I am not exactly sure how many people actually read this blog. The site counter seems to indicate that several people at least stop by to take a look every now and then. But I am about to get up on my soapbox to preach a little while. If you continue reading, you might want to put on a pair of steel-toed boots. I am just in one of those moods this morning and feel a need to "preach." Hey, it happens sometimes.
I want to start off by asking a question. In Matthew 28:18-20 it reads, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Mark 16:15-16 sates, "And He said unto them, 'go ye into all of the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned." My question is very simple. "When are we going to take these 2 passages of scripture seriously?" No, really, that is my question. Can someone please give me an answer?
When I read these 2 passages, I am drawn to the fact that JESUS is issuing a command. Not a suggestion, or a recommendation, but a command. To me. To you. To anyone that has put on the name of Christ. Christians. Believers. Followers. Disciples. He said GO! Where? Unto all of the world. Why? To teach and to preach the gospel. To baptize believers into Christ. To bring the lost into a saved relationship with Jesus. Am I crazy, but isn't that supposed to be a big deal? Isn't that supposed to be important? If the answer is yes, why is there no sense of urgency? Because I am telling you, I don't see or feel any sense of urgency today. At least not in the circle of people that I am running into these days.
Now, please do not take all of this the wrong way. I am not casting judgement on anyone or trying to read people's intent. But I am on my soapbox and I just feel like I need to say some things that are on my mind. For the past several weeks (months, actually), I have been spending quite a bit of time planning our mission trip to Honduras. That should not be a surprise to anyone that knows me. This involves several things from recruiting volunteers to raising money to pay for work projects we are going to do while we are in Honduras. So I deal with lots and lots of people from lots of different places. And, after doing this for 19 years, I have actually come to expect to hear certain questions and comments on the subject of short term foreign mission work. But for some reason these questions and comments have really gotten to me recently. It has really worked its way into me and I just feel the need to address it.
Raising money for a mission trip is a tough job. Everyone out there that is reading this and has ever been on a trip knows this. The trip is expensive and very few of us have the money to just reach in our wallets and pay for the trip. I am a big boy and I can take "no" for an answer from people who don't help. I understand that not everyone has the ability to help send people on mission trips. I also know that I am willing and capable of doing additional work to pay from my trip too. I will do whatever it takes to come up with the money to go on a trip to Honduras, or wherever the team is going. But recently someone made the comment, 'I just can't believe ya'll are trying to raise money to go on a trip to Honduras this year with the economy the way it is." (the ya'll probably gave away the fact that this comment was made down here in the deep south)
Normally a comment like this just runs off my back like water on a duck. But not this time. I am standing on my soapbox and I am preaching and I am repeating my question, "When are we going to take the great commission seriously?" When? When! For goodness sakes, people are LOST in sin out there. LOST IN SIN. Lost as in they are not going to go to heaven if they die today. Lost as in spending an eternity of punishment and torment. If we do not reach them NOW, they are doomed. What is it exactly. Is it the fact that we do not care? Is it because we do not know them? Is it because they are different than us, different colored skin or a different language or culture? Exactly what is it that makes people ask these questions? Because I hear it all of the time.
"Why do you have to spend all of that money and go all the way to Honduras? There are people in our own back yard lost." I hear this one a lot too. May I go back to my original question again? "When are we going to take the great commission seriously?" For goodness sakes, if there are people lost in our own back yard, put on your shoes, walk across your lawn, and go talk to them! They are lost! They are dying! Does no one care? People are so concerned about the amount of money we are spending to go to Honduras to help put homeless people in houses, and feed the starving, and put clothes on the backs of the naked, is that what is keeping these people from going out and helping their neighbors that live in their own back yards? Let's get serious. People in our own back yards certainly should be reached. But why are we not reaching them? Is it because we are not going? Is it because we are not boldly speaking the truth to those we come in contact with every single day? Is it because we really just don't care?
I live in Henderson, Tennessee. This is a mecca for the church. The deep south. Home of Freed-Hardeman University. A place where people come to learn how to live and how to make a living. A place to study the bible. Where preachers and youth ministers are trained. Where missionaries prepare to go out into the field. Where people meet their husband or their wife. Where living in a Christian atmosphere is so common it is taken for granted. There are lots of people right here in Henderson that are lost. Right here in our own back yard. And they are in YOUR back yard too. They work at the grocery store where you bought milk yesterday. They work at the hardware store. They are the Wal-Mart greeters. Your next door neighbor. The girl that sits right across from you in English class. There they are.... what are you going to do? Reach out? Or keep right on walking.
Now, if you know someone that is going to Honduras this summer, they will be leaving their home congregation for less than 2 weeks. If a few people leave to go work somewhere else, I am pretty sure that a lot of people will be staying back at home during that time. Maybe during that time, instead of wondering why the Torch team was raising money during these economic times to reach out to the people of Honduras and not reaching out to the people in their own back yard, those who stayed behind could get out and do that local work. What do you think? Novel idea, isn't it? What is keeping the rest of the congregation back from doing mission work at home while we are sharing the gospel to people from another nation?
Because I am telling you the truth, if is bad here in the US economically, just imagine how bad it is in Honduras. Trust me, it is bad. 55% unemployment rate bad. We need to preach the good news to Honduras just as much as we need to do it here. The last time I checked, our souls are worth exactly the same as theirs. "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26. We are all precious in His sight, and Jesus dies for ALL. We need to go out into ALL of the world... during economically good times and bad. We need to go out unto all of the world, including your next door neighbor and the one who lives in a wooden shack on the side of a mountain.
We need desperately, to get out of our comfortable, air-conditioned church buildings and off of the padded pews. We need to get out of our suites and ties and out of our leather shoes. We need to get out of this mentality of "going to church" and become the church. We need to stop dressing up and looking the part and roll up our sleeves and become the part. We need to stop talking and start doing. Because until we take this seriously, and feel a sense of urgency, what good are we? How can we sit safely in our little world and ignore the rest of the world? Don't be fooled, a tree will be known by its' fruit.
So, as I get off of my soapbox I am wondering to myself, am I going to get a shout out of amens or am I going to get steel-toed shoes tossed at me like President Bush? One thing is for sure, we will continue planning the trip. We will continue recruiting for the trip. We will continue raising money for the trip. And we will continue doing the will of Jesus by answering the call of Matthew 28 and Mark 16. And Galatians 6:10, "So then, whenever we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith."
RUE2B... bold! "Preach the word! Be ready in season, out of season; Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction." II Timothy 4:2