The Mission Field in Our Backyard
If you were called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land, you would no doubt seek to learn as much as possible about that land and its inhabitants. You would want to learn how to speak the language of the people, as well as discover their customs and beliefs, in order to get to know them and communicate effectively with them. How else would you be able to meet their eternal and temporal needs?
In our world today, what is true about ministering in a foreign land is equally as true in our own. As many missiologists and evangelists have pointed out, if we desire to effectively reach our diverse culture for Christ, we must know the language, customs, and beliefs of the people we’re around every day. Jesus reminds us that these people are our neighbors whom we’re called to love.
Yet, we know that behind people’s perceived temporal needs there lurk real and eternal needs that only the Lord Jesus Christ can meet. Irrelevance is not a mark of faithfulness or a virtue to celebrate. Seeking to understand where people are “coming from” spiritually, philosophically, psychologically, and emotionally is not necessarily accommodation and compromise. Building relationships, meeting needs, and giving answers that never include the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel is. It was the Apostle Paul who said that he had become all things to all people that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). We can be certain he was able to do so without sinning or selling out. Should we not seek to follow in his footsteps?
Called to be Like the Men of Issachar
Issachar was one of Jacob’s sons whose descendants grew to become one of Israel’s twelve tribes. By the time of King David, we are told in 1 Chronicles 12:32, that among the great fighting warriors of Israel were the men of Issachar, who were distinguished by knowing or understanding the times in which they lived and were able to advise Israel accordingly. It was the Lord Jesus who castigated the religious leaders of his day for being able to predict the weather but not being able to interpret the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3). God continues to call godly men and women to know the times in which they live to provide a faithful witness for Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.
Christians should help folk view the temporal world in which they live with and through the light of God’s eternal perspective. Whether the focus is theology, worldview, ethics, culture, Western civilization, peace, justice, economics, etc., godly men and women are called to provide those in their spheres of influence with biblically faithful, culturally aware, and practically useful wisdom and guidance. The goal should be to lovingly bear witness to those entrusted to their care as well as to faithfully confront unrighteousness and evil with God’s truth. Such vigilant ambassadors of God’s Kingdom are called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in their own personal mission fields to which they have been called to serve.
The King of Our Mission Field
Jesus Christ is the Lord over every mission field and we want to communicate that touchstone truth to every man, woman and child in a way that is true, significant and attractive. We cannot save people ourselves but that doesn’t mean we should not bear witness to our Lord as lovingly, clearly, and faithfully as possible.
Like the men of Issachar, we need to know the times in which we live and effectively, humbly, and respectfully give an answer to everyone who asks us about the hope that we have in this world and the world to come.