Addressing a Common Misconception About Missions

By Friday, April 16, 2010 5 0

Already, we are facing the common misconception that Western Europe does not need missionaries, and the question comes in a variety of formats. Recently, someone said, “why Spain? It is very nice and modern.” Admittedly, I have many responses, and not all of them are Godly.

Well, Issaquah, where we live, is very nice and modern, but I don’t avoid talking about Jesus there.

Bellevue, where I grew up and attend church, is also very nice and modern – should we shut down our church?

I wondered if this person shared my understanding that God is a missional God – that He intends every Christian to be mission-minded, whether He calls them overseas or not. If this person has the same understanding, but also thinks that all missionaries should be living in the African bush, then where, I wonder, does he live?

What about the pastors of churches in “modern and nice” places? Rick Warren’s church is about as nice and modern as I can imagine. Thank goodness he obeyed God’s call to minister in “modern and nice” Orange County, because if it weren’t for his ministry there, Saddleback would not have a huge and effective ministry in Africa!

John Piper describes “unreached people” in a sermon titled, “I Am Sending You Out as Sheep in the Midst of Wolves”:

The most helpful website I know of for understanding and researching the unreached peoples of the world is the Joshua Project. It lists a total of 15,965 people groups in the world. Of these, 6,434 are still unreached, defining unreached as a “people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group”—which means, in their definition, fewer than 2% evangelical Christian.

Well, Spain fits that description. There is not a strong “indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize” their neighbors in Alcalá de Henares. There is a tiny little church of adult believers who are still struggling to understand why Jesus had to die, what the meaning and importance of Baptism is, and how to share the love of Jesus with their neighbors who tremulously fear God’s wrath and cannot believe their works have nothing to do with their eternity. Less than 1% of the population in Spain professes to be evangelical.

In the same sermon, Piper asks a question I already have the answer to.

So the question is, “Who will go? Who will proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ where the church is not yet planted and flourishing? Should I go? I ask myself this at least once a year. And I mean it seriously. I am willing to go. I think every follower of Jesus is bound by the cords of love and obedience to say, “I am willing to follow you wherever you lead me.” Every believer in Jesus should say, “Here am I, send me, if that is your will.”

It is not the Lord’s will that all of his followers be frontier missionaries. But some he calls. How he does it is a wonderful and mysterious thing. No one can explain how the work of God in your life rises to the level of a compelling call to missions. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and it is marvelous and unfathomable in our eyes.

“Why Spain?” is a valid question. And there are valid, compelling and God-glorifying answers, which Chris and I will share with anyone who asks. If God is sending us (and we believe He is), then these answers may be the way He motivates someone to pray for us or support us financially, or – Glory to God! – calls someone else to missions.

But the most important answer, although it might be the more private one, is that I am willing to follow Jesus wherever He leads me, and I believe He is leading me to Spain.

One of my favorite missionary quotes is, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him” from C.T. Studd. I bring it up here to reiterate our own motivation for missions – Jesus Christ is God and died for me (and the whole world). Furthermore, as a Bible believing Christian, I must obey Christ’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
  • I approve of this post.

    • LOL Thanks! It’s my favorite about Spain so far, but my favorite is still the Oregon recap.

  • I am a missionary in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest and it is an undeveloped region. I am here because this is where the Lord wanted me. The sole measure of where anyone needs to be is where the Lord wants them to serve. To those who don’t cross the borders, be a missionary where you are.

  • I agree with Miguel; when asked why we’re in Western Europe, we’ve replied with a simple, “Because God has called us here.” It tends to diffuse the person with a bad concept of missions because they seem to expect a silly response like, “Because it’s not in the 10/40 window” or “We wanted a vacation”. What they can’t understand is if God calls us to an undeveloped country, we’ll go there.

    Bottom line: it’s the call, not the location.

    • I so appreciate God giving us the discernment to be able to tell when someone is genuinely asking, or when they are expecting a response like you mentioned. I do think it’s a valid question, but I also understand that to some people, there’s no valid answer. It’s sad, but it’s true in witnessing as well so it’s not like we are unfamiliar with this attitude as missionaries.