It is often objected that there are enough lost people in the United States to keep a minister busy. Why then should he waste precious time and resources overseas? The objection is, of course, ridiculous, as if the value of souls could be measured in time and money. It is furthermore rendered a useless objection in light of the great commission of Jesus Christ. We are to go into the "uttermost" parts of the world. I won't dwell here on a full theology of missionary work overseas. If you object to going overseas, I'll just throw something hard and heavy at you.
The balm, I believe, for many dry and dying churches is good overseas missionary involvement. Is it an odd theory? How can a church that is not engaged locally be boosted in zeal by being involved globally? The answer is simple: Shame.
I believe that if the average churchgoer could take his eyes off of his own bellybutton long enough to cast a glance across the world, he would realize how complacent he has been in his witness and Christian conduct. He would realize how he is guilty of embezzeling the Lord's money on his own selfish desires and not on kingdom growth. He would realize that he doesn't have a healthy prayer life because he doesn't know of any serious thing for which to pray. He doesn't have friends in prison for the faith. He doesn't see entire countries buried in false theology and devilish lies. He doesn't understand the reality of the darkness. He is, as he imagines, far from the battlefront and living comfortably on God's grace.
Yet the reality is that in China people are being tortured for their witness. That men and women and children meet for worship under the cover of darkness so that they may learn from God's Word. That people in India literally have no idea where their next meal is coming from, and yet they look to God for sustinance and care. These people have to have serious prayer for bread to feed their children. What is even more shocking is that you get the feeling that they truly desire God more than bread, that they long for their countries to turn to Christ, and that they actively pray and work to see this become a reality.
Tonight, I am supposed to speak words of encouragment to men who face ridicule and persecution. I am supposed to encourage men who will make less this year than I carry in my back pocket. What shall I say? What would you say?
This is how overseas work helps the local church. It makes you realize that you are not as engaged as you should be. That our excuses are pitiful and that our shame is real. That we are slothful in our faith. We are cold when we should burn with zeal. We have ten thousand times the resource and opportunity as the men I will face tonight, and yet they have more faith in their back pocket than I may display this year. Their condition has driven them to childlike dependance upon their Creator. Who is really the blessed here? Who has had the better spiritual education?
Watching these men work is humbling, exciting, and encouraging. I am so thankful for them. I hope that through this trip, my eyes will once again be drawn to the ends of the earth, and that I will burn with the desire to see Christ lifted up in all nations and amongst all peoples. My global vision will help correct my nearsightedness. That is my prayer for my local church: That we may be globally engaged to the glory of the Jesus Christ, and that through this work we will be aroused to better work at home.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.