Thursday, May 3, 2007

the least of these

As usual, missions is on my mind. Why? Why go? Why not stay? Why go one place and not another? Why go to a country where the gospel has been presented and not to unreached people? Why even leave the country God has sovereignly placed you in when there is so much need/hurt/opportunity for the gospel? How does one equip themselves for missions? What training is required, suggested, or just practical? How do you know if you are "called" to mission work above anything else? If all Christians "go" to the field, who is going to stay back and send them? Do you have to go if missions is just something you're curious about, but not sold on? Are short-term trips profitable? How? What is the biblical demand for missions, and how does that apply to my individual life?

There are probably about 1,000 questions of this sort that can be asked. And mind you, have they ever been asked. The most recent one on my mind is: How much longer until I can go? I have thought a ton about being adequately equipped for mission work, whether it be in Bible translation, orphanage work, or inner city ministries. My conclusion is that there is a certain amount of training this is wise to participate in (hopefully the agency you choose will train you) and it is good to have some sort of formal biblical training (such as Bible school or an equivalent). And then there's training in certain fields to be had--for the medical missionary, the ESL teacher, the Bible translator, etc. But how do you know when enough is enough? Granted, we will never be adequately equipped in the sense that there is always something to be learned and we are not perfect. But is 2 years as an undergrad Biblical Studies major with an emphasis in missions enough? Some days I think so, and other days I know that it's not. That's why I want to go to grad school. Being in a program to study strictly the books of the Bible and theology would be ah-maze-ing.

But then there are men like William Carey who had little to no training as we know it today and are the fathers of modern missions. Or someone like Mary Slessor probably did not need a ton of training. Brad has told me as well as others that the more training/schooling we have, the more opportunity there is to become distracted from the goal of going. Sadly, I have already observed this in my own life. Rachel told me that her passion throughout college was Bible translation, and she was almost just waiting for an opportunity to pursue that. But 8-10 years later she's still here, and still has a passion for it, but does not see that type of work in her future anymore. A few years ago someone asked me what would happen if all the Christians in the world asked themselves "why stay?" instead of "why go?" in regards to cross-cultural missions. I bet that if we evaluated why we would stay, the answers would be primarily superficial and meaningless compared to the gospel.

I do not know how many of these questions can be answered, and with only one answer. I am coming to realize more and more that mission work is a step of faith. Actually, it's many steps of faith, just one at a time.

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