Should Dangerous Places be Off-limits for Christians?

With the new attention fixated on the dangers in the Middle East over the last several months,  most would see it as unwise to go anywhere near that area of the world.  What would be so important, that we would be willing to go there?  ISIS is rounding up journalists, aid workers, and Christians so that they can imprison them for months, and then take them in front of a camera to cut their head off.   Why would we ever go to that area of the world?  What if they took us? Moreover, what about the Western Christians who are in Muslim areas right now who are in danger as well?  What about the local Christians? Shouldn’t we evacuate them to safety so that the radical Muslim groups can’t hurt them?  This is what my first reaction looked like;  with sadness, I think about all the suffering that they are going through, and think, we need to get them out.  I think about my dear Christian brothers and sisters in seminary who are training to be missionaries and I think in my head “don’t go, you may be next in line”. Though these reactions appear to make sense to our worldly western minds, they are actually quite non-Christian (in the biblical sense of the word).  Listen to the Words of Jesus:“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:16–18) Let these words become personal and real.  Jesus is telling you “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves”.   As Christians, the question should naturally arise in our heads; how are we intentionally being among wolves?  More than this, we need to think, should we be discouraging Christians from going overseas where they could be killed because they are sharing the gospel? No, we need to be encouraging them to go and preach the gospel!  Is that not what Jesus commanded them, and you to go and do?  We dare not discourage Christians from being obedient while we huddle at home failing to evangelize our local communities out of fear or harsh words and mean looks.  We as Christians are called to be missionaries.  There are only three options for the Christian no matter what the level of persecution.  Go overseas yourself, send and support missionaries overseas while you do evangelism and discipleship in your local context, or be disobedient.  For the sake of the kingdom of God and the eternal salvation of the nations, we as the church must choose the first two.

This Blog post was largely inspired by the book, The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places, by Nik Ripken.  A review of this book can be found here.

Who Does Ministry & What Do They Do?

God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12).”  Did you know that it is your job to do ministry?  I can equip you for it; but I can’t do it for you.  This is where our Western church has gone terribly wrong.  We relegate everything to pastors and staff and those whom we recognize as elders, deacons, and trustees.  At large, we’ve bought into the idea that we hire someone to do ministry for us.  And I commend those of you who have not bought into that and spend yourself in selfless ministry.  You know you don’t need my permission to minister to people; you already have God’s.  Do we see that our whole life belongs to God and that whatever we do, we do all to His glory (1 Cor 10:31)?

And the ministry you do is for building up the body of Christ.  All of us have gifts; all are integral to the success of the church, because Christ has made it that way.  And so He calls you to a high calling, to grow up in every way into Christ—to be equipped to build up the body of Christ.  That can happen in one of two ways: (1) You can edify and serve and do ministry to those already that are already inside the body of Christ.  And if you don’t know how you might do that, pray about it; ask me about it, and I’ll help you find something, based on your giftedness.  (2) You can evangelize and serve and show the love of Christ to those outside of the body of Christ.

We’re being built up together into a dwelling place for God (Eph 2:22).  That job is not done yet; if God had His complete dwelling built, He would come back and occupy it.  And so, we have work to do.  Believe it or not, you are the evangelists, he’s talking about in v. 11, in whatever context God has put you.  People have the mistaken notion that they’re not gifted in evangelism, so therefore, they don’t have to do it.  There is no basis in Scripture for that.  In fact, evangelism is never spoken of in the Bible as a gift; it’s a command.  All of us are called to evangelize—to make disciples—Matthew 28.  Trust the Spirit within you, and do it.  You don’t have to do it in your own power.  God will work in and through you.