Jerry Rankin wrote a guest entry on Trevin Wax’s blog here, reminding us that “missions is the activity of God’s people to fulfill God’s mission” and “without a clear presentation of the gospel, God’s mission is not being done.” He writes:
I will never forget hearing a missionary public health worker in West Africa testify of a very successful ministry of bringing pure drinking water and sanitation to destitute Muslim villagers. At the conclusion of an impressive presentation he broke into tears and confessed that he had been a failure for he had yet to see anyone embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I will never forget his closing remark: “Healthy in hell doesn’t count for much.”
“Oh, you’re going to help with the clean up?”
On several occasions, when I told people that I was going on a mission trip to Japan, I could tell by their response that they thought I was going to the Tohoku area, the area most affected by the earthquake and tsunami last March. That was their first assumption and understandably so. My trip was just 3 months after the disaster occurred so it certainly looked like the trip was in response to the need there. The truth is, the disaster there had very little to do with my decision to go on a mission trip to Japan. Rather, I ended up spending time in Osaka, far south of the Tohoku region.
Want vs. Need
Disaster relief and other social work is often associated with missions. So why didn’t I go to Tohoku to help them clean up? No, it’s not because I’m like this person:
It’s simple. Disaster relief is not the focus of my Christian life. Helping the poor, feeding the hungry or ending sex trafficking will never be the central focus of my life. However, I do wish to do all those things. I wish I could have gone to Tohoku to help them clean up. In fact, J-House, the church I visited in Osaka, sent a group to Tohoku this month to help clean up. Another group is going in August. I wish I was still there to be a part of that but I only had a short time to do what I needed to do.
The focus of my trip to Japan was looking for an opportunity to effectively share the gospel, now and in the future. I shared about that here. Anything else I can do for the people of Japan would be icing on the cake. It’s also biblical to help in anyway I can. But the focus is sharing the gospel. I don’t want to end up like the missionary public health worker in West Africa. I want to see people in Japan embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I want to see that happen everywhere. America, Sudan, China, Thailand, Philippines… you name it. Christians should care about social justice but not at the expense of clear gospel presentation. It’s true—being healthy counts, but not for much. Salvation through faith counts for much more.