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.