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Missions without Jesus  

The word missionary seems to have evolved. And I’m not sure it’s for the best.

I understand a missionary to be someone who uses their gifting (preaching, teaching, translating, nursing, music, construction, administration, arts, etc.) to share the central gospel message: that our sins now separate us from God and we are in desperate need of the Savior, Jesus.

As we support several different missionaries, my wife and I enjoy reading their updates and newsletters. But Jesus seems to be getting less and less press.  We read about construction projects, clean water initiatives, ministries to the poor and other good things.  But there’s often very little said about the gospel.  How we long to read, “This girl we talked with seemed far from the kingdom.  And then she met Christ.  Now her life is so different because….”

Drilling wells, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, freeing sex slaves—are surely noble tasks—and certainly in line with the heart of Christ.  Indeed, Christians must be leading the world in these efforts.  But they are not in themselves the gospel!

I'm not saying it’s either/or—that we should only preach the gospel and not bother with humanitarian relief or biblical justice. I am asking: Where is the problem of sin and the solution of the cross in our good-deed-doing? 

 

To be clear, we ought never to offer our service, our medical care, our food or water conditionally (“if you accept Jesus, then we will help you”).  Christ made no demands before healing or doing good of any kind.  He simply helped or healed.  But nor did He fail to let people know of their fundamental need to repent, with Himself as the solution to their sin problem.

If there isn’t God in our good or Jesus in our justice, we offer a lesser gospel fashioned of feel-good causes and hipster compassion.  For, in the end, there is no real justice without Jesus, no good apart from God.

So let our hands dig wells—while our mouths speak of Christ.  Let us advocate for the poor—but be unfailingly courageous in connecting Jesus with our justice.  May our spirits be welded to the task of meeting physical needs so that we might address the ultimate need of every heart: Christ and Christ only.

 

We must never forget that the gospel is not “you do.”  The gospel is “Jesus did.”

                                                                                                               –Ed Stetzer

 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016