People like to think that the church is a safe place: a safe place for children, a safe place to meet new people, and a safe place to express beliefs with like minded believers. The truth of the matter is that while any church could be all of these things, no church is close to being “safe”—especially a missionary church. A missionary church is in the midst of the battle for souls, and a battle is never a “safe” place
1. Let’s start with children. Every church is full of sinners. Some sinners are visible and some are not. A missionary church has a lot of visible sinners. Other churches, similar to clubs, may have only invisible sinners. Either way, visible or invisible, it is not safe for children to be around sinners without adult supervision. The advantage of bringing your children to a missionary church with visible sinners is that it gives you the opportunity to safely explain immorality in your time and at your pace. Children are going to learn about sin from friends, television, the internet, or all of the above. Wouldn’t it be best if your children could see a person in church—sin and all—giving their hearts to Jesus and being transformed by Him? It gives you the opportunity to explain the effects of sin and the benefits of mercy, forgiveness and grace.
2. Want a safe place to meet new people? There is a good chance that you will bump into a drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute, or homosexual in a missionary church—and those are the good guys! A missionary church accepts people where they are on their journey to Jesus. A missionary church does not judge another’s motives or heart; they simply accept that if people are worshiping together then they are all being drawn by the Holy Spirit. A missionary church welcomes people with open arms and led by respect for all and the timing of the Holy Spirit carefully and lovingly presents the power of God as available to transform everyone to reflect the character of Jesus.
3. A missionary church is not a “safe” place to express your personal beliefs with anyone that may be listening. Number one, you could be wrong. Number two, not everyone is ready to hear some of your beliefs unless you have laid a proper foundation. Face it: some of your beliefs are just weird to someone who doesn’t have the proper background to understand where you’re coming from. We also want to be very careful that we love and accept people even if they do not believe as we do. Before expressing potentially controversial views, a missionary will spend time prayerfully listening to the hearer’s point of view and ascertain his/her readiness to consider a different viewpoint. In other words, a missionary church is more interested in knowing and respecting the needs and views of the listener than in convincing the listener of one’s own views and recognizes we do not change people’s minds – that is only the work of the Holy Spirit.
Some of the radical statements above deserve clarification. On the day of Pentecost Peter called the people to repent and be baptized. John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance. Before I am baptized, the Bible demands that I should repent of my sinful condition and confess that my only hope is in Jesus. I must give God myself—sin and all—in exchange for the perfect gift of Christ’s righteousness. This does not mean that I will be perfect; it only means that I have surrendered my all, including my recognized sins, to the care of Jesus. As I study and grow in Jesus, I will want to know more and grow more. My life will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. In most cases, it takes a person months, even years to reach the understanding of full surrender. All along the way, a missionary church remains loving, merciful, accepting, and patient.
The apostle Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians is sound advice for us today: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (4:32). This applies to members, attendees, and guests, no matter where they are in their spiritual journey. We should never consider a church “safe” enough for unsupervised children or indiscriminate sharing of personal theological theories. However, a missionary church should always be a place where weary, battle-scarred sinners and saints know they’re loved.
By Jim Reynolds, Paula Wart and Paul Johnson
I visited a remote village that took us hours to get to. Our worker there was one of our best. She took me around the village and showed me the trees and plants where she harvested leaves and bark to make natural remedies. Most of the women we train already have an interest in medical ministry.