Our church conducted its annual mission conference this past weekend, with more than two-dozen missionaries from different parts of the world participating. All could attest to the joys and difficulties of adjusting to new cultures and languages – and personal sacrifices – for the privilege of taking the message of Jesus Christ to people who need to hear about Him.
Having gone on short-term ministry trips to countries in Central and South America and Europe, I’ve had brief exposure to what those experiences are like, but I’ve never been “all-in” in the sense of relocating geographically for an extended period of time. I have great respect and admiration for the men and women, often with their families, that leave the comforts of home to answer God’s call for service in a foreign culture.
One thing I’ve learned, however, is we don’t necessarily have to venture beyond the borders of the United States to serve as missionaries. In fact, we don’t have to leave our own state, or even our own city.
Yes, in Mark 16:15 we read about Jesus Christ instructing His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News [the gospel] to everyone.” And Jesus’ final command to His followers, before ascending to heaven, was, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
However, “all the world” and “all nations” doesn’t just mean people living in distant lands. It includes folks in your neighborhood, the office down the hall, the person sitting next to you in the classroom, someone you engage in conversation while shopping, or even in your own church. More than one authority on evangelism has said the easiest place to find unsaved people in within the walls of the church – those who know how to go through the motions but have not yet come to know the Savior.
Historically there’s been a mystique about people working in remote mission fields, as if they are somehow “super-Christians.” As I’ve already said, those who give up so much to become foreign missionaries are special people who deserve our prayers and financial support. But our own missionary responsibilities don’t stop there.
The late Jim Petersen, who wrote numerous books about personal evangelism and discipleship, spent many years as a missionary in Brazil and other countries. He told about one experience while on board a ship heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa. During the voyage he encountered some young adults whom he learned were headed for another country to become missionaries there.
Very interested, Petersen asked to learn more about their assignments. Then he made an inquiry that caught the eager young people by surprise. “How many people did you lead to Jesus Christ while you were still in the States?” After a brief pause, they answered, “Well, no one.”
Tactfully but directly, Petersen responded with a bit of amazement. How could they expect to introduce people to Jesus Christ in a strange land, having to overcome the obstacles of language and culture, if they couldn’t effectively share their faith with people they knew in their own country, without linguistic and cultural barriers?
Perhaps it’s natural to romanticize going to reach the “heathen” in other parts of the globe, but there are countless individuals and families in our own communities who need to hear a loving, caring presentation of the gospel message. Just because Bibles are plentiful and readily available in the U.S.A., that doesn’t mean everyone has heard the message of Jesus Christ – at least in a clear, meaningful way.
My friend Ken for several decades led a ministry for business owners and executives. To each new member he gave a sign they could display atop the door frame inside their office door. It read, “You are now entering the mission field.” What a great reminder! Because whether it’s employees, customers, suppliers, or others we encounter over the course of a typical workday, we’re bound to find some who have never heard of the saving grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we’re paying attention and willing to be used by God, you or I could be the person God uses to tell them about the Good News.
A wonderful Bible passage applies here. After the declaration, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), we read the following challenge:
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15).
This undoubtedly applies to men and women serving in foreign mission fields. But it also relates to us right where we live. In a world with more confusing, conflicting messages than ever, most people won’t simply wander into a church building looking for answers to the perplexing questions of life.
Throughout history, God has used ordinary people to tell others, to “preach” the gospel message. Who knows? Yours might be the “beautiful feet” that go to someone down the street or to another part of the building to help that person discover a life-changing relationship with Christ.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.