The history of Christian mission overflows with the heart-stirring stories of men and women who stepped out in radical faith. Gladys Aylward, who left England for China with her passport, her Bible and £2.90 in her pocket. Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner who abandoned a celebrity culture for the Far East. Adoniram Judson, who buried most of his family in India, suffered prison and grief to win at first only a very, very few to Christ in Burma (modern-day Myanmar).
History speaks of the eternal legacy of these and many more. Today in England, I speak to many who tell of their hearts tugged for nations at war and refugees in crisis. I often hear the words spoken of the places that break our hearts, and watch posters for fundraising events and collections of resources across the country. I am thankful for these.
But increasingly, I wonder… who will go?
Who will learn the languages of a foreign people? Who will invest more than a weekend trip or short adventure? Who will give their lives to the deep and costly investment of discipleship?
Recently, in the refugee camps in Calais, a long-term volunteer said to me: “Calais is like the new Glastonbury. Come down for a sunny weekend, snap pics with your friends, serve in a kitchen for an Instagram photo shoot.”
Mixed motives are not a new phenomenon. As a heavy social media user, I have been equally guilty of sharing a moment that touched my heart and receiving undesired applause. When we share our stories in a personal way, there is personal attention. Our hearts are drawn to places of need and heartbreak.
Our world is in crisis. It’s broken and fractured, torn and searching. The more I travel – 66 countries and counting – the more I realise that the hunger will never be filled with bread and the thirst will never be satiated with water.
We have read these words of Christ: “I am the bread of life.” We believe that he is the presence the world hungers for, day after day, in every place. Where there is brokenness, he himself is our peace. Where there is bitterness, he forgave and calls us to a redemptive forgiveness.
To my brothers and sisters in 21st century England, with our iPhones and Instagram accounts, who still hunger and thirst for a count of more than 1,000 likes, who still believe that our God is actively on mission, may I simply remind us of the final words of Jesus to his people:
“And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:17-20
Who will go?
Who will say that as we worship, even through doubts, we see Jesus? Who will see Jesus, and even if you only have £2.90 in your pocket, even if you’re on the brink of stardom, even if you know it might cost you your whole life, even if you only ever see one person won to Christ, will you say yes to the call of God?
The confidence we have in Christ is that his Word to us is clear. Go. Disciple. Baptise. Teach. Observe.
His presence is with us always. At the end of the story, when we see our lives through the lens of eternity, I believe we will be astounded at the ways and places his presence was with us.
For some, you might simply be called to “go” to Co-op and tell the checkout staff that God loves them. I wonder how much our country would change if we all lived like we are loved in the everyday, ordinary moments of our lives.
Equally, for some, the call is to go to a new place, to leave behind your nation and to proclaim in a new place the light and joy and salvation of Jesus Christ.
Don’t let missions be your Glastonbury experience. The call of Christ to each of us is simple.
Who will go?