Why Missions? May 18, 2015
Today issomething of a “Missions Sunday” at Parker Hills. We are excited and honored tohave missionaries Elise McIntosh (South Africa),Karl Peterson (South Africa),and the Bannikov family (Kazakhstan)with us for the day.
So, why ismissions a thing? Why do Christians insist on spreading their faith and makingconverts all around the world? It’s a question I faced years ago, in a personaland rather confrontational way.
Theincident took place on a flight from New Yorkto Amsterdam. Iwas with a team of five other college students headed to Africa to share Christin the Kenyan capitol of Nairobiand other outlying areas. My seatmate turned out to be an assertive,accomplished international businessman. When he learned the purpose of ourtrip, he challenged me: “Why do you want to force your religious views on thosepeople? It seems to me they are religious enough already. Besides, doesn’t Africa have bigger needs than Western religion?” I wasliterally speechless. Worst. Missionary. Ever.
Yearslater, I discovered the biblical reason I was so stymied by the skeptic. Itmight surprise you to hear that the problem wasn’t a deficiency in myevangelism skills; it was idolatry in my heart. 1 Peter 3:15 explains: “In yourhearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer toeveryone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Why wasn’tI prepared to answer the man’s accusing question? Not because I lacked trainingin apologetics or the ability to think quickly; it was because I lacked theright focus in my heart. I was angry at the skeptic for scorning me andembarrassed by what he thought of our mission. In other words, my heart wasfixed on ME. But had it been on Jesus, like Peter recommends, the answers wouldhave come naturally.
Thehope-inspiring engine that drives missions is this: “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Wewant to people to be saved by God’s grace through their faith in our Lord. Butit will never happen if all we have are reasons in our head and no hope in ourhearts. Reasons do not save anyone. Hope in Jesus saves.
I wish Icould relive that moment on the plane. A hope-inspired, Christ-centered answermight have sounded something like this: “Why go to Africa?Sir, let me tell you about the most incredible Man who ever lived; and once youhear about Him, you’ll understand why I can’t wait to talk about Him witheveryone.”