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. They want to see what an American church is like. It just happens to be your missions conference, and the speaker is an under-the-radar worker in that very country.
A group of Japanese engineering students 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 you list a different family each week in your bulletin with contact information. The church web site lists your missionaries, too, and their letters are there at an easy click.
Welcome to the brave new world of mission security. “What happens at church stays at church” went out the window with global internet access. What is posted on your church web site 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 lives 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. Talk to the agencies your missionaries are with about ways you can protect their valuable ministries but still keep them in prayer.