The mission of God makes me angry.
Every time I read a book by a missional author or sit down and chat with a missionary, I get angry.
I’m really excited at first, but the lingering emotion is almost always anger.
Let me explain.
I know a family who spent three years living in a third world country. They ate contaminated food on a regular basis, suffered from depression, and some of them got malaria.
The were willing to suffer through these hardships because they knew that Jesus wanted to reach the people around them.
So they walked from village to village sharing the gospel and distributing bibles. They told muslim leaders to repent and believe the good news of the kingdom. They learned the complicated local language so they could befriend their neighbors and play games with children.
This family literally emptied their retirement savings to share the gospel with those who had never heard. Their stories of God’s power and provision are incredible.
When they came back to the states, they were eager to share their stories with the Church.
But something disappointing happened – only a handful of people were interested in those stories.
Very few church-going Christians wanted to hear about what God was doing amongst the unreached peoples of the world.
It kind of made me angry.
Angry at God’s family, the Church.
In my walk with Jesus, this is a pattern. I see my brothers and sisters sacrificing everything to help people know Jesus, and the Church doesn’t seem to care.
But that can’t be true, right?
Is it really possible that the majority of Christians don’t give a rip about the mission of God?
I went to a men’s retreat in September and something incredible happened. The guest speaker got angry and started yelling at all of us. It was totally unscripted.
He was mad that American Christians opposed welcoming refugees into their country.
He said, “God is bringing the unreached people of the world right to our doorstep, and we’re missing it!”
At the moment, I swear I saw lightbulbs light up above a hundred guys’ heads. Later, many of these men confessed, “That’s amazing. Maybe God wants us to share the gospel with these refugees. I’ve never thought of that before.”
And there’s the key: I’ve never thought of that before.
Maybe you’re with my wife and are asking, “Why haven’t you thought of that before!?”
It’s revealing. By and large, we have forgotten how to think about God’s mission. I’m sure there are a thousand complicated reasons why this is the case. I just want to discuss one.
We confuse service with mission.
Both service and mission are good things, commanded by Christ. But they are not the same thing.
Digging a well in the third world is an awesome service, but it is not our mission as the Church. Likewise, moving to an unreached country and distributing bibles is not a service project.
Providing food to the poor and marginalized is a much needed service. But it’s not the same thing as helping a homeless addict find freedom in Christ.
Service and Mission. Let’s do both and talk about both. But we need to stop believing they’re the same thing.
One last thought on anger:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26, ESV)
If you are angry about the Church’s lack of enthusiasm regarding God’s mission, be angry without sinning. Don’t spread negativity, use divisive rhetoric, storm out of the sanctuary and start your own church.
Instead, speak the truth. Chances are, there are a vast number of lightbulbs over the heads of our brothers and sisters. They’re just waiting to be switched on.
6 thoughts on “Why I Get Angry”
Are you saying that confusion over service and mission is the cause of “Never-thought-of-that”? And then are you saying “Never-thought-of-that” is the cause of brothers and sisters and whole churches not being interested in the stories the sacrificial missionaries came back to tell?
No, I think the cause is very complicated and rooted in 50 years of retreating from those we are called to reach. But, the confusion of service and mission is currently clouding the vision of the Church. We think we can check missions off our list simply because we are serving people. Again, service is a holy foundation of the Church, but it’s not the mission of God as outlined in the great commission.
Okay. Back up just a bit… Any given sentence in this post makes sense to me. Except the first one and then the second one… and then the third… but after that… yeah… I think. But then the picture as a whole isn’t clear to me.
Is it the 50 years of retreat that gets you angry? If so, that makes sense to me. But then I wonder what’s behind that? Or more importantly what to do about it.
Normally you make good sense to me. This is not a normal post, I don’t think. But then I feel like a stalker here too. Some kind of heckler or something. But I have been reading here and admiring your blog for a minute now, and I suddenly feel throwed off… we might say.
Usually I try to condense my posts enough that readers don’t lose interest, so naturally there are thoughts and ideas that aren’t fully fleshed out due to lack of space.
I mention the Church’s lack of engagement having “complicated” reasons. The “50 years” refers to the Church’s participation in white flight. Which, at a deeper level, was fueled by an ungodly fear of minorities and the marginalized. So, historically, I would say the Church has forgotten the importance of reaching those who don’t look/believe/act like us… to the point that we don’t recognize the opportunities right in front of us.
I think what we do about it is return our gaze to Christ. It doesn’t take more than a few chapters of a gospel to see that Jesus attracted the outcast. As we follow Christ, he’ll lead us back to a place of “preaching the good news the poor” and believing he has “chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and inherit the kingdom.” That is a call to mission, announcing the kingdom and lifting up Christ in the hearts of those who hear.
I maybe the only one, certainly the only one I know of, who takes worship to the streets (and alleys, empty lots, and out front of locked up church house doors) as a means of ministry. I frequently give a little cash, take pizza with me and make a full shared meal out of the communion, and share coats and blankets as part of that worship experience. (The giving of money, clothes and so forth is not as frequent, but if I have, I give).
If I understand you, this then is somewhat of a mix of mission and service. The emphasis on the mission, alright… and though I never put the picture in those terms, that is how I have always viewed it. So often people act like we need to reach out to the felt needs FIRST and thus get a hearing for the Gospel. And I understand the logic of that, but I find it is not generally all that necessary actually. I mean, sure, if it is freezing cold and a guy has not coat and I stand there in my coat preaching to him for an hour before I finally go grab a coat out of my trunk, that would be very insensitive. But honestly, except for extreme examples of that sort, the Gospel has plenty of imagination expanding power, and I have seen it MANY times.
I suppose without a doubt I would be one of those the retreat speaker would be angry at.There is something not Holy or right about thinking of bringing refuges to our country for the sake of evangelism. For the sake of benevolence and mercy for those in unimaginable conditions yes for the sake of being able to say “Hey look at us, we are exploiting people in need.”
Bringing masses of refugees into our country is a complicated and delicate issue. The one thing I do understand fully is people in need will commit or say would ever they need to get assistance. To make a movement out of their fragile conditions to exploit them should be looked at very carefully.
Refugees and immigration should not be looked at as Evangelism made easy.