It inevitably happens. The pastor stands behind the microphone. The church listens. The missionary waits. Then these words resound through the sanctuary:
“We cannot go to that country so we must send them in our place.”
The missionary cringes. At least this one does.
For the better part of the last 100 years, churches throughout the United States have treated missionaries as surrogates or replacements; “since we cannot go we must send them.”
My wife and I have been full-time missionaries for the last 5 years and have enjoyed the privilege of partnering with hundreds of churches throughout the USA. I must tell you something, though, that I hope you understand.
We did not go in your place. That’s not even possible. And there is one very simple reason for that.
Obedience cannot be delegated.
Every Christian is responsible for taking the whole gospel to the whole world. Some of us God will call to carry it to our hometowns or to another culture or language group in our own country. Some of us God will call to carry it to another country. But there is no Christian without Mission. I like the way Alan Hirsch has said it: “The Church does not have a Mission. The Mission has a Church.”
So the Lord has called you to go. The only question you have to answer is “where?” . Across the street? Across town? Across the state? Across the country? Across the world?
But here’s the beautiful thing about this Mission of ours.
It’s going to take all of us to do all of it.
Obedience is a choice each of us have to make for ourselves. But along the path of obedience we find others; others whom, in their faithful “going” God also calls to join you in one way or another.
And that’s where we come back to the world missionary standing in the sanctuary. As they take the stage and stand before you, they do not do so as “surrogate go-ers”. They are there as “fellow go-ers” whose journey has crossed yours along the path of obedience.
They are representatives of the call of God in a particular place. They embody that call – eat, sleep and breathe it. That’s why you hear passion in their voice. That’s why you see tears in their eyes. And as they stand before you, their only hope is that you will pray this prayer,
“God, are you calling me to be generous toward that place of calling through the missionary standing before me?”
So we are not in the Netherlands because you cannot be. We are there because that is what obedience looks like for us.
What does it look like for you?