For some years now, I’ve felt God’s call on my life to cross-cultural international missions. So what does that mean? If you’ve been involved in Evangelical circles, then you might have heard the term.
There’s actually a little bit of controversy concerning the concept. One of my favorite singers of all time is Keith Green. If you’ve never heard of him, then here’s his Wiki page. I hold him in such high respect it’s not even funny. Near the end of his life (just before he was killed in a plane crash), he took up the cause of international missions. He questioned the conventional understanding of missions as something that you need to be “called” into. His famous line about this: “Jesus commands us to go; it should be the exception if we stay.”
The man did have a point. Some of our Lord’s last words before he returned to the Father was the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This is not limited to a small segment of the Church who’s been called into it. If you’re a believer in Christ, then you've been called to this.
My friend, I wish more believers made the error of being too zealous for missions. I wish we had problems like that. However, I do have to slightly disagree slightly with his interpretation. Today’s reading is the quintessential passage on a calling to missions. And it isn’t something we just see in the book of Acts. Paul uses the phrase “apostle to the Gentiles” or some equivalent multiple times in his epistles.
So what do we mean by this term? What do we mean when we say that someone is “called” into missions? It’s usually defined this way: There are lots of people groups who have little to no exposure to the Good News, at least in a way they can understand and relate to. In order for that group to be evangelized, there have to be believers who can cross cultural lines to reach them. This takes a certain set of talents, skills, and spiritual gifts. Not everyone is gifted in this way.
I look at this issue similarly to evangelism. The gift of evangelism is something which is given to some (not all) believers. They have special abilities to present the Good News in an appealing way to a lost world. Of course the most prominent modern example is Billy Graham, but there are others rising to take his place.
But just because some have the gift of evangelism, does that mean the rest of us don’t have to worry about it? Um, no. Read the passage in the preceding paragraph that mentions the gift of evangelism, and you’ll see their main job is to equip us to evangelize. Every believer is called to be ready to share the Good News with those around them. This might just entail testifying to others about what Christ has done for you.
It’s a similar situation with missions. The Great Commission is for all of us. But some are called to cross cultural lines to bring the Good News to groups of people who don’t have it. If you don’t have that gift, are you off the hook? Of course not. You can support that work through your money, encouragement, and especially prayers. Yes, I do believe that’s more important than money.
Lord Jesus, where do you want me to go? What do you want me to do? Wherever and whatever, the answer’s “yes.”