Saturday, April 30, 2011

Christian MIssions

Christian Missions aren’t disappearing; they’re just changing. Brad A. Greenburg writes:

• Scott Moreau, a missions professor at Wheaton College, estimates that two decades ago half of his graduate students believed building churches abroad was their top priority. “Today, it might be 10%... Fighting trafficking, orphanage work, HIV-AIDS, poverty – that is probably 50%.” (Wall Street Journal, 7/2/10).

Why the change? Have we just discovered poverty? Perhaps there are many reasons for the shift, but a big one has to be the change in philosophy. Many have now adopted the statement attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Always preach the Gospel, and use words only when necessary.”

However, with this type of preaching – deeds without words – the hearers might fail to get the message. Greenberg refers to a study conducted by Calvin College, 2006, which found that there was,

• “Little or no difference” in spiritual response between two groups of Hondurans—one which had its houses rebuilt by missionaries who did not proselytize and the other by local NGOs.

This should not be a surprise. The Bible informs us that the Gospel doesn’t come by osmosis but by preaching. In an intriguing passage, the Apostle Paul explained that we are a sweet savor of Christ to the surrounding world:

• But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the KNOWLEDGE OF HIM. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life… we do not peddle the WORD OF GOD for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (2 Cor. 2:14-17).

According to Paul, this isn’t a “fragrance” that exudes naturally from deeds alone or the pores of our physical bodies. It is a supernatural fragrance that accompanies the proclamation of the Word. There are many nice people – perhaps better people than most Christians – who are doing many ostensibly good deeds. They, however, do not emit the fragrance of Christ, which is also an utter stench to those who resist the Gospel.

I’ve experienced it many times. There is something supernatural and exhilarating that takes place when we share the Good News with receptive others. May our Lord cause us to never forget this!

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