In recent months as I've talked to people about how Patrick and I want to go into missions I've gotten a lot of blank stares. What does that really mean? What does it look like to bring the gospel to people who have never heard it? Why would we even want to do that in a country that is predominantly Muslim? These are all good questions, and I hope that over time friends and family will start to catch the vision for the work we want to do and the ways we feel like Jesus is calling us to serve him.
I'll admit, I used to think missionaries were people who wanted to go crashing through the jungles of foreign countries to re-create their churches from back home. In fact, there are mission workers who fit that stereotype of wanting to build brick and mortar buildings with steeples, sing hymns, and wear white robes in the services, but I'm not convinced that's what Jesus meant when he gave the great commission. He didn't say "go build church buildings and sing hymns." He said, "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)
When we move into the mission field we have no intention of bringing organized religion with us. All we want to do is introduce people to Jesus and share with them what he's done in our lives and what he can do in their lives too. We're not concerned about creating a church that looks like the ones we attend in the U.S. We're about bringing glory to God among people groups who don't know him yet. If the people we get to know and talk to aren't interested in Jesus, we have no intention of beating them over the head with the gospel. Everyone has a choice to make about who God is, and our only job in the process is to present Christ as clearly as possible. After that, it's up to them.
The thing is, Jesus wasn't all that interested in religion either. In fact, in scripture we usually see him berating the religious leaders of the day because they lacked genuine faith. I think what Jesus is interested in is having a relationship with his followers. People can sit in church pews seven days a week and sing hymns without really knowing Jesus. On the other hand, people might have never heard "Rock of Ages" but still be passionate about Christ.
There's a great Jason Grey song titled "More Like Falling in Love," I think it really sums up this idea.
He sings that our relationship with Jesus should be:
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
When we share Jesus on the mission field or at home we're not interested in placing new burdens on people's shoulders. We want to introduce them to the one person who can remove those burdens and bring them joy and hope. We're not about making people Christians. We're about teaching them how to be followers of Jesus. We're totally in love with Jesus and simply want to share that love with others!