Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Heart of a Missionary

As a boy growing up in an evangelical denomination, my favorite services were the missionary services. We had them periodically. You would know it was for real, because at the back of the church there would be a table set up with a fantastic display of ornaments and artifacts from the "mission" field. The missionary would be sporting some unusual clothing typical of the people group he was serving. There would be a slide projector set up in the nave, with some men working desperately to get the screen set up and the projector focused, working out all the technical difficulties before the service was to start. The service would begin normally then the pastor would turn the service over to the missionary. If he was a particularly gifted story teller, which most were, I would sit enraptured for the duration. Story after story would be told, of the harsh living conditions, the dangers from bandits or thugs, the culinary tastes of the people group. The stories would be enhanced by the slides showing real scenery, real people, beautiful people, pitiful people, and of course children- lots of children. One missionary I remember actually had mastered the use of a blow gun and stuck a dart into a wicker basket as a demonstration. The service would always close with a special offering taken up and prayer cards. I would leave the service, wishing God would call me to be a missionary. You could imagine my disappointment when He called me to be a pastor. Just a "plain ol' pastor."

Was I in for a surprise. What I did not realize then as I do now, that the United States has become a mission field, and difficult one at that. Missionary is not a term that should be limited to foreign missionaries. What makes a missionary, is not where he/she is called to serve, but rather the heart, the spirit in which that service is rendered. What is the difference between a Foreign missionary and a domestic missionary? That the domestic missionary gets to enjoy to comforts and luxuries of staying in the United States? Not hardly. The main difference is just what I related in the story above. I have yet to get invited to a church to share about the work God is doing in Casey County Kentucky. I could bring in slides. I could have a display "native" artifacts, tell good stories about the unique customs and culinary tastes of the people I serve, but it would not have the same effect. It's all too normal, too close to home. You see the real difference between home and foreign missions, is not what we do, or even why we do it. It's not the amount of sacrifice. It's not the cost, or the difficulty of the task. The real difference is how the work is perceived by the world around us and sometimes even the church at large.

As "domestic missionaries" we must not get discouraged by this. Instead let us with full resolve press on in the obscure little corner of the field where God has sent us. Know that the work that you are doing will probably not make the press, and you probably will not be invited to some larger affluent church to tell your story. That's OK though, because you don't really have time for it anyway. Remember a true missionary is characterized by selfless ambition to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who have not yet heard. It doesn't matter if anyone notices. For our sake, it is probably better that way, lest we become puffed up with pride, or start playing to the crowd for more applause. Instead remember whom it is that you serve. Be faithful in the field you are working in. And if by chance someone does notice, remember that you are only doing what is your duty.

(this post was taken from the September 2008 Bread and Sawdust, the blog of recently named Father General Coadjutor of the MSJ. Fr. Lemmon serves as Rector of Christ the King Anglican Community - Liberty, KY)

No comments:

Contact Information

11195 S. Grayling Rd.
Roscommon, MI 48653

Telephone: 586-264-6044
msjanglican "at"