[This is part 3 of a 5 part series on seeing God’s glory across the nations. Please bear with me on this one, as it’s thoughts in process – feedback welcome!]
Choice is paralysis.
They told me we were a fortunate generation to have the world as our oyster. They told me we should be grateful for being able to re-train and learn any occupation in a few years and do what we love. They told me that we’d be able to travel the world and find others with similar interests and passions. They told me we’d be able to spend our lifetime exploring the rich diversity of personalities, cultures, countries and languages on this earth. But they didn’t tell me this.
Choice is paralysis.
And I find myself part of a generation who have so much at their fingertips, we have nothing. Because we can’t decide what we want.
The green fields and castles of Munster, on a summer day in Ireland (copyright me)
We come back from our travels, and we’re so taken by dreaming of the next one, that we struggle to fit in. And the freedom and exhilaration of new things, new cultures and new people, gnaw away at us when we’re back to brass tacks, sitting at the office desk, wondering when we can next escape. Perhaps we’re in the wrong job? Should we change again? But the last one felt like chains too…and I thought this one was more “me”. And so I’m left wondering whether the next pay cheque really needs to go on car insurance, or whether we can abandon the car in a bid to travel the road even further.
So many places. So many experiences. So much on the bucket list. So little time.
Choice can be paralysing!
And for the Christian it often is no different. Just because we have the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean that life becomes easy or that the golden path is suddenly there. The Bible doesn’t promise a soul-mate. The Bible doesn’t promise to outline what country you should live in. The Bible doesn’t even give a ranking list of professions either. In fact, the Bible doesn’t even promise you an easy ride this side of eternity – far from it!
But what Jesus does do, is to let us know that He is Lord over everything, and that we can serve Him in the vast array of different giftings, cultures and personalities that we all have. How freeing!
So no need to try and endlessly interpret whether one door is closing or opening. No need to wait on someone to come along and confirm your life calling. No need to wait til all the circumstances perfectly line up in your life for something. No need to mysteriously open your Bible at a verse that matches the numbers on the car number plate that you’re following at the time. That’s often more superstition than Jesus.
There are certain things Jesus would say we should bear in mind:
- Things the Church should do/be (eg. The bride of Christ…individuals cannot fulfil this role)
- Things individuals should do/be (eg. a part of the body)
- Things Christians with certain gifts can do/be (eg. Evangelists or speakers of tongues – neither are for everyone)
- Things mostly all Christians can do/be (eg. “be my witnesses” – we’re all called to this)
My work in progress – sorry to those who don’t think like this!
1+2+3+4: Many things, like putting our hope in God’s Word.
1+2: Sins of omission: Many things where the Church and individuals ought to do something or be something but don’t/aren’t
3 alone (eg: using tongues in private or chatting to lots of lonely people) or
4 alone (eg: wearing a cross at work or being kind to everyone) or
(3+4) : (eg: telling someone they ought to be kinder)
Some gifted people use their gifts outside of formal church context and outside of where they’re called specifically to use their gifts. Consciously this happens for example, in the business world or anywhere we work. Unconsciously, this happens ALOT, when people think they’re using gospel gifts, and are actually just acting culturally rather than Biblically.
1+3: eg. Go to unengaged peoples (this is a unique subset of certain gifts which individuals within the Church need to act on)
2+4: eg. Partner to help reach some of the unengaged peoples (this is what everyone else is required to do as individuals, to have God’s heart for unengaged peoples)
Why go to this length with an infographic (that is far from perfect)?
Well, what I think this shows us, is that everyone can sit back as individuals, in a highly individualised church scene, and confidently say that they don’t feel called to unengaged peoples. And to some extents they may all be able to justify their decision making in highly logical, Biblically good and God glorifying ways. And no-one would go. Ever. And this is what I would argue has happened for centuries of church history (with notable exceptions).
Who would be to blame?
Well, it’s hard to say, isn’t it?
No single individual could be held responsible.
No single church could be expected to guarantee folk to go to the unengaged world.
Even no single denomination necessarily should be held responsible Biblically speaking.
But the Church at large is not doing what it ought to do: making disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us.
We’ll look at a collective response to this in due course, and what this means for churches. But for now let me suggest one thing for us as individual Christians: that we cannot afford to give ourselves the luxury of thinking that others will go and that we are not the ones to go.
When I speak to most people with obvious gifts of evangelism in the church, they don’t think they have such a gift! Because to acknowledge it would be daunting, and to them, it’s just God’s gracious provision in giving them opportunities to speak a word in season (in their weakness). It doesn’t seem like it’s for them.
And similarly with going to the unengaged. Please, please do not wait for an angel from Heaven to tell you to pursue opportunities to see whether you could go. Jesus has already told the Church to pursue those opportunities.
Perhaps rather, I’d ask you to pray over, and be asking yourself this question:
Why should I not go to the unengaged world?
You’d be surprised like Moses in Exodus chapter 3, with how many reasons God can answer!
- Feel too weak? Good, God is with you.
- Feel too sinful? Good, God has a history of using such folk who realise their sin.
- Feel you need to get married to someone who isn’t willing to ask the same questions? You could marry someone who would keep the possibility real, instead of closing doors unduly.
- Feel you don’t have the right gifts? I’ve seen virtually every type of person on the field!
- Feel you’re indispensable to the church at home? Perhaps God can show you, you’re not.
- Feel like you’ve a great career ahead of you and don’t want to throw it away? Do something career related in your unengaged people, but primarily, weigh up in your heart what Christ is worth.
- Don’t think you’re an evangelist? Good – teams need all sorts.
- Don’t want the responsibility of intentionally giving years of your life to working towards the unengaged world? Christ is worth it!
And so I’ll pray this evening that you join me in praying that question, regardless of your age. There are enough really genuine reasons that will stop you going without adding. any of the above to them!