November 27, Observation 3

Text: Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (NASB)

One of the many challenges of effective mission work anywhere is the challenge to separate spiritual growth/development from economic opportunity.  In most situations, many responsive people are the economically deprived and those who struggle because of displacement.  It is not unusual for new congregations at mission points to be composed of those with physical needs.  The needs are real and basic—from food to jobs, from buildings to preachers, from medicines to medical facilities.

I was once in a situation where Christianity was spreading more rapidly than the six (maximum) missionaries could possibly envision.  Every week there came reports of new congregations meeting.  Soon the number of known congregations considerably exceeded 100!  Soon the number exceeded the possibility of a missionary visit once a year.  There were no trained men to do even basic teaching.  There were not enough Bibles to send.  There were no printed courses or guides.  Many new converts did not read.  Every week there were pleas—“Where are you?”

The missionaries decided to give students at the Bible training school transportation money weekly to visit and teach in these places.  That simple act created a complex nightmare in short order.  Suddenly students thought money was the answer to every problem.  Requests increasingly became demands.  Suddenly new churches thought the missionaries had an endless access to money.  Missionaries were viewed as obstacles instead of helpers.

A newly defined economic opportunity came into being because so few people had jobs.  For many, an act of kindness transformed a faith mission into a money opportunity.  The problem generated bigger problems.  Legitimate needs produced an invitation to again adopt the world’s view of life.

Suggestion for reflection: Why must Christians change their view of life to be Christians?  (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.)

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