The Persecuted and the Privileged

One week some years ago I was with persecuted Christians. A young mother was taken away in handcuffs and placed in leg shackles and put in a dingy wooden village jail, treated like a common criminal. Her only crime was this: refusing to sign a paper that would effectively deny her faith in Jesus.

The next week I was with privileged Christians. After a trendy worship service led by a guy in skinny jeans I went to lunch in an expensive SUV and stuffed my face with Double-Doubles from In-N-Out Burger. My only frustration was this: I forgot to hold the pickles.

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By Tobias Issara

We live in a globalized world where Christians in the West are more resourced and informed than ever but care less and less about God’s global mission to establish his reign among every people, tribe, language and nation.  God is about mission and mission is about God. His global redemptive purpose is to bring about his expressed worship and glory among every heart on planet earth “from the rising to the setting of the sun” (Mal. 1:11).

Mission is what we do for God’s global purposes. Missional is how we live for God’s global purposes. At one point in history, we (Christians in the West), led the way in missional living by sending our best cross-cultural workers to advance God’s kingdom through pioneer mission in unreached nations.

Mission is what we do for God’s global purposes. Missional is how we live for God’s global purposes.

That trend is changing for two reasons: 1) indigenous third world disciples are taking the mantle of the Great Commission and going to the ends of the earth and they are doing it with much greater effectiveness than we ever could, and 2) our churches in the West have reduced mission to our personal spheres and not God’s global agenda. We’ve privatized our faith to only our “Jerusalems” and can’t even identify our “Judeas” and “Samarias,” let alone the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

We’re living in a post-missional West where secularism has invaded our faith and churches have lost that missional edge. We’ve become cultural Christians and are more concerned with Super Bowls, Sunday services, personal security, freedom of expression and status quo spirituality. We don’t actually want to change the world for Jesus because we are comfortable with just being in it. We don’t really care for the lone woman in jail for her faith.

As the church in the West we have to ask ourselves, are we truly concerned with God’s mission, and do our lives reflect that?

God wants to use his church—his body—to reach the nations. But we will be ineffective in carrying out this mission if we’re not asking ourselves the hard questions. Below is a list of 10 questions that can help Christians honestly assess their missional living.

  1. Does Our Activism Extend Beyond a Screen?

 Counterfeit social media spirituality is not enough to reach your neighbor, let alone reach the world. Some of us are content to do digital justice, walk humbly and love mercy by just “clicking here.” That’s just being lazy. Digital ministries that revolve around social media, blogs, podcasts and audio-visual tools are necessary but only reach a certain demographic. Real people need real people. Living missionally is uncomfortable and it requires us to physically get off our media devices and get involved in people’s lives.

  1. Is Our Money Making a Real Difference?

Supporting cross-cultural workers, starting socially conscious businesses and giving generously to kingdom causes is a noble thing, but many millennials like myself are not even doing that. We spend more on movie tickets and cell phones plans than we do on missional causes.

In fact, the money that Christians do give is used disproportionally, with less than one cent out of every dollar going towards the unreached in places that need it the most. (An unreached people group is a people group with little to no access to the gospel.) Most of our money goes to maintain existing ministries and churches in reached areas.

The way we give has also created a culture of disengagement. Crowdsourcing and community funding has become charity without responsibility—sympathetic giving that appeals only to our emotions. Jesus commanded us to give our whole heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). Lost people don’t need our money; they need our witness. Our giving should be informed (know the issues), strategic (towards the greatest needs) and communal (kept accountable).

  1. Do We Believe Prayer Is Powerful?

The biggest killer to the missional life is our lack of prayer. Prayer is the practice that connects heaven and earth. It shows our trust and reliance on the God who spoke the world into place. It’s the catalyst for change and the most effective thing we can do to live life on mission, but most of our prayers are worthless. Most of us just pray casually over a meal or don’t do it at all. Prayer has been relegated to old people who “really believe” and to young children before bedtime.

We must start praying insightfully, strategically and relevantly. We need to pray with a missional paradigm, letting the Great Commission seep deep into our bones, struggling desperately for those who are lost, crying out personally and corporately for our neighbors and the nations.

  1. Is Our Evangelism Biblical?

Many of the common evangelistic practices that we promote today are not in the Bible. From our huge evangelistic rallies, to our passing out of tracts, to our Sunday morning programs, to our hype of sending short-term mission teams. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these methods—God can still use them. They’re just seriously lacking in a key scriptural principle: obedience.

Biblical obedience says to go and be a light in dark places. Our ministries say come and check out our bright lights. No wonder we’re stuck in a post-missional church culture. We are simply catering to religious consumers but not training obedient disciples. To reach the world we must be intentional about going to the lost, “gospeling” in their heart language, growing fruitful disciples and gathering communities of faith.

  1. Are We Using Our Time Wisely?

 Millennials (born 1977-1995) will one day rule the world. I’m serious. In 20-30 years’ time all the world leadership positions will be filled by people of our generation. But the best years of our lives are not in the future—they’re now. Now is the time to go all in for the sake of God’s kingdom.

We have been conditioned by our post-missional church culture to play it safe. To give the best years of our lives to our educations, careers and personal security. Jesus said that “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24, ESV). We need to take advantage of the time we have left and start living as families on mission, sacrificing the “good life” for the future hope and kingdom we will one day receive.

  1. Are We Teaching Our Children to Live on Mission?

Those coming after us, Generations Y and Z (born 1996 or later), are some of the most privileged generations on earth. They are growing up without the struggles we had (especially if you are an immigrant or refugee of bicultural descent) in a post-Christian, post-missional world. It only takes one generation to forget the blessings of God. As we live in a land overflowing with milk and honey, I’m afraid we are raising a generation of sheltered, unchurched and metaphorically overweight wimps. But that can change.

Our children have the potential to become apostolically gifted pioneers who can cross cultures and partner with existing indigenous leaders to reach the ends of the earth. They will also be key to reaching a secularized post-Christian West. To reclaim God’s missional heart for our kids we must model for and prepare them to become global citizens who engage in global issues for the purpose of God’s global glory.

Our children have the potential to become apostolically gifted pioneers who can cross cultures and partner with existing indigenous leaders to reach the ends of the earth.

  1. Do We Understand the True Meaning of Mission?

The reason for social justice is not justice; it’s God’s infinite glory. Justice is his alone to deal. We love the poor, feed the hungry, adopt the orphan and welcome the refugee—not for their sake but for Jesus’ sake. In trying to reclaim mission and sound trendy many churches are calling this mission. It’s not. It’s localized ministry that all communities of faith should be actively engaged in. We should reserve the terms mission and missional for all things global.

The reason for social justice is not justice; it’s God’s infinite glory.

As we engage in local social justice our hearts can be awakened to global needs. Our cross-cultural experiences can prepare us for overseas work because the overwhelming number of needy people who live in true poverty and under true oppression live outside our country. Our social justice must start locally with intent to move globally and be properly motivated by God’s glory in the worship of Jesus.

  1. Do We Care about the Unreached?

We speak often of the underserved and unserved but don’t talk about the unreached. Churches that promote their definition of mission often include the hurting but exclude the global lost. Part of this is because we are unaware and another is because the issues of other nations have become so complex and overwhelming that we just write them off and assume that someone else is addressing them. They are not. The majority of Christian workers, missionaries and ministries are in reached nations.

There are countless people on this earth that have yet to hear the gospel. Without someone going they will never have an opportunity to hear it. The gospel is worth sharing. It’s worth living for. It’s worth dying for. It’s worth eternity.

No matter what statistics you read or what anyone says, we will never reach the nations by staying in the U.S. The overwhelming number of lost people, 3 billion, exist outside our country. This doesn’t mean that everyone must go to foreign lands, but it does mean that all must contribute towards global outreach. The radical pioneer, Hudson Taylor, reminds us that “the Great Commission is not an option to be considered, it is a command to be obeyed.” We can all do our part to reach the nations by either learning, praying, going, sending, welcoming or mobilizing.

The gospel is worth sharing. It’s worth living for. It’s worth dying for. It’s worth eternity.

  1. Are We Sharing the Gospel in a Way That Will Multiply?

By 2050 the world population will reach 9.8 billion! Our global population is currently at 7.5 billion. If we continue to do traditional evangelism as we know it (attractional outreach, build church buildings, stay home etc.) we will never reach the world and testify to all nations as Jesus intended (Matt. 24:14). The unreached will continue to be born, grow old and die without ever hearing the name of Jesus.

The gospel itself must exponentially multiply in order to keep up with and surpass population growth. In order for there to be a witness among future generations, disciples must be raised up in a way that is reproducible; churches must be planted in places that are unreached (10/40 Window) and the word of God must be passed on in the heart language of the people.

  1. Do We Have God’s Heart for the Nations?

The woman who refused to deny her faith and was unjustly put in a dingy village jail matters to God, because she is a part of his global church. The church is the Bride that Christ died for and was sent to redeem. There is always hope for the Bride.

Despite the fact that we live in a post-missional world and our churches may have lost that missional edge, God will always be a missionary God. His heart will always beat for the nations. He will always be in the business of sending, redeeming and discipling. God’s end vision is clearly laid out in scripture—people from every tribe, tongue, language and nation worshiping him (Rev. 7:9). Whether we join him in that work is up to us.

Joining God on his mission means our lives should actually reflect his mission. It means that despite our privilege we must seek ways to identify with the persecuted. We must live with God’s global purposes in mind. We must bind ourselves to the greatest expression of human love, the Great Commandment, and obey it by making disciples of all nations, the Great Commission. This is why mission matters. This is worship.

This article was adapted from a post on Tobias’s blog:

Author Bio

After surviving the streets, Tobias embraced kingdom transformation and discovered his passion in life. He currently lives in a strange but beautiful faraway land doing missionary things he’s always dreamed of with his wife and three children. He shows unflinching passion in both his missionary escapades and his writing, which you can see more of on his blog:

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