This essay is known as Keith Green's final message as it was written just days before he died at the age 28 in a plane crash in 1982 and reprinted in Ignition Magazine by the Traveling Team. Keith Green was a musician whose life was a bright flash of authenticity, truth and conviction that came out in his music and his call to others to give their lives to Jesus and the world.
The following objections are just a few of the many that Christian groups and missionary societies constantly hear from prospective recruits for the mission field. Although many may merely be excuses, we have heard them spoken so many times as serious statements from well-meaning Christians in response to the question, “Why don’t you get trained to go into full-time Christian service in a foreign country?”
1. “But I’m not called.” You don’t know how many people I’ve met who have said to me, I agree that more people need to go to the mission field, but I’ve never heard God tell me to go.” Well, the truth is that God has already told you to go in His Word. In fact, He commands you to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) That’s right - YOU ARE CALLED! In fact, if you don’t go, you need a specific calling from God to stay home. Has God definitely told you not to “go” somewhere outside your country to preach the Gospel? If He hasn’t, then you’d better start praying WHERE to go, instead of if you should go-for again, you’re already called.
2. “But God needs people to stay here to be a witness to those lost in America. There’s enough need right here!” It is true that God has called some people to stay right where they are to be witnesses for Jesus in their daily lives and professions. But again, God is merciful and just. Since America has only about 5% of the world’s population, then only about 5% of the believers would really be called to stay in this country as a witness (that’s only about l out of 20) while the rest of us should go into the parts of the world where there are almost 0% believers. (In Albania, for instance, there are only “a handful” of known believers in the whole country of 2.7 million people - less than 1/2 of 1/1000th percent!!)
3. “But God needs people to stay home and financially support those ministries and missionaries who are already all over the world. In fact, my church is already supporting some missionaries with my tithes and offerings.” You should never have to worry about there not being enough Christians staying home to support missionaries. There will always be enough people around who will not answer the call to go - who will stay home and gladly just send a check (instead of themselves) to reach the lost. After all, nothing is easier to give than money (except nothing). This does not mean that everyone who stays home is selfish and disobedient. As I’ve already said, there are some who know they are definitely called to stay, and they are doing exactly what God would have them do here, while they greatly support other ministries. I’m just saying that there will always be plenty of people around to financially support the pitifully few who answer the call and obey God.
4. “But my family and friends would frown upon me going.” “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:57) God is very clear about whose approval we should seek. It’s shocking to me how even Christian parents react when their children say that they’d like to go for training as a full-time Christian worker. “A missionary! Are you crazy?” It’s as if they’ve announced they’d like to be a thief or a prostitute. It is true that God wants us to honor our parents and love our friends, but He has also made it clear in His Word that this honor and love must not exceed our love and obedience to Him and His calling on our lives. We should always try our best to explain God’s call to our families, lovingly and patiently, but the bottom line must be that we will obey Christ no matter what the cost. We should always try to get our family’s understanding and blessing when God makes our ministry clear to us, but we must also always be ready to leave “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms” for His sake “and for the Gospel’s sake.” - (Mark 10:29)
5. “But I need to stay here and lead my relative to the Lord first. If I go somewhere else, how can they get saved?” There once was a man who wanted to follow and obey Jesus, but he said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus’ answer to him was, “follow me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” - (Matt 8:21-22) This may sound cruel of Jesus not to allow the man to have a funeral for his dead father-but most likely, the man’s father had not died yet. The phrase “wait until I bury my father” was sometimes used to say wait until my father has died.” What he was really saying was, “I’d like to follow You now, but You see, my parents wouldn’t understand. Please wait until after they’ve died, and then I’ll be more than glad to follow You” Jesus’ answer was appropriate “allow the dead to bury their own dead.” In other words allow the unbelievers to take care of themselves, and follow Me!” Jesus doesn’t want us to throw our usefulness away because our relatives are not yet saved. The greatest witness they can see is you fully obeying the call of God on your life. Jesus didn’t want this man’s father to be buried-He wanted the young man to follow Him, and then maybe even the man’s father would come to know Him too. Obedience is truly greater than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22)-when we obey God, He takes care of all our other obligations. (Matt 6:33)
6. “But I need to get an education first.” I don’t believe that God wants every Christian to go to college just because, “Well everyone goes to college now, unless they’re too dumb!” You shouldn’t go to college unless God has definitely called you to go. Just like everything else in our Christian lives, He’s the Master, we’re the servants. He’s the General, we’re the soldiers. If you’re really a Christian, you’re at the beck and command of the King. If you’re not at His command, then you’re really not a Christian. Yes, God does call some people to go to college. Sometimes it’s to get training for a ministry calling He’s made clear to them. For instance, if you know what country you’re called to, perhaps God would lead you to learn the language and culture somewhat before you go (although the very best place to learn is within the country itself-it’s a definite “crash course”!). Of course, another reason God might lead you to college is to minister to people right there on the campus-as well as to mature emotionally and spiritually. But be careful! Make sure you’re there in direct obedience to God, or else you’re wasting your time-and His.
7. “But I need to get married first, and then maybe my mate will want to serve God full-time on the field, rather than me going alone.” Nothing could be a more foolish reason for putting off obeying God now. God does not want you to look for a husband or wife, He wants you to be married to Him, and trust Him for any mate He may bring into your life. I know of many single Christians serving Jesus overseas who are trusting Him for everything. And some of the most beautiful stories of God’s grace I’ve ever heard are told by couples who went to the mission field single, and then God led them to marry another whose heart was also fully devoted to serving Him there. Remember, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matt. 6:8) Trust Him!
8. “But I have a family to support. God doesn’t want me to neglect them, does He?” The Word of God says, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. “(Matt. 6:33) If you can trust God for your needs, you can certainly trust Him for your family’s needs. You would never be foolishly “neglecting” your family’s needs by obeying God’s call to go. God will show you the way. I know of so many families-some with many children-who are on the field right now, trusting God for their needs while they minister in His name. I have never heard of ONE occurrence where God didn’t meet the needs of one of His servants and their families. As King David said… “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends; and his descendants are a blessing.” (Psalm 37:2~26)
9. But the mission field is dangerous. God would not have me put myself or my family in danger of disease or native hostilities, would He?” “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3) It is all a matter of our priorities-do we look at the temporary or the eternal in making our choices? It’s true that you will probably be in more physical danger on the mission field than you would be in the suburbs of America, but that is part of the cost that we need to count when it comes to serving God. The question should not be, “Will I be kept safe wherever I go?” but rather, “What is on the Lord’s heart for me to do?” If Jesus decided to go the way of least pain, He would have never gone to the cross. There is no place of greater blessing for you than in the center of God’s will. You must stop to count the cost, but remember one thing - the privilege of serving God always outweighs the price. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s shall save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
10. “Although in the past most countries freely allowed foreign missionaries to come, most people in other lands now resent them. Why should I go where I’m not welcomed?” Did you welcome the Gospel before you were saved? The Word says that we should save some, “snatching them out of the fire.” (Jude 23) Some people just don’t want to be saved! That’s exactly why we need to go to them. The more unwelcomed, the better. If they resent Americans, then you have an opportunity to show them that Christian Americans can be humble with the love of Jesus in their hearts. For the Word says, “He who is wise wins souls. (Proverbs 11:30)
11. “But I could not afford to get the training, and raise the necessary finances to place myself (or my family) on the field.” Don’t worry, God will help raise the money you need. Wherever God guides, He supplies-even if it means helping you get a job! Problems and worries about finances are usually only a surface excuse when it comes to obeying God to go. In your heart you know He’ll make a way for you!
12. “But I don’t have any special talents or abilities that would qualify me to be a missionary.” Then you’re just the person God is looking for! Sure God can use nurses, teachers, accountants, and mechanics on the field, but it always blesses God to greatly use the one who seemingly has nothing to offer. It is this person who has the opportunity of purely representing Jesus in the endless “common” tasks that are part of the daily life of a missionary. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor 12:10; also see I Cor 1:26-31)
13. “But how could I commit myself for years and years to go to the field without having a chance to see what it would be like?” It is true that in past generations a foreign missionary had to make almost a lifetime commitment before he could go to the field. Then in most cases, he had to go to college for at least four years, and then seminary for two to four years before he could even begin his missions training and service. But today there are missionary organizations that have short-term programs for people who want to receive training and find out what serving God in other countries is like. These programs last from a few weeks to a few years in length. So now there is an opportunity to “take a bow” before making a much longer commitment.
14. “But God wants me to stay in this country and prosper. The reason the rest of the world is so poor and unconverted is because their heathen religions and idolatry have caused them to live in ignorance and poverty, without God’s blessing.” This has to be THE most selfish reasoning I’ve ever heard for not going-and I’ve heard it! Of course they live in ignorance and poverty, that’s just the very reason you should go-to bring the enlightenment that comes from knowing the truth about Jesus, and to bring them the true riches of knowing Christ. If you don’t believe that the reason God has blessed you with abundance in this country is so you can be a blessing to others-then you have never understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ! “Freely you received, freely give. (Matt 10:8)
15. “I’m just not ready to make that kind of a sacrifice and commitment.” Ah! That’s just the point. That’s probably the underlying reason for almost every one of the above objections. In fact, you might just as well have said, “I’m not willing.” You need to decide whether or not you are a disciple of Jesus-that is the question. If you are His disciple, then you are not your own…you have been bought with a price.” (I Cor 6:19-20) And if you truly love Him, then you will not feel bondage, you will feel incredible excitement at being chosen to represent Him in the world! To be a servant of Jesus Christ, an ambassador, a missionary, is the highest calling a man or woman can attain to!
Now what are you waiting for?
Laura, the founder of Missional Women is married and has five kids, two of whom are adopted. Laura and her husband have been missionaries to college students for 13 years serving with Master Plan Ministries where she is the Women's Development Coordinator. Laura has authored 5 books, including an award winning 12 week Bible Study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, and A Devotional Journey through Judges, a devotional to accompany the free online Bible study at TheBookofJudges.com. You can find her on facebook,twitter, pinterest, youtube, instagram and her author site.
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