I have the utmost respect for missionaries. I mean they answer a call that I can not fathom. They completely uproot their lives and their families, train for sometimes years on end, raise unreal amounts of monetary support to go to another country and live among a nation of people who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. On top of that, many go under other pretenses because Christian missionaries are not welcome in that part of that particular country. Forsaking comfort, simple luxuries, and in some cases risking their very lives, these Godly people boldly and faithfully step forward to fulfill the Great Commission to take the Gospel of Jesus to the ends of the Earth. I look at our missionaries with the same respect and esteem that I hold for our soldiers. I pray for them in the same manner that I pray for our troops overseas protecting our freedom. I look at both of these groups and sometimes think to myself, “Wow, I have done nothing with my life.” They really are true heroes.
This has been a difficult complex for me to get past. My dad served his country proudly and with honor in Vietnam. I watch in utter amazement and admittedly a huge sense of pride as people speak to and treat my father like the American hero that I know he is. In the same light, I look at the missionaries that I have had the privilege of knowing during my ministry. I see Craige Steele, whom I affectionately call Superman, who served in Brazil; and I see his son, who happens to be our pastor, who spent time church planting in Norway and I think to myself, “I could never do that. I have never truly served.” I think of my friend Alan Duncan and all of the missionaries in our area & denomination’s history who gave the ultimate sacrifice to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I get around these heroes- one group who laid it all on the line for my freedom and the other group who laid it all on the line for my Savior and I admittedly feel useless & insignificant at times.
I am sure that I am not the only one who has felt this way around these remarkable people. My dad will tell you that he did it so that I didn’t have to and my missionaries friends will describe it as simply answering a call. Missionaries are constantly being sent around the world to do what many won’t. I have prayed many times asking God if I am doing all that He wants me to be doing and I ask if I should be dropping everything to go overseas, and each time I get the same answer- but it wasn’t until recently that I understood that answer. The answer that I finally grasped is likely the same answer that many of us have gotten as we stand in utter amazement at our missionary friends. Let me break down my conversation with God for you:
I ask, “God, do you want me to be a missionary?”
God responds, “Yes.”
I continue, “God, do you want me to go overseas to be a missionary?”
God responds, “No!”
Right here is where God would lose me each time we had this conversation. I am betting that if you have had the same conversation, you have had a similar struggle. Let me continue and show you what I finally discovered:
I say, “God, I don’t understand. You want me to be a missionary, but I’m not supposed to go anywhere?”
God responds, “I didn’t say that.”
I finally say, “God, I give up. Here I am Lord, send me. Where do you want me to go?”
Then God responded & I heard for the first time, “You are already there.”
I had made the one mistake that is so common of us when we begin talking about missions, I assumed that mission work meant somewhere in another country or some destitute part of the U.S. I never once considered the fact that the ministry that I have poured 8 years into WAS THE DESTINATION! The reason that I have never felt the call to foreign missions is that God called me to local missions 8 years ago when I became the student pastor of City View Baptist Church. I have found and answered a call to the Belle Morris Community of Knoxville, a community that needs people serving and pouring into them. It was after this revelation that I kicked my mission work into high gear. We are doing a 30 hour famine in March called Project Knox 30 to collect food for Western Heights Baptist Center and we are currently undertaking a massive service project to open a Christmas store in December for qualified families to shop for their children for Christmas.
We are ALL called to be missionaries. Some of you will be called to foreign missions. You will uproot your entire life and you follow God’s call to the ends of the Earth to share Christ with others in another country. For others, you will be called to be missionaries in American cities that do not have the Gospel readily available to its population. For many of us, however, we are called to mission fields close to home. Mission work is scary, even when it’s in your own back door. The important thing to remember is that missionary work both local and foreign is 0% expectation and 100% obedience. It is vital for us to recognize the need to step out on faith and serve. It wasn’t until I re-read the words of Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me,” and became obedient to that call of faith that my eyes were opened to what God wanted me to do. The Great Commission calls ALL of us to go and tell, to go and make disciples of ALL nations. Sometimes that takes us to exotic destinations like Haiti, Honduras, or Brazil; and for the rest of us, we need to understand that sometimes…we are the destination.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach