There are some who are concerned that the church is losing its way in missions.
Specifically, they see many people who are engaged in mercy ministries and excited about these kinds of opportunities and less passionate and serious about things like, church planting and evangelism.
And they sometimes speak as if the reason for this shift is almost something inherent in mercy ministries themselves. Mercy ministries are distracting, they might say. I however think the problem is much deeper than that. It is not so much a practical problem as it is a theological one. It’s hard for me to process how being obedient to the commands of Scripture is in and of itself distracting. I don’t buy that. It can be distracting. But, not in and of itself.
Instead, I am convinced the reason that people are distracted has less to do with the act of mercy ministries and more to do with the fact that hell is just not very real to them. They may say they believe in hell, yes, but it’s not real to them like perhaps seeing someone starving might be.
The answer then to the mission drift is not simply telling people to stop engaging in mercy ministries, but instead it is to cry out to God for an awakening and to preach eternal realities in such a way that makes those realities absolutely vivid in people’s hearts and minds.
Listen to how Jonathan Edwards once pleaded with his congregation.
“Is it not a great pity that things which are so precious as souls are, should be lost? Should we not, if we saw any man in distress of body and in great danger of dying, be willing to lend him a hand to save his life? Why, let us look about us and we shall see thousands of men in a sorrowful condition, and in danger of dying every moment. Should we see a man a-drowning, should not we be willing to afford him some assistance to help him out of the water? If we look about we may see thousands of poor souls drowning in sin and iniquity, and in danger of being drowned in the lake of fire and brimstone. Let us therefore do what we can for them; perhaps we may be instrumental of saving several souls from everlasting ruin and destruction. If each one here present should do what he could towards it, there is no doubt to be made but that many souls might be saved by their means. Let us therefore do our utmost; don’t let us be so inhuman as to see men sick and not help them.”
If we really want mission to get back on track, we need to paint a bigger and more glorious and powerful vision of what God’s called us to be involved in, rather than simply going around telling people to stop.