January Survey Completed: A Polemic

We learned a lot on this most recent survey. Our relationship runs deep and strong with our brothers and sisters in Honduras. The needs are as great as ever: more houses, roofs, financial assistance, education, pastoral needs, etc.

It’s easy to feel as though these projects are an endless abyss that simply lead to more needs. As Robert Frost once put it, “…way leads to way.” That is, one open door only leads to more open doors. This is why the Church cannot consider missions simply as what we can do to help them, while God is left somewhere on the outskirts. This mindset can lead to eternal endeavors without creating eternal change. As North Americans with financial resources, we must always be careful to provide for emergency needs while not promoting an American Dream that says, “With more money and things you will be happy, so keep trying to earn more to buy more!” In that strategy is a black hole; the cycle of consuming and spending never ends. Happiness research in the United States continually reveals that having lots of money and constant consumerism do not lead to happiness. There must be something more.

Some might ask, “So you’re saying it’s a waste of time to build houses and provide education for the poorest of the poor? Are you one of those groups that would never give the hungry something to eat without first having them attend a church service?” Missions and missionaries are always scrutinized by this question. My response is an absolute “No!” This scrutiny comes from a type of old school North American Gnosticism that says, “The goal of life is to go to heaven when you die, so get saved before it’s too late!” No doubt, there will be a coming judgment when the Lord will judge the living and the dead, but for centuries the Church has always held that Christians mature and produce spiritually relevant fruit throughout their lives. This is a sign that a person is a child of God and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This means that life is more than just trying to get into heaven and avoiding hell. It means that everyday life is important. It also means that missions cannot separate “spiritual endeavors” such as discipleship, bible study, prayer, etc, from everyday matters such as what the poorest of the poor are going to eat for the day, what job they will find, and where they will sleep. We cannot separate the two. So how can we move forward?

Integration.

We cannot think of evangelism over here, and construction projects over there. We live on the Good News everyday. If our lives in Christ matter today and not just when we die, then we must learn to see how Christ provides the narrative for our lives in our daily lives. As missionaries, this means showing how Jesus is in the center of everything. It means showing how we must rely on Him more than any other thing. If we provide education, we must show how Jesus can help us learn and not place our identity in our grades, for example. We must show that education can make a person more hire-able and skillful, and that reliance on God in prayer for a job will lead one to find God’s will and provision. So many other examples abound, but you get the point. We need integration. No more Jesus + missions projects, but Jesus in the center of it all, at every turn.

In 10 years from now, I would want my brothers and sisters to be closer to the Lord, fully restored human beings in the image of God, living in the power of the Holy Spirit and bearing fruit as a result, all the while helping their communities, building and living in excellent conditions, and getting a high school education. But heaven forbid everyone gets an education and a new home, without ever having Jesus at the center of their lives. Missionaries must integrate and not separate the two!

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