• • • Paradigm Shifts • • •
Doing Missions is Good
But You Need "Something to Fall Back On."
Written by Benjamin Reese
“Missions is Good, but You Need Something to Fall Back On.”
The advice is simple enough: Before getting into missions, you should first secure your future with a prestigious degree, a well-paying job, and a little extra green besides. After all, so the advice goes, how can you help others if you can’t help yourself? And what will happen if you retire or quit or the whole thing goes south? Don’t you want something to fall back on?
Although the wisdom sounds reasonable enough, it implies some serious misunderstandings about missions. The first one is that missions is bound to fail as a lifelong vocation--It’s a passing season, an evanescent bubble of youthful energies, a fashion. Isn’t this really what the advice is trying to say, that missions will fail the person in the long run? Isn’t that the idea behind the “fall-back-on” language? That missions is some kind of precarious upward climb and you can’t hold on forever? (The Psalms have a lot to say about slipping and falling and God not letting that happen, but we’ll leave that aside for now.)
The second misunderstanding is that missions is something that you can, after devoting all your energies to another field of study, just jump into. It’s that easy. Spend 4-6 years learning something else, and, then, just do missions. There is a preconception here that missions is not a serious, viable, or lifelong pursuit—one that requires a dedicated apprenticeship like any really serious field.
These two misunderstandings can be boiled down into an overarching one: missions doesn’t require faith—i.e., that the project of missions doesn’t require or deserve the devoted, undivided pursuit of a group of people that take their calling with seriousness, dedication, and endurance because, ultimately, the whole thing is connected to what God wants and is therefore not subject to failure. “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of the LORD stands forever” (Is. 40:8).
But how can missions be a viable, life-long pursuit? We have started by treating missions as such. If you plan for failure, dissipated energies, and eventual disbandment, you will create an infrastructure that will foster these eventualities. Many organizations capitalize on the few open periods in a young person’s life—usually the year before or the year after college. They plan only to occupy a year’s time (usually an “extreme” year, but, nevertheless, a year). But we ask for more. Why? Because we believe that, done correctly, missions does require serious devotion and long-term training and preparation. We are planning for the long run, and we have created an infrastructure that ensures this longevity, making missions less of an impossible upward climb and more of a steady race to the finish.
Jesus calls us to plan for long-term security. His plan is to build a foundation on his teachings. His advice is not to find security in a back-up plan. Jobs, degrees, and savings are all subject to the winds and cross-winds that Jesus says all structures are beset with. Because of this, we have heeded the words of Jesus and are planning for the storms that will come, and we are planning to stand strong against them, by investing into a time of hearing his teachings, and doing his word. You can’t build a foundation on God’s Word by pouring your energies into everything other than the study and practice of God’s Word.
Matthew 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”