By Steve Saint
The Man in the Mirror was the title of a book I read years ago. It was written by a man who recognized the fact that most of us “North American Christ Followers” cut corners, compromise, lie and cheat. The objective of the book was to encourage “Christian” businessmen to take a look in the mirror to see the way “Non-Christians” see us.
WARNING: if you are one of the majority of North American Christians who see our church as the standard of Morality, Integrity, Commitment to the Bible, Compassion and Generosity, IT MIGHT BE BEST IF YOU DIDN’T READ THE REST OF THIS LETTER.
A young woman who was just about to graduate from a Christian college as a missions major, showed me some pictures she took on her required “Extended, Overseas, Multi-country missions trip.” She told me the trip was required of all Missions Majors to ensure that all of them had a substantial knowledge of missions work being carried out by North American churches in the rest of the world.
The very first picture showed this young woman and two of her friends dressed in flip flops, short shorts, and short spaghetti strap tops that showed a good bit of midriff. Their outfits caught me by surprise when she told me that the country where she and her fellow “missionaries” were working in the picture she was showing me was Indonesia – the most populous Muslim country in the world. Imagine how the Indonesian people saw the three “Christian missionaries” who spent a short time in their community.
People everywhere tend to generalize. What do you think the rest of the world thinks about “Americans”, in general? It is well known in even remote parts of the rest of the world that in “America”: Everyone is rich, most people are fat, pre-marital sex is the rule rather than the exception, pornography is rampant, abortion is legal, contraceptives and abortifacients are given out even in schools, many public restrooms have condom dispensers, homosexuality is promoted, same sex marriage is now a constitutional right, evolution is taught as fact in schools while creation is taboo.
We say we are a Christian nation. Our coins say, “In God we Trust,” but we seem to actually trust in our huge economy, our giant military and our arsenal of nuclear weapons.
It is well documented that in “America” most households have a Bible but only a tiny minority of people ever read it. Missionary compounds in many foreign countries look a lot like our U.S. Embassies there: big luxurious compounds surrounded by chain link fences with barbed wire or by high walls topped with cut glass.
I love North America. But in Ecuador where I grew up about 50 years ago, one of the most common graffiti slogans painted on walls was, “Yankee Go Home.” Nevertheless, I was proud of my “Blue” passport.
About 15 years ago, however, I began to use my red, Ecuadorian passport some because there are a growing number of places in the world I was going to where people resent the United States and its citizens.
So, what is the point of all of this? Just this. We Americans (shame on me, we are “Americans” but so are all SOUTH & CENTRAL Americans) still have a role to play in Christ’s Commission. We are part of the worldwide congregation of Christ followers. But, we are just one part. Our attitude and objective must not be – to go everywhere and try to do everything for everyone forever! As a general rule, those living near the front lines ought to play front line roles. There are plenty of less glamorous but just as critical support roles we can be part of. Besides, we are rapidly becoming the front lines (we are now the largest missionary receiving country in the world).
Paul tells us: “I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves… Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body… Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:3-5, 10 NLT). Our commission is and has been to spread Christ’s Good News (Gospel) by making disciples who can make disciples who make disciples (Mt 28:18-20)
We need to constantly re-evaluate how we are going about fulfilling the commission that Christ gave us. That is why ITEC was founded 20 years ago. That is still our “raison d’être” our “reason to be”. Thank you, all of you, for the specific role you play in this “Counter Current ministry”!