The Other Side of Global Missions
The call to take the gospel to all nations is clear and undeniable: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . " (Matthew 28:16-20). The self-declared universal exaltation of God over all nations is certain and resolved: "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10) This is the fuel and the finish line of global missions: the commission to proclaim the gospel to all races, all enthnicities, all languages, all dialects, all cultures, all nations, all countries, all states, all cities, all neighborhoods, and all households; and to do so with the absolute assurance that God will be exalted in all the earth! It is for this we passionately labor, to the ends of the earth.
God's heart for the nations extends from the oppressive poverty-stricken slums of East Africa to the anti-religion ideologies of the new Europe to the deeply indoctrinated Muslim nations of the Middle East. The spread of the gospel knows no geographical, sociological, economical or racial bounds. Jesus will be exalted among all nations, in all the earth!
Yet the mandate towards global missions is not a one-sided coin. It's nothing less than an outside influence parachuting into a foreign context with the good news of Jesus, resources to meet physical needs, and training to develop sustainable forms of living for the indiginous people of that culture. But it's so much more. Jesus calls us to take the gospel to the nations not just so we can change the nations, but so the nations can change us. That's the other side of global missions---whatever change we seek for others is often nominal in light of the change in our own lives. These two sides of the same coin are the essence of God's global mandate---make disciples of all peoples, and in doing so you yourself will be discipled.
Nothing Will Be the Same
For example, I'm convinced Jesus wants us to care for the poor of the world not just so we can change their circumstances, but so they can change our perspectives. It's nearly impossible to see and hear and smell extreme poverty and not be motivated to action. It's equally impossible to not be changed by it. The core of who you are is indelibly marked by it. You cannot go home the same. In however you choose to respond you might make a small dent in the global epidemic of extreme poverty, but only after having your entire worldview cratered by it. Nothing will ever be the same, yes for them, but even more so for you.
If we want to see the fabric of American evangelicalism aligned to the heart of God, we have to go to the nations. We have to step outside of our individualistic, ethno-centric cultural grid and have our value systems shocked to the core, our perspectives wildly flipped upside down and our little worlds of comfort deeply rattled by the discomforting reality of a world population that desperately needs of Jesus. It will forever shift our affections, realign our priorities, and catalyze us to relentlessly pursue the exaltation of God among all peoples, counting as joy whatever cost, whatever personal sacrifice, and whatever American dream that must die in us along the way. Your going there will forever change how you live here.
I recently stood in the home of an elderly, widowed grandmother living in an impoverished slum area outside a large city in Honduras. The joy in her smile and the passion in her prayers were overwhelming. Even more so were the words she spoke through our translator: "Money might control my living situation, but it does not control my soul."
It's in moments like these, moments of extreme contrast between the beauty of faith and joy and peace amid the backdrop of poverty's heinous ugliness, that your value system is dismantled and your perspective on what truly matters is forever changed.
Global missions is God's universal mandate to take the gospel there and his gracious provision for us to be forever changed here. Stand in the midst of East African poverty. Build a home in southern Mexico. Walk the hurricane ravaged streets of Haiti. Sit in agnostic-packed European university classes. Observe the afternoon prayers of Muslims in the Middle East. Your assumptions, perspectives, and ideologies will be forever shifted. You will never be the same. Your homes will never be the same. Your family, your job, your neighborhood, your church, and your city will never be the same. All this is a deep and profound expression of God's grace towards you.