One of the major influences in my life to preach was missionaries. Whenever a missionary came through our small town he would preach on Sunday and tell of the lost and how the Gospel was saving them from an eternity without God and keeping them from a place called Hell. I admired these men and women who left their families and traveled thousands of miles away from there friends and family to tell the lost about Jesus.
Not long after I began preaching I read a copy of, “The Shadow of the Almighty” by Elizabeth Elliot. She describe the life and death of five young missionaries who sought to reach out to a tribe of people who had no contact with the outside world and were killed trying to share the message of Christ. That settled it for me. I would always be a preacher and a missionary. Missions and Missionaries was for many back then a priority…a priority that changed my life.
The church today and its attitude toward missionaries is vastly different. Only once in the last seven years have I heard a missionary speak from the pulpit on Sunday morning. During my early preaching days you could pick up a phone, call an elder or preacher and schedule a meeting to talk about a mission work. Today there are so many “gatekeepers” and hoops to jump through that it takes almost an act of congress to get an audience. It has become a world of not what you know but who you know that can open a door and get you a hearing.
Part of the reason for our present reality is the result of our information age. Information overload is a term coined by Alvin Toffler which refers to an excess amount of information being provided, making processing and absorbing tasks very difficult for the individual because sometimes we cannot see the validity behind the information. Personal contact has been replaced by email, printed information and a pile of request so high it is simply overwhelming. This all results in a cursory look over the material, a “well we can’t help everybody” attitude, and into file 13 the request goes.
To use another phrase from the past, we are “shell-shocked” by so much information about so much need that we have literally become numb. We are no longer moved emotionally at the site of a starving child or people dying for lack of clean water. Much in the same way our senses have been numbed by the gore and reality on TV, we are amnestied and no longer feel emotional about what we see and hear.
The reason for our condition IMHO is that our priorities are totally out of whack. We have placed multi-million dollar building programs ahead of reaching the lost. We have been more concerned with our own comfort than the genuine life sustaining needs of the less fortunate. Our faith has been placed in the tangible and not the intangible. Those things that were “first” priority with Christ have been replaced with “our personal” priorities and His work waits until our needs are met.
We have lost the ability to sacrifice for the needs of others. Oh we buy a few groceries for the church pantry and drop a few dollars in the collection plate and then turn around and spend more on a night out than we give to God in a whole month…maybe a year. We have a whole generation in the church that has not been taught to give because we have been afraid of sounding like the charlatans on “Health and Wealth” TV.
But there is hope. The younger generation that is growing up today is seeing right through our faulty reasoning and they are walking away in favor of doing what really brings about change in the lives of people. They are turned off of our institutions and turned on by doing something with their lives that really matters. Right now most of the energy is focused on meeting people’s physical needs only, but hopefully they will come to see that as important as the physical is, it needs to be coupled with meeting the eternal needs as well. When that happens, and only when that happens, will the Great Commission be restored to its rightful place in our priorities. Then the lost will be saved and rewards will be eternal.
May the grip of His grace cause us to see that we live in a world filled with people that do not know Him. And may we repent and make His priorities ours once again.