From time to time I hear the criticism (often third hand and through unnamed sources) that this year-long, every-member mission trip we’re on is just a way for a bunch of do-gooders to go around doing good. The implication seems to be that our mission isn’t “Christian” enough, that we aren’t focused on making converts. But before anyone else makes that assumption let me say:
1. Some of us are focused on making converts. When I first started talking about bringing heaven to earth people asked me how to do it. I said, “It’s not hard; just look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven, roll up your sleeves, and go to work.” Since we each look through our own eyes, we each see the thing that looks least like heaven to us. For many of us that “thing” is people who are wandering around without any saving knowledge of Jesus. For instance, when I asked First Baptist member Billy Davis how he was planning to bring heaven to earth on our mission trip he said, “Through evangelism,” and last week he showed me some pictures from Central Virginia Raceway Ministries, where volunteers go to the Richmond International Raceway during race week (when the Raceway itself becomes the third or fourth largest city in Virginia) and give away free water, free cookies, free NASCAR trivia, free gospel tracts, and the love of Jesus (which is always free). Although they are not pushy, they always hope that someone who doesn’t know Christ will get the message.
2. Going around doing good is a good thing. In Acts 10:38 Peter sums up the earthly ministry of Jesus by saying, “God anointed [him] with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for his followers.
3. This is how you build relationships. Ask any missionary and they will tell you that before you can make a lasting difference in someone’s life they have to get to know you and trust you. The friendships and partnerships we’ve been building in these last few months will have results we cannot foresee. It’s like scattering the seed of the gospel everywhere in the hope that some of it will grow.
4. Doing good is part of loving God. Harvey and Lois Seifert remind us that “there are two wings by which we rise, one being personal piety and the other community charity. No one can fly by flapping only one wing. It is impossible to be sincere in our worship of God without expecting to do the will of God. It is equally impossible to do the full will of God without the guidance and empowerment of a vital personal relationship with God” (from Liberation of Life).
Once again, the lesson seems to be that missionary work is not either/or, but both/and. As I once heard evangelical activist Ron Sider say: “We have to give people a cup of cold water and we have to give it in Jesus’ name.”
So, let’s get out there missionaries. It’s Day 239. Do some good for Jesus’ sake!