I am seriously messed up. I am reading books that are messing with my mind and my soul. First, I read Radical, by David Platt. Now, I am in the middle of The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns.
Now understand, I have always taken kooks with a grain of salt. They allow this Great Commission stuff to dominate their brains. For them, everything goes back to putting God’s kingdom first. They don’t just fit God in where it’s convenient.
Some of these folks are just obnoxious. “How dare you think of buying shoe strings without thoroughly researching the labor practices of the manufacturer?” Oh, right.
“We shouldn’t spend time doing (fill in the blank), when we could be out there winning souls to Jesus.” This is the super-spiritual way of saying, “I don’t want to do (whatever is in the blank).”
Equally obnoxious are those who constantly throw around the numbers of decisions at mass evangelism events—decisions to give one’s life to Jesus Christ. How many of these are sincere commitments, anyway?
When I hear these obnoxious people, I wonder whom they are trying to impress. They easily put me in my place. I can’t compete with their numbers or their one-track minds. I find such blowhards easy to dismiss. They are shallow, self-absorbed, and self-righteous. It seems as though they have found the party line for super-spirituality in their circles and they are trying to live it out on steroids—maybe to impress others, maybe to impress themselves.
Much more dangerous are the kooks who describe their own struggles with the gospel and the Great Commission. That’s where I put Platt and Stearns. They ask, and try to answer, questions I have always struggled with.
How could God have been so foolish as to put the work of eternity into the hands of the church? Yes, Jesus saves, but He has given the church the job of sharing that news. If we fail, then some people never hear the good news. I think that happens a lot. And we have to answer for that.
I would rather not think about these things. Then I could continue living in denial. I could continue to wonder where God’s power is. I could lament the lethargy of the church in America today and I could continue to do a mediocre job of looking super-spiritual. Ah, isn’t this what life is all about: ignorance, powerlessness, and mediocrity?
But I can’t go back. I can’t keep ignoring the poverty and spiritual need around the world. Stearns shares stories and statistics that are astounding—about starvation, disease, war, and the lack of clean water. He explains the downward spiral of poverty and hopelessness. He explains that our affluence is a powerful tool in opening doors to show and share the love of God.
You may think, as I think: “I know exactly what I would do if I woke up as an orphan in Africa or a single mother in Cambodia. If I lived in a place of famine, I would leave. Duh. If I lived where the water was dirty, I would find some way to contact a ministry such as Living Water or World Vision. If I needed a job, I would start my own business. This is not rocket science.”
This is easy for me to say, but then I’m not suffering from compromised mental capacity brought on by hunger. I grew up in a culture where I was rewarded for my hard work, where there was always a solution to a problem. Through the internet I have access to all of the information in the world, almost literally. Of course I know what I would do if faced with poverty. But these poor people have not benefited from my culture, nutrition, or information. They are stuck.
Jesus came to preach good news to the poor. I understand now that the American people’s wealth can be used to combat poverty in sustainable ways. I am talking about teaching people to fish, not giving them fish.
Reading these books has opened my mind and my heart. Everything looks different now. I think about the way I spend money. I think about our society and our “need” to be entertained. I wonder what orphans in Uganda would think about my lifestyle, what they would consider luxuries. I think about the way I spend my time. I think about what I am modeling for my children as followers of Jesus.
I don’t have many answers, but I have plenty of questions: What can I sacrifice in my lifestyle? How can I give most effectively to share the gospel? Where can I spend time learning about needs around the world? In what country would God have me invest my life, so that I can make a difference in eternity?
I am messed up now. My eyes are beginning to open. I just don’t want to become a kook—but maybe it’s too late.