“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
God has given us this big, global mission. To make disciples where ever we go, spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that all nations may praise His name. It’s a glorious mission, one we’re proud to be part of. One we sit in rows and often listen to other people talk about while doing hardly anything ourselves.
Oh, right. It’s a hard mission.
It’s a tough mission that might require a lot from us. Getting involved with the greater cause might mean we don’t get that nice car we planned for when we turn 25 and are finally going somewhere in the world. Getting involved might mean we have to say goodbye to our significant other, or change majors or move halfway across the world. Getting involved might mean we lose our health, sacrifice our schooling, maybe even our lives. Getting involved might mean we change nothing, and nothing changes because we are missing a mission right here at home. And it might be scarier than change.
200 years after the protestant reformation, missions to the unreached nations finally became a big deal. Young, single people were encouraged to go out into the world and often times they would pack their belongings in a coffin which would eventually be sent back to their loved ones at some point with their lifeless form inside. There was such zeal for the unreached. For the coasts and ports across the world, and soon after in the mainlands. Think about that though People, not much older than you and I, and sometimes younger than us, would pack all of their belongings, tuck their bibles under their arms, collect a one way ticket to some far off country that the Western world knew hardly anything about, and leave. They were leaving behind their elderly parents, their jobs, their girlfriends and boyfriends… never to see them again. And yet they did it willingly because the mission was the most important thing to them. God’s mission which He leads was all that really mattered.
These days, we’re not really pleading with God not to send us to Africa with a coffin as our suitcase. Many of us are just existing and saying someone else will do the work. Someone else will go, someone else will send, someone else will pray, someone else will mobilize or welcome. It’s a lot of someone else’s.
A few weeks ago I heard of a young family who had been planning to go to a small Asian country to plant churches. Their families were against it—they didn’t understand, and this waited, and they discussed, and they weighed the true reason for leaving and not long after… they said “Well, God has called us to stay home.” In our comfortable home, in our comfortable jobs, with our uncomfortable family that we haven’t taken the time or effort to reach as we have the rest of the world. This family said they realized they wanted to leave out of selfishness. They said that God had told them, that they weren’t needed. That the husband needed to take this job as a youth pastor of a local baptist church and the wife needed to homeschool their children. And like, their spark was dead— they became nominal Christians who say “It’s someone else’s job, God doesn’t need me there.”
Why is this? It’s not the first time I’ve heard stories like this and it probably won’t be the last, and it comes down to fear. This family, feared their family. Their relatives didn’t understand why they had to go. This family hadn’t put the time into saying “This is my Jesus. I want to tell the world about Him, and I want to start with telling you.” Now, I don’t know them personally, but I do know that it’s sad. Not that they’re still here and not on the field, but that they could be held back so easily. Maybe though, this is God’s way of focusing them on home, but in a different light.
All through the month of January we’re talking about overcoming fear… because people; we have a lot of it to overcome. In my life alone I’m plagued by fear every day. Fear of change, fear of losing those I love, fear of stepping out by faith and finding no one to catch me. They’re all irrelevant of course. None of them matter in the greater scheme of things, but if I wasn’t constantly asking God to renew my heart, I’d be crippled by them. It’s not hard to focus on the fear either. It’s actually very easy to see that the comfort we wrap ourselves in could be stripped away and to just choose to wrap it tighter and ignore the raging headache that’s keeping us from getting the best out of life.
You know what I fear? Talking to my unbelieving family members about Christ and the work He’s done in my life. I can talk to strangers all day long about Jesus, I can talk to friends, and acquaintances — no problem. But the family I know who don’t know my Lord? Just the thought makes me quiet. This year, that changes.
I am convinced that one of the biggest reasons why the church in the western world (or global north, if you’re a student of missional phrases) is stagnate and ingrown is because we, as Christians, practice pulling new believers out of their original comfort zones and effectively ostracizing them from their families. I’m guilty of this. Whenever I talk to new believers, I’m tempted to repeat the “get involved with a church!” mantra and saying nothing about the first goal.
Ralph D. Winter, a well known missiologist and missionary who we are sure to talk about in future articles, came up with the E-Scale. It represents the cultural distance Christians go, or need to go, when reaching the lost.
E-1 is what we’re talking about for the next few months. It’s too much to get into now, and there’s many great explanations out there that you can read, but to condense— E-1 is evangelism that goes outside the church, but stays within ones cultural boundaries. It’s your family members, your co-workers and other close people. We’re focusing on the family part. Many missiologists have noted that the greatest amount of change comes from this section. You have the greatest amount of influence with your family.
When we pull new believers out of their culture, out of their range of influence, we’re stifling something God wants to use. Sadly, in the global north we ignore this fact. We say it’s uncomfortable, it’ll make family dinners awkward. Or, we realize they know us the best and closest and can therefore judge our lives because of that, and maybe that’s just too hard to live up to. We can rationalize it, say that a person can’t possibly be nice and make God’s name great when your cousins are drinking or gambling or whatever it is that bothers you. We lack family influence in the west. We don’t priories our family members. But as Kingdom people, followers of the one true God? That totally changes, and it must.
So, how do we overcome this fear? You can start with God’s word. It’s pretty popular in recent years to talk about how the bible says “do not fear” at least 365 times, and that’s amazing. 365 times God’s inspired word says do not fear.
Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I chose this particular passage, out of 365 verses, because of the context. God has been talking through Isaiah about how He called the generations to Him from the beginning. And how Israel was meant to be part of that. God has always had the same mission, and He tells us right here that we are not doing this mission alone.
This mission that God has given us starts at home. The more we fight against it, the less we can show of Him. God wants to use us. He’s working in the hearts and minds of all people, He isn’t willing that any should perish. He has called each and every one of us, not a select few, not some special ones. All of us. There is no missionary calling that you’ll wake up to and say “Ah ha! I am a very special person. I get to do something no one else can. I get to be servant.”
Our calling comes from the very start of humanity, back when God looked at Abram and said, You are blessed so that you can be a blessing, so that the nations of the earth will know my name. To expect anything less, really is to sin. We’re all servants— slaves, of the one true God. He’s given a mandate, it’s not a question of whether or not you’ll go, is that as we are living, we’re obeying His call.
Let’s start where we’re planted. So that as we are going, we are making disciples. As we are sending, we are evangelizing. As we are having dinner with our families and life is a struggle and our parents aren’t godly, or our grandparents are living as cultural Christians without love for Jesus, we’d be a light.
That’s all we can really hope to be, that’s what we should be striving for. If we can not flourish and grow at home, and even try to make a change, then we’re in serious trouble.
This month, the Grafted team has each been challenged, by myself, to pray for one unbelieving family member. Every single day, without fail I want to pray for the person I choose. I’m praying for salvation. I’m praying for revelation. I’m praying that I would be used to show God’s glory. I’m praying that they’d know God as I know God. This is our first step. This is us standing up and refusing to conform to the cultural Christian standard. We say “this is not enough. We want ALL of you, God.”
If you’d like to join this prayer challenge, please do so! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get my daily/every other day/maybe once a week/my life is busy, prayer guide. I’ll be including scripture to pray and different aspects and encouragement to pray over. This is also a way for us to have some accountability.
And so, welcome to 2015! I’m very excited for this year and what we’ve been working on for the magazine. God has been working in my heart a lot in the past year, and I know He’s going to get glory from this project. Are you ready?