My junior year of college our campus ministry kicked off the year with a gathering focused on missions. We had worship and videos and a great speaker who brought the house down. She spoke about what God was doing all over the world, the desperate need for the gospel, and why every single one of us should go be missionaries. You know, one of those events where people are either shouting “Right on!” or slipping out the backdoor before they start handing out one-way tickets to Timbuktu.
At the end of the service they called for everyone to respond. World maps were posted throughout the chapel. The speaker told us to go to a map and ask God to put a particular country on our hearts. We would then commit to learn about and pray for that country over the next year.
Honestly, it felt a bit mystical. How was I supposed to hear God tell me a specific country? Apparently everyone else had it figured out because I ended up being the lone lurker at the maps. The pressure was on! And it wasn’t just because I needed a divine revelation. I felt a splintering weight that said to be faithful to God meant choosing somewhere really hard and really far away.
Long story short, I did finally discern a country in the Horn of Africa. And, ironically, I actually ended up serving there for three years after graduation. Yet throughout my term I was often a case study in missing the point, in not quite getting my head around what missions is, in not quite getting my heart around why we step into it.
Really, that should’ve been no surprise considering, first of all, I’m human, and secondly, how my journey overseas started. It’s scary to me that when it comes to mission we commonly start the conversation with where to go and what to do. How easily that charts a path that not only doesn’t fully lead to God’s mission, it doesn’t lead to life.
Thankfully there’s an encouraging word for me and anyone who spots the same dilemma in themselves. That word is Jesus Christ, who surrounded himself with people who were slowly wrapping their heads and hearts around him. And he knew just what it would take for them to be made into faithful missionaries.
In the next post we’ll begin to consider how this is exemplified in Luke 17.