one of the farmers told that the foreigner was a good man – if only he would
become a Muslim then he would be fine. I asked the farmer why the foreigner
should become a Muslim and he replied, “So he can pray to God!” “He already
prays to God” I replied. Then I asked the farmer a leading question: “Can you
think of any reason this foreigner would want to become a Muslim that would
benefit him over being a Christian believer?” There are quick and easy answers
to that question for Muslim evangelists, but the farmer said he would think
about it and we would talk again the next time I came to his farm. I look
forward to that.
Reflecting on the question I asked, however, I wonder – was I insinuating that a valid reason for being a Christian was personal benefit? Was I to some degree preaching Christ because it benefits me and do I desire others to become like me so as to share in the benefits?
Serving in the mission field does not necessarily mean leaving your country and travelling to some 3rd world country, bringing your “foreign” culture and clothes with you, preaching from your own variety of theological background and asking people to repeat the same words that you did when you became a Christian. It’s not necessarily helping others to memorize your “Christian phrases” and to mimic your style of worship.
We can tend to preach a type of Christianity that satisfies ourselves. Living in other cultures and places with mind-sets very different than ours (and I presume in North America too) we risk reaching a point when we put our head on the pillow and look back over the day and can identify moments when we showed other people that they were wrong. We can tend to spread a gospel that makes us feels right and other people wrong! We may corrupt Jesus’ teachings by promoting a Christianity that makes ourselves feel comfortable and yes, maybe even a little superior.
I used to think that a goal of my Christian faith was to make me feel good and to help me live in such a way to increase my understanding and give me ways to improve myself and be satisfied with growth in spiritual knowledge and action. I was, however, forgetting that the central message of Christianity is abandonment of self!
Preaching the Gospel rarely leads to fairy tale endings such as a whole village turning to Christ. Spreading the good news is not simply telling an emotional or romantic story about some poor humble guy had nothing else to do but live a moral life and then give it up for some sinners. It is not primarily a means of self-improvement. It’s not a ‘Once upon a time’ and ‘lived happily ever after’ type of guarantee.
Two months ago, something happened that challenged my view of mission work