Just Because You’re A Christian Does Not Mean You’re A Missionary

Original post at davidjoannes.com

 

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“Missional” is a huge buzz word these days. But just because we are called to live on mission—which, of course, every Christianity most certainly is—does that mean we are all missionaries? [CLICK TO TWEET]

Unfortunately the term has blurred the lines between blessing those in our own context and zip code, and bringing the gospel across cultures to the yet unreached and unengaged billions.

Billions? Yes. More than 2 billion have yet to hear the name of Jesus in the 21st century.

Not everyone is called to be a cross cultural missionary, and that’s okay. Each of us has a part to play in reaching people around us, both locally and globally. Don’t downplay your call to love people to Jesus in your sphere of influence, while subliminally placing overseas missionaries on a pedestal.

Ministry outreach that blesses people in the homefront is no less important than the “ends of the earth” mission that missionaries are called to. I’d like to validate your ministry to people in your zip code by saying it is, in fact, so important that we must export these quality outreaches to regions where the Church does not exist.

Because “missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” – John Piper

We are called to live missionally, as David Platt says, “blessing people around us and spreading grace and glory among all peoples.”

Every Christian is a witness. We are all called to make disciples. That calling is not dependent upon geographic location.

But just because you’re a Christian does not mean you’re a missionary!

I do not agree with statements like “If you’re a Christ follower, you’re a missionary.”

The reason?

“If every Christian is already considered a missionary, then all can stay put where they are, and nobody needs to get up and go anywhere to preach the gospel. But if our only concern is to witness where we are, how will people in unevangelized areas ever hear the gospel? The present uneven distribution of Christians and opportunities to hear the gospel of Christ will continue on unchanged.Gordon Olson

That’s my point. The 2 billion people who have never heard of Jesus before are waiting at the other end of our obedience!

The title of missionary holds huge responsibility, and many who call themselves by that term are not ready or willing to pay the cost. [CLICK TO TWEET]

“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.” – Oswald J. Smith

So in reality the idea that every Christian is a missionary is a cop out. It avoids responsibility for the about 2 billion people who are not being effectively evangelized today. It means direct disobedience to the “Go” of the Great Commission!

Jesus had a big picture mentality. He said, “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The gospel reach was meant to extend beyond Bethlehem’s zip code. [CLICK TO TWEET]

“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world [remote regions where the gospel does not exist], as a testimony to every nation [ethnolinguistic people groups] and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” – Oswald J. Smith

Am I simply being nit picky about terminologies? What’s the point of making the distinction between missional living and the role of the cross cultural missionary?

The reason for my thinking is simple.

The great imbalance of missions is the fact that most missionaries go to or are sent to reached areas of the earth—regions where the Church already exists and the name of Jesus is known. On the flipside, there are very few missionaries working among the remaining unreached people groups within the 10/40 Window, home to over 2 billion who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.

Not to downplay certain missionaries or ministries. It’s just that we cannot forget those who are still waiting for the gospel to get to them in the 21st century. That’s our passion at Within Reach Global.

A missionary speaker in a Bible college missions conference illustrated it by having 10 students try to lift the piano by positioning 9 at one end and 1 at the other. He made his point by saying that 9 out of 10 Christian workers are ministering to the one-tenth of the world which is most evangelized while only 1 out of 10 workers are thinly spread through the nine-tenths of the world which have never heard the gospel before. This is appalling! It is as ridiculous as 9 men at one end of the piano ignoring the 1 poor guy trying to lift the other end all by himself.

On that note, check this out: What If There Were Only 7 Churches In North America?

Herbert Kane has suggested that although it is not possible to give a flawless, scientific definition of a missionary, the following one should suffice:

“In the traditional sense the term missionary has been reserved for those who have been called by God to a full-time ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4), and who have crossed geographical and/or cultural boundaries (Acts 22:21) to preach the gospel in those areas of the world where Jesus Christ is largely, if not entirely unknown (Rom. 15:20).” – Herbert Kane

“All Christians are to be missionary-minded in obedience to the Great Commission, but not all Christians can be missionaries in the proper biblical sense of the word. We cannot all pack up and go! Some must stay behind and stand behind those who do go.

“The total resources of the Christian church should be thrown into the battle for the souls of men on a global scale, and every member of that church should regard himself as being involved in the total mobilization required by such an operation. But not every church member is a missionary.” – Gordon Olson

Our options for response are go, send or disobey. Why not partner with Within Reach Global as we reach some of the most unreached people groups in Southeast Asia?

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6 WAYS TO GET RICH (OR REALIZE THAT YOU ALREADY ARE)

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There is a sweet, gray-haired 70 year old woman with a pretty smile named Elena on the corner of Aurora Blvd. and General Aguinaldo Ave. I see her nearly every day. She travels ten miles from her slum home to beg for money in the high traffic Araneta Center area. I always stop for a moment to ask how she is. We have a cordial conversation. Elena asks about my newborn baby, And how is your wife? She always looks so pretty! She asks if I am having a good day, and squinches her cheeks with delight when I reply in Tagalog. Mabuti naman po. 

She has picked a good spot in the bustling city of sixteen million people. Not that everyone is overly generous, but every coin counts, and adds up. I’d say she’s doing pretty well for herself—relatively speaking, of course, pretty well as far as the beggar’s lifestyle goes, pulling in more than a hundred Pesos a day.

She makes me think about the lifestyle that I have been blessed with. She makes me consider finances and food and entertainment and all the good pleasures of this world. She makes me feel rich.

But opulence is a funny thing, a sticky conversation full of loopholes and relativity. The rich announce that they’re poor. The poor makes you think they are rich by their amiable smiles. The middle class always want more. Beggars are always reaching for another coin. Millionaires never have enough.

So how wealthy are you? Where do you fall on the global rich list? Here are five ways to get rich, or realize that you already are.

1. INFANTS SLEEPING ON THE MANILA SIDEWALK
Walk less than fifty meters northeast from Elena’s spot on Aurora Blvd. to watch infants sleeping in makeshift cardboard boxes strewn across the sidewalk. They are usually asleep next to an older sibling, a toddler or ten year old. Traffic is heavy with personal vehicles and public jeepneys, and the humidity collects billions of smoggy molecules, stuffing the black soot inside tiny, helpless nostrils. You can’t believe how dirty the poor baby’s cheeks are. Their mother’s empty eye follows me as I walk past them with a hampered cringe in each step. I’m pretty sure she’s wondering how rich I am.

2. WA VILLAGE ON THE CHINA / MYANMAR BORDER
Take a twenty-four hour overnight sleeper bus from Kunming city to The Edge, the northern point of the Golden Triangle. Home to the former headhunting Wa tribe, the landscape is dotted with lush poppy fields and grass huts. Methamphetamine production and ethnic genocide (amongst a myriad of other tragedies) have ushered in a tidal wave of poverty. Spend the night in a Wa hut, sip some of the local rice wine jet fuel, converse with a toothless old man puffing a silver pipe, and pinch the children’s cheeks as you hand them gifts of balloons and used clothing. The wide open wet skies outside will remind you that you don’t have it that bad after all.

3. LEGLESS BEGGAR IN BIRD AND FLOWER MARKET
Set out for a shopping day in Kunming city like any decent consumer. But watch your step as you stroll under the branches that hang over the Chinese souvenir and trinket venders at the Bird and Flower Market. Fate is not so fair to every human being, you will see. I have always wondered about that man’s story—the legless man with polio shriveled arms, contorted in inhuman posture, with hollow tin can laid in front of his face. When I see him, I am shocked and saddened and pissed off. His gnarled vertebrae is a hump of bone and flesh, pathetic and hopeless. On a busy day at the market, you may not even see him until it’s almost too late as you nearly trip over him and despise yourself because of it.

4. ORPHANS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF MONROVIA
Watch from inside your vehicle as the hoard of excited children run toward you, smiling, waving, What’s your name? hugging your leg, Will you be my friend? Your car has not even come to a complete stop yet, and you are surrounded. The moment your foot steps on the Liberian soil, you are engulfed in a swarm of loveably curious little children. Some are late in their teen years. Others are toddlers. The sun beats down on you as the African temperature soars. A five year old boy named James holds your hand as he looks up at you with those big, black eyes. He has seen war. He has felt loss. His parents are gone. His eyes are more articulate than he himself, and they tell a story of hope and longing. Suddenly your first world problems seem more trivial than ever.

5. YAO VILLAGE ON THE CHINA / VIETNAM BORDER
Look to your right, south toward the Mekong River, as the swooping valley bursts with greens and yellows. Banana and pineapple plantations as far as the eye can see, and the smoke of a thousand villages rise in the dusky purple haze. The Yao tribe is one of the poorest of the poor people groups in Southeast Asia. Tonight you are sitting on an unnaturally short stool, crouching over a splintery wooden table laden with boiled cat, leafy water spinach, and raw grub worms. Your stomach churns as you scan the delectable delicacies with worry in your eyes. But you are an honored guest, and they are serving you the best that they can manage. You squeeze your chopsticks awkwardly, pinch a glob of bone and flesh, and chew slowly, savoring every unique flavor as your host scrutinizes with innocuous eyes.

6. THE MIRROR
Take a moment to pause and reflect. Linger a little longer than usual in front of the mirror. Inspect your jeans. Scrutinize your shirt. Examine your shoes. Survey your stuff behind you in the room, your electronic devices, your gadgets, appliances, furniture, light fixtures, wall paint. Perhaps a sudden epiphany will shock you with a thought like, Wow, I am not as poor as I thought. Yes, there are bills and obligations, and it always feels like you wallet is filled with more receipts than cash. But that may simply be because you only use plastic! Just a moment more. Linger there in front of the mirror a little longer. Are you poor or rich? Are you well off or just getting by or keeping up with the Jones’s? If you are reading this, the reality is, you are most likely in the the top ten percent of the world’s rich.

Confirm how rich you are on the Global Rich List.

I’m sorry if this blog was deceiving, and you haven’t walked away with newfound wealth or secret steps to becoming rich. But I hope that you realize how blessed and well off you truly are. Now, why not find a cause to give toward.

To whom much is given, much will be required. 

Perhaps it’s time to become more intentional with how you use your wealth for the benefit of both yourself and others.

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2012 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I’m pretty happy with it. I am inspired to finish my book in 2013—once I awake from zombie mode because of the recent birth of my baby girl! Yes, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation going on around the Joannes household right now, but there are glimpses of deep inspiration as well. I hope to draw on that inspiration to create a book that satisfies your craving for unique missionary stories.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

NINE YEARS AND COUNTING

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I have been chasing Lorna for 15 years. The moment I laid eyes on her in the old Hong Kong airport in 1997, I was love struck.

There are a million details between the time when I met her in 1997 until we got married in 2003, but this blog will just relive our wedding and anniversaries.

Here’s a yearly look at our lives.

2003: Joannes Wedding
After 7 years of pursuing her, Lorna and I were married in Puerto Real, Intramuros in Manila, Philippines. December was dry from the 1st to the 12th, and the 14th till the 31st. But our outdoor wedding was drowned in a heavy downpour until all the decorations were soaked. It was terrible at the time, but such a fun story as we look back. We had our honeymoon in Boracay Island.

2004: 1st Year Anniversary
We went to the ancient city of Lijiang, where I proposed to Lorna in January 2003. We enjoyed getting lost in the labyrinth of cobblestone paths that spiderweb through the old city. We hiked up Lion Mountain for a view of the ancient city and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. We had a Korean dinner at Sakura along the riverbank.

2005: 2nd Year Anniversary
We went back to Manila for our first Christmas season since we were married. Makati is the perfect date place. We walked around the malls and gardens in Greenbelt 3, and ended that warm Manila evening at Bubba Gump.

2006: 3rd Year Anniversary
The Christian community at our church in Kunming, China had a Christmas party that doubled as our anniversary. We hung out with close missionary friends, danced, and had a wonderful evening at Harbor Plaza Hotel near Green Lake Park.

2007: 4th Year Anniversary
It was a simple and relaxing morning in our new apartment in Kunming, China. I made breakfast for Lorna, and she gave me the comics of our marriage that she had made the week before. We walked across Beijing Road to Silver Spoon, and had a great lunch together in the cool China weather.

2008: 5th Year Anniversary
After a week of heavy Christian training and underground meetings in China, I surprised Lorna with a trip to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta soldiers. We flew up to the historic city with our local missionary and partner pastor from the Philippines, then checked in to our own hotel so we could finally be alone. We dressed up like Terra Cotta soldiers, visited the Drum Tower, and ate some incredible food. All around great date!

2009: 6th Year Anniversary
Our one and only anniversary in America was in Prescott, AZ, my hometown. We couldn’t pass up a cozy breakfast at St. Michael’s Cafe on a cold winter day. It was a nostalgic moment looking across the park where I had penned many letters to Lorna while we were dating. And now there she was, looking across the table at me, my beautiful wife.

2010: 7th Year Anniversary
After sharing the gospel at a Within Reach Global English Camp with over 80 Chinese college students, we drove 3 hours west to a natural spring that was recommended to us. When we arrived, we were surprised to find a dirty, dilapidated hotel overrun with a million Chinese tourists. We were so tired after 3 days of ministry, and decided to head back to Kunming. We got stuck in traffic, and ended up at Grand Park Hotel late at night. But we were comforted by the beautiful hotel and each others’ presence. The next day we fed the thousands of seagulls that flock to Southwest China to escape the freezing winters of Siberia.

2011: 8th Year Anniversary
It was our first anniversary after moving from China to Manila. We needed medical help after years of stomach problems, and stage four endometriosis (the cause of our infertility) that Lorna had developed over the years. We had a fun time writing letters to each other, having afternoon dessert, drinking coconut juice, and watching a movie together.

2012: 9th Year Anniversary
After 9 years of a marriage filled with adventure, we looked at each on the 27th floor of Diamond Hotel—where we spent our first night of marriage—and giggled with delight. Our baby girl was finally here, kicking inside Lorna’s belly. Our miracle baby brought us new joy, and we felt like this was a new season of blessing for us. We were thrilled to have spent so many memorable years together before our child arrived, but the thought of our family growing brought us greater joy.

Happy anniversary, Lorna! We have many more years of making memories ahead, and each year will only get better. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for taking this journey with me.