A large group of officials from a country closed to Western Christian workers are visiting a university near your church. The director of a student ministry calls and asks if he can bring them over on Sunday to visit your church. They want to see what an American church is like. It just happens to be your mission conference and you have a presentation scheduled on the persecuted church.
A group of Japanese engineering students from another university come for an ESL game night, and bring their Yemeni friends. The Yemeni students have lots of questions about the missionaries pictured in your church missionary display.
You want to keep the congregation aware of prayer needs for your missionary families so list a different family each week in your bulletin with contact information. The church website lists your missionaries too and their letters are there at an easy click.
Thirty-five years ago my missionary colleague in Asia was blown away when one of the Bible study men said he was vacationing in New York City that year. “Should I run up and visit your parents?” he asked. My colleague couldn’t wrap his mind around that fact that the people he was a missionary TO were casually planning to visit HIS parents. That was the same summer we shut down the Sunday school because all the children were out of the country … except for the missionary kids. And that was thirty-five years ago!
Today we’re dealing with instant access. What is posted on your church website is searchable in the deepest corner of a country totally hostile to Christians. Even linking the term missionary to people you support could put their life in danger or irrevocably compromise their ministry.
The security issues that missions have dealt with for years are now being faced in churches. Questions like:
- “Do we put up pictures of our missionaries?”
- “How can we keep the congregation praying if we can’t publish information?”
- “Should we even use the term ‘missionary’?”
Giving in to the Enemy?
Unfortunately, changes of this sort are often construed as caving in to the enemy. Shouldn’t we be bold in our witness? Didn’t Jesus call us to lay down our lives for the Kingdom? Why should those who are hostile to Christ dictate what we do in our own country?
When does caution take precedence over boldness? God can use the witness of a martyr, but a living, breathing witness, imbedded in a hostile-to-Christ culture, is able to deeply influence the world around him.
No easy answers. Lots of questions. Maybe it is time to talk to the agencies your missionaries are with, and talk to the churches around you, and develop some new strategies for reaching the world for Jesus.