It was “Mission Sunday” at our church. Our pastor preached on Jonah’s call to Nineveh, and linked that story to Jesus’ last words, when He commanded us to go to the nations:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 18:18-20)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
Pete and I had volunteered to represent our church’s missions department after the service, which entailed sitting at a table next to the sanctuary, answering questions, and handing out booklets describing this year’s short-term mission trips. Some people were excited about the possibilities and talked about which country they intended to visit in the months ahead. Others avoided making eye contact, clearly not the least bit interested. And quite a few came and chatted a bit while they skimmed through the booklets.
I suggested they look through the list and pray about each trip—did God want them to sign up? And sadly, for the most part, they then explained why they couldn’t possibly go:
- I’d love to go on a mission trip, but I’m too busy.
- Oh, I could never go there (wherever there was). It’s not safe!
- I don’t have enough money to pay for a trip.
- Telling people about Jesus isn’t my calling.
Remember, they had just heard a sermon about why we’re all called to go. He’s speaking to all of us, and it’s not merely a suggestion. Jesus first declares his authority, then issues His commandment: go into all the world, to all nations.
These are all simply excuses to disobey Jesus.
He didn’t say, “Go—unless it’s inconvenient” or “Go, but only to the safe places.” Lack of funding is no excuse—if God sends us, He provides the finances needed. Our role is to obey. (In fact, in the two decades we’ve been involved in missions at that church, we’ve never seen someone fail to go on a trip due to lack of money. Not once.)
When we call God our Lord, that means we are agreeing to obey Him, even when it’s not convenient, or comfortable, or safe. We obey even when it costs us something—money, time, even our lives. In dying to ourselves, we make His desires our priority.
Christians overseas know this. In many countries, when a person makes a public confession of faith, they are signing up to be arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or executed. Yet, the church is exploding in many of these places—in spite of (or perhaps due to) persecution.
On the other hand, consider how complacent the American church is. We’re fine with God making our lives better, meeting our needs, as long as it doesn’t cost us anything. We’re happy to go to church—unless it means going out in the snow, or missing the game. We try to fit one or two Christian activities into our lives—if they don’t interrupt our schedule too badly. We read the Bible and pray—unless it means getting up too early. We’ve prioritized comfort and made it an idol.
It’s time we American believers stop letting fear and convenience rule our lives and instead start doing what God has already told us to do. You want to improve your prayer life? Be daring in your obedience. You want to grow closer to God? Place yourself in a situation where you depend on His presence. You want to see miracles? Need them.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that going on a mission trip will accomplish all this and more. No wonder God sends us. Our obedience not only blesses those we go to serve—it’s guaranteed to grow our faith as well.