shed even ONE DROP of blood more or less for any one of them, and all are either moving in the direction of- a Christ-less hell or the literal Kingdom of God - for eternity.
I will admit to you that serving the poorest of the poor in Africa, Bangladesh or on a Native American reservation is totally legitimate and that there is a great need for the people of God to respond to people in places such as these. There are certainly issues such as physical starvation that call for immediate response! BUT - it is a fact that there are people in Brixton and elsewhere who are just as needy spiritually and nearly physically... and that is not as attractive a calling for many.
Let's say we consider two individuals. Is it more important that the
one in Kabul, Afghanistan repents and comes to faith in Jesus, or is
it more important for the one in Glasgow to do so? Would it be best
for the Afghan to go to hell, or would we feel better about it if the
one from Scotland ended up there? Of course, God wants NO ONE to
perish, but the fact is that all are equally important, all need to
hear and respond to the Gospel, and all who turn away from following
the Lord will end up in the same predicament, no matter where they've
lived on this planet.
Again, one must go where and when the Master calls us, but my point is simple and I have made it as clearly as I know how. We must begin serving God and others WHERE WE ARE.
There are sound arguments to go where no one has heard the Name of Jesus, and I agree with them. There are solid reasons to bring the Good News to those on the doorstep of death - of course, nursing homes and senior's retirement centers as well as hospitals and hospices exist all over the US, UK and most western nations, centers who work with alcoholics and drug dependants, HIV positive patients and on and on. For some, going into all the world and preaching the Gospel will mean going outside their own comfort zones in a worship service, out the church door, out of a warm bed in the suburbs... and serving in their own city, village or county.
There are problems with "home missions". Many have heard some semblance of a gospel message but have rarely seen the character and ongoing stability of a consistent Christian witness from a consistent Christian! Those you see most every day, or fairly regularly, need THAT witness. I have heard it said the US is the most over evangelized nation on earth. While I understand and agree with some of the reasoning behind that statement, my response is that it is also possibly the most "surface" in it's Christianity, perhaps the most self-serving and spiritually compromised of any supposed "Christian nation" on the planet. To attend church is not synonymous to being a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. To have godly, Christian parents does not guarantee one's own salvation. Home missions? Yes.
In the large and largest cities of the West we have ever-growing ethnic, racial and language groups. Many Christians seem ignorant of those from foreign fields coming to THEM! Immigrants and refugees are increasingly among us and we have not often done an admirable job of reaching out to them with the love and words of Jesus. Simple kindness, small acts of welcome, invitation to a meal, offering tutoring in English, explaining customs of your culture all open doors for witness to those in our own backyard.
Let's face it; a prophet is not without honour EXCEPT in his own country, among his own kin, in his own house. (Mt 13.57) Therefore, there is no absolute certainty of great and lasting spiritual fruitfulness when one's sights are set on those in one's own land. But as: sure as God calls me to foreign missions - where I have served and shall serve as he directs - he has just as surely called me first to my own people, culture, country. I could not be any more excited nor committed to ministry than I am to those I understand the best, those I have lived with the longest, those I can speak most boldly and directly to. And they are those where I now live. How about you?
"Go into ALL the world" means beginning right outside our door. It includes obeying God's call to witness and disciple where we already live!
As always, the Lord has the last word: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person." (Col 4.5,6)The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.