I recently saw a slide-show mission presentation featuring an isolated people group in Mexico. I was moved by it and felt the desire to support this work and get the gospel to these people. Nothing I'm about to say changes my desire, but it does change the way I desire the mission work to be done.
It struck me during this presentation that most mission presentations I have seen (if not all) focus more on the need for Americanization than spiritual need, yet they never say this explicitly. And usually the spiritual need is couched in physical need. Something like this: "There are few believers in this group, but just look at how they live! The tiny church building is leaky, the floors in their houses are dirt, here is how much money they make a year, and they have to salt their meat to preserve the little bit of meat they have because they don't have refrigerators." Is your heart melting yet?
Do you see the problem? It's as if, "They need Jesus and don't know Him, and haven't heard of Him," isn't enough for us. They need to be like us, they need tile floors and ice machines and blue jeans.
My concern isn't over meeting real needs vs. telling the gospel. I'm not talking about the social gospel vs. the gospel preached. Biblically speaking, social needs and spiritual needs are very close friends and intertwined. My concern is that the line between the gospel of consumerism and the gospel of Jesus has been blurred.
Is the biggest problem of these people that they don't know Christ? Or is it that they don't get to live more like us in the West? Is their biggest problem their lack of a refrigerator or a Redeemer? Or better yet, is their lack of a refrigerator really a problem, or just a cultural difference? I'm afraid our emotional heartstrings and deepest desires in mission are tied too much to our mindset as Americans and not to our redeemed mindset. And yes, these two mindsets are at odds.
Look in the front of most churches and you will see where most of us stand. The American Flag is standing right there with the Christian Flag. We Christians are still too American. And don't get me wrong. I'm all for helping with real needs. What a joy it is to serve others in the name of Jesus! But we get real needs mixed up with the American lifestyle, and it's no wonder that our churches are full of people deeply in debt and deeply in love with the ways of the world.
What do you think?