Missions Movement: War-Time Lifestyle
OBEDIENCE TO THE GREAT COMMISSION has more consistently been poisoned by affluence than by anything else. The antidote for affluence is reconsecration. Consecration is by definition the “setting apart of things for a holy use.” Affluence did not keep Borden of Yale from giving his life in Egypt. Affluence didn’t stop Francis of Assisi from moving against the tide of his time . . . .
When will we recognize the fact that the wrath of God spoken of in the Bible is far less directed at those who sit in darkness than it is against those who refuse to share what they have?
How hard have we tried to save others? The $700 million per year Americans give to mission agencies is no more than they give for chewing gum. Americans pay as much for pet food every 52 days as they spend annually for foreign missions. A person must overeat by at least $1.50 worth of food per month to maintain one excess pount of flesh. Yet $1 .50 per month is more than what 90% of all Christians in America give to missions. If the average mission supporter is only five pounds overweight, it means he spends (to his own hurt) at least five times as much as he gives for missions. If he were to choose simple food (as well as not overeat) he could give ten times as much as he does to mission and not modify his standard of living in any other way!
Where does this line of reasoning lead? It means that the overall lifestyle to which Americans have acquiesced has led us to a place where we are hardening our hearts and our arteries simultaneously. Is our nation not described by Isaiah?
My people are like the dead branches of a tree . . . a foolish nation, a witless, stupid people . . . The only language they can understand is punishment. So God will send against them foreigners who speak strange gibberish! Only then will they listen to Him! They could have rest in their own land if they would obey Him, if they were kind and good (Isa. 27:11, 28:11, 12).
Or, hear Ezekiel:
They come as though they are sincere and sit before you listening. But they have no intention of doing what I tell them to; they talk very sweetly about loving the Lord, but with their hearts they are loving their money . . . My sheep wandered through the mountains and hills and over the face of the earth, and there was no one to search for them or care about them . . . As I live, says the Lord God, . . . you were no real shepherds at all, for you didn’t search for them (my flock). You fed yourselves and let them starve . . . Therefore, the Lord God says: I will surely judge between these fat shepherds and their scrawney sheep . . . and I will notice which is plump and which is thin, and why! (Eze. 33:31; 34:6, 20, 22b).
We must learn that Jesus meant it when He said, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.” I believe that God cannot expect less from us as our Christian duty to save other nations than our own nation in wartime conventionally requires of us in order to save our own nation. This means that we must be willing to adopt a wartime lifestyle if we are to play fair with the clear intent of scripture that the poor of this earth, the people who sit in darkness, shall see a great light. Otherwise, again Isaiah, “I faint when I hear what God is planning” (Isa. 21:3).
The essential tactic to adopt a wartime lifestyle is to build on pioneer mission perspective and to do so by a very simple and dramatic method. Those who are awakened from the grogginess and stupor of our times can, of course, go as missionaries. But they can also stay home and deliberately and decisively adopt a missionary support level as their standard of living and their basis of lifestyle, regardless of their income. This will free up an unbelievable amount of money—so much in fact that if a million average Presbyterian households were to live within the average Presbyterian minister’s salary, it would create at least two billion dollars a year. Yet that happens to be only one-seventh of the amount Americans spend on tobacco. But what a mighty gift to the nations if carefully spent on developmental missions!
By Ralph D. Winter
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #14 in 1987]
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