Addicted to Global Missions
by Dr. Harry Kraus
Imagine that we are seated together in a small circle of folding chairs in the basement of a local church. A few people hang back, around an old table laden with coffee and a tray of cookies.
I begin my confession. “Hello, my name is Harry Lee and I’m an addict. I’m addicted to my Savior’s love. I can’t go a day without it; in fact I crave it almost every hour. I’ve been known to make crazy sacrifices with my career, time, family, and money because of it.” I sigh, running my hand through my hair, whitened with years in the equatorial African sun. “Yes. I’m an addict. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I’ve started dealing, even to schoolchildren. I just can’t seem to control myself….”
As a missionary that has recently returned from a foreign field, I sometimes puzzle over the lack of enthusiasm for outreach in the broader church. I guess I don’t get it because I just can’t imagine not sharing this great news. Don’t stop reading yet. This isn’t going to be a typical drive-by guilting by a visiting missionary. I want to make five observations and hopefully help unburden the way you think about global Christian outreach.
First, the call to global missions is for every Christian. It’s not the job of your pastor, special Christians, or the “missionaries.” Start thinking like this and you’ll soon be putting missionaries up on pedestals where they have no business standing. The best way to stop putting foreign missionaries up on pedestals is to do what I did: become one. Soon, you’ll see that missionaries are as broken and needy as everyone else. When Paul talks about the church, he uses a common metaphor. He calls us the body of Christ. The job of world evangelism isn’t just the job of the lips or the tongue. Every member supports the job of missions. Feet, skin, heart, lungs, and kidneys are all needed.
Secondly, the call to global missions isn’t spooky or hyperspiritual. I’ve known some missionaries who talk in flaky, almost weird terms about being called to this or that special ministry. Be careful here. If it isn’t absolutely clear in the Bible, you can’t make dogma out of it. And I don’t think you are going to find, “go to Africa,” written there. I want you to understand how practical God’s calling is. It is not mystical or weird. When Kris and I were contemplating whether or not we should go to Kenya to serve, I developed a rash on my left forearm that looked strangely like the continent of Africa. Oooh. Spooky. Was that a call? No! That was poison ivy!
We read a verse in Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.” One version simply states, “If you have opportunity to do good, do it.” So we looked at that and thought that it seemed pretty simple and straightforward. So we asked ourselves, “Do we have opportunity to go to Kenya and serve the people there with surgery? Does this seem good?” The answer was yes and yes, so we went. Not complicated or even very spiritual. Definitely not spooky. We just read the Bible and obeyed.
Thirdly, the call to global missions is a call to be a channel. It is an invitation to love others around you. The concept here is that it doesn’t start with you. It starts with the heart of God. You don’t need to pump something up, work it up. It doesn’t originate with you. The thing to get here is that the central reason that God used the body of Christ metaphor is so that we will begin to see ourselves as the avenue for transmission of impulses that begin with God. It starts with him. We are merely channels. When Mozart played the piano or violin, his fans didn’t say, “Wow, what talented fingertips he has. If I only had his fingertips, I could play like that.” No, we say, “Mozart is amazing!” And that’s what we want when we function as God’s hands and feet in a suffering world. We want people to say, “Wow, isn’t God amazing!”
There is a key concept hidden in here. Our goal is not to convert the lost! That’s right, you invited a missionary to write a column and he sounds like a heretic. Our goal isn’t to convert the lost. Sure, that might be our desire, but ultimately, according to I Corinthians 14:1, the verse says, “Let love be your highest aim.” Our goal is to love others around us, not convert them.
Fourthly, the call to participate in global missions is get to, not have to. Once your lips have tasted the true gospel of grace, it changes your motivation. We know from scripture that God’s love cannot be earned. Sure, we may feel better about ourselves at the end of the day if we’ve witnessed to a friend, or prayed with someone who is hurting, but those good things don’t purchase favor with God. You see there are no brownie points with God when the currency is GRACE. So why do we labor? Why work in global evangelism? Why sacrifice? Why pray? Why go? Gratitude. Oh my, when grace grips your heart and you know your own need, your own shame has been covered, it can’t help but spill out on others. (You will soon move from addiction to dealing!) I don’t have to do surgery in a small dusty Somali town to earn God’s favor. I don’t have to do that. I get to do that. When your heart is saturated in the true Gospel, it changes everything.
Finally, participation in global missions begins with transformation of your own heart. A smart missionary doctor shared something with me. He said, “You know, we all like to think of ourselves as out here doing great things for God, and think it’s all about the wonderful surgeries or messages we bring, but in the end, it’s still all about how God is working in us to change us.” Even when I was out on challenging foreign fields, it was still all about how God’s grace was transforming me. A transformed life transforms lives.
Again, addict becomes dealer. You just can’t help it.
Harry Kraus, MD served as a missionary with Africa Inland Mission from 2003 to 2013, using his surgical skills to love people. God used this to open doors into some pretty dark places in East Africa. Harry is the best-selling fiction writer of fifteen novels. Africa has touched his latest writing projects. Pick up a copy of his latest novel, Lip Reading, a story that opens in a Nairobi slum and gives insight into the billion dollar pharmaceutical research industry.
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