“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25).
Nearly all missionaries begin their ministry with a strong conviction of the truth of the Gospel and the urgent need to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ to as many people as possible. But once we are in ministry and ready to do what God has called us to, the fear of disapproval from others can at times paralyze us and limit our effectiveness.
I have not been immune to the fear of man by any means. When God gives me an idea to move out boldly and try something new, or when I am asked to expand the boundaries of my current ministry, I often deal with doubts such as, “We’ve never done that before,” or, “What will people think?” It can be a challenge to return to the promises of God and his calling on my life.
During 35 years of life in Japan, in addition to the usual church ministry, I have been blessed to participate in a wide range of activities that I pray have expanded the boundaries of the kingdom and gotten people’s attention in a godly way.
I have taught square dancing, prayer walked in a steel mill, distributed presents dressed as Santa (more than once!), flown in a helicopter, sold used clothes, played frisbee in the park, made cheesecake, sung hymns with a choir in a grocery store, marched down the street carrying a sign, visited prisoners in jail, and more.
This was all with the express purpose of making contacts in the community and trying to lead people to Christ. If I had not also at times succumbed to the fear of man, I might have done even more than this.
One initiative that required a level of fearlessness was starting an interdenominational pastors’ group in the fairly isolated area of Japan where my wife and I were living. There were churches in the area from a wide range of denominations, but sadly there was little contact between them.
We took the initiative to get to know the pastors individually, and then slowly started to invite them to fellowship gatherings. The group of cooperating pastors grew, and we increasingly became the true body of Christ in the area as we prayed together and supported each other’s ministries. A couple of times during the process we wondered, “What will the home offices of the denominations think when they learn all these pastors are working together?” But we didn’t let the fear of man slow us down, and our fellowship became a real blessing for all of us.
As missionaries we learn the language, customs and laws of our host country so that we can live and minister for the long haul. We adapt. But the Bible tells us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will always be offensive. And so we need to be bold and prepared to be rejected too, as we proclaim the kingdom of God in Japan.
By Ralph, an OMF missionary