International (MNN) — An anthem for getting involved in Gospel missions is ‘pray, give, and go’. The ‘go’ piece comes directly from the Great Commission when Jesus commanded His disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
But is the Western Church’s approach in going overseas for missions always what’s needed? When does ‘go’ become ‘stay’?
Ed Weaver, CEO of Spoken Worldwide says, “I think the ‘go’ piece has been under debate in general from the West. If we’ve got a lot of indigenous leaders overseas, is our responsibility in the West to actually go? Or is it to equip and enable and let them go?… Is this the time that the West takes a different role in missions that’s more of a backseat? We’ve got so much more capacity around the world in terms of strong believers [and] people that are passionate about ministry.”
Spoken Worldwide works with indigenous believers around the world, enabling them to reach their peers with the story of Jesus in relevant and winsome ways. They conduct leadership development training and focus on people-specific messages to communicate the Gospel.
Questions around ‘going’ versus ‘staying’ are resurfacing with Western missionary-sending agencies in light of COVID-19. Both career and short-term missions overseas are largely on hold.
“It creates, in my opinion, an awkward relationship between the missionary, the missions strategy, and the indigenous leadership that is left behind — if, in fact, the Western missionary leaves. You’ve got this whole philosophy of, ‘What is the role of the Western missionary? Is there one going into the future? Or should there be?’”
And, of course, there is always the debate on what to do when believers – whether locals or expatriates – are in a country where their very lives are at stake.
“We’ve seen this issue from Boko Haram in Nigeria – people running away. Abuja’s population has skyrocketed over the last five years because a lot of Christians are escaping northern and northeastern villages to flee to safety or the appearance of safety. And you can’t really blame them. But you also want somebody to stay behind to focus on the unreached and bring the message of the Gospel to the lost.”
If all Christians pull out of dangerous contexts, there wouldn’t be anyone left to point searching and lost people to Jesus. Some of the most powerful stories happen when a persecutor meets Christ because of a believer they were persecuting.
However, Weaver cautions against making rash judgements on the decisions of believers in dangerous contexts. “The answer from God isn’t always going to be the same for everybody.
“We could say, ‘You should never leave the country. You should always stay behind, regardless of the persecution and the difficulties.’ Well, it’s easy for us to say that from the West. We’re living in a relatively luxurious environment,” Weaver says.
“But then we’ve seen people that have left, let’s say, Iran or Pakistan or any place in North Africa or the Middle East and have had phenomenal ministry via the internet and social media back into their country.
“So it’s clear that there are times when God leads somebody out of the country in order for them to establish a different launching point.”
Every difficult decision when it comes to our Christian witness must be bathed in prayer as we seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
For Christians in the West, Weaver encourages, “Whether they’re sitting in a church pew, whether they are working for a mission agency, whether they are a funding entity or a donor, everybody should, I believe, take this opportunity to get more well-educated on what the issues are.’”
Please pray for and with Christians around the world facing difficult decisions related to going or staying in their context. Ask the Lord to bless their minds with wisdom, their hearts with peace, and their hands with grace as they serve in whatever capacity He leads them.
“I think this is really a heart issue and really an openhanded issue, saying, ‘God move and show me how you’re moving.’”
Header photo courtesy of Dunamis Church via Unsplash.