Simple Obedience: Obey God Wherever You Are
by Patrick Roberts 11/26/2007 / Missions
Before Christ ascended He told His stragglers that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and then Judea (Acts 1:8). And that's just what happened, though they in no way planned ahead for this. The earliest church was scattered by uncontrollable circumstances, so that they were turned into an outreaching church whether they wanted to or not.
In return for their persistent obedience to God's Spirit, the early church received severe persecution, which was the driving force of their scattering. It should be striking to us that God blessed their obedience with unheard-of hardship. However, in this way they obtained greater opportunity to obey and fellowship with Christ than they would have ever planned on their own.
As water runs down to the next lowest place, so obedience and the direction of our faith-walks should be similarly uncomplicated for us. We should obey the Lord wherever we are, however the free-flowing gravity of the Holy Spirit compels us.
Because I am American the most obvious thing for me to do is to seek the kingdom of heaven in the U.S. first by fervent prayer and fellowship and then also by books, talking with people, web sites, flyers and every available means, not because Americans are the greatest or because they deserve more attention than other cultures, but because I must be a good steward wherever God places me.
Who is more qualified to preach to any people than one who is a native to that people? If I am a wise fisherman, then I will use the best kind of bait for the particular fish that inhabit the waters before me.
I'm not saying that going elsewhere is a bad idea, I'm only proposing that we start with the basics. I have grown up in this country, I speak American English, and I am intimately acquainted with the concerns and worries that weigh down on the average American. As of right now, I am best equipped to communicate with Americans.
Would you dare apply such a straightforward outlook to yourself, if you are an ambitious church expert? Try stepping on the first step (the one right in front of you) and see if your legs carry you to the second step before you spend too much time imagining the greatness of treading on the twentieth step. If you are anything like me, then you are afraid to let go of your intricate plans for worldwide gospel success. If any prospective missionaries are at all like me, then they fancy themselves being spiritually successful just as soon as they can get away to a completely different, far-off place. Many expect that the spiritual rules will change in a far-off country where no one knows them intimately. But here, where people know us, we have hardly a shred of spiritual fruit for all our efforts.
On a related note, western missionalogical experts are starting to acknowledge that the best-qualified people to speak to far off peoples might not be headstrong westerners after all. Thanks to a survey taken by the American Missionalogical Foundation for Missionalogical Worldwide Gospelization, (and also thanks to common sense) it is now obvious that a transformed soul from each, respective people-group is best qualified to speak to their own people.
This is more of a general principle than it is an unyielding law. The general idea is that natives of a far-off nation will be more likely to trust a cultural neighbor who started off in much the same circumstances. A person will identify better with someone from their own country than with a foreigner who looks, acts, talks and thinks like a foreigner.
If we take this others-empowering missions strategy to its conclusion, then we Americans are left with the task of being faithful with our own home-base. In other words, if you are telling a resident of some tyrannical country that he should risk his neck preaching Christ to his countrymen, then make sure you are preaching the same gospel the same way in your own hometown... especially if you have freedom of speech, assembly and religion. If you are telling people in some distant land that they should be house-church-planters, then make sure you are planting house churches yourself amongst your own peoples. Be careful, O church expert, that you are not preaching a God who changes according to political boundaries and cultural norms. Your actions within your hometown are preaching a more powerful message than all the nice-sounding missions strategies in the world.