Sunday, July 29, 2007

Missionary Atheism

We have Mr Joshua Synder from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) to speak to us today. His sermon is entitled “Missionary Atheism: Removing the Blocks to Fulfilling God’s Vision for the Global Church”. The text he has chosen is from Revelations 7:9-10.

Rev 7:9-10 (ESV)
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
The message he brought to us is basically that the church globally is not complete. It is not complete because it is not yet complete with people from every nation, every tribe and every people and every language. This is why we must not be what Joshua termed, a missionary atheist.

Personally, I felt the word “atheist” a bit too strong but I do understand why he used it. There some of us who feels that it’d be okay for me to believe in Christ but for that particular group of people, maybe not. If an atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or gods, I would then explain missionary atheist as a person who does not believe in a God who has mission and evangelism as part of his plan. Well, as far as I am concern, I do believe in a God who is a missionary God but how much I would, or would not for that matter, engage myself in it would be my form of “missionary atheism”.

Joshua gave some compelling reasons why being missionary atheistic is not an option for us Christians. If we refer to the bible, it is obvious and clear cut. God is a missionary God. Right from the beginning in Genesis up to Revelations, we read about God reaching out to the people and leading his people to reach out to more people. If we look at how Christianity has reached our shores, we must be thankful for the missionaries who sacrificed so much to bring us the Good News. Missionary atheism is not an option. It is a requirement for us to be missionaries.

We must then be transformed in 3 ways: in the mind, in the heart and in the will. We must change our old way of thinking, remove our ethnocentricity and ask for the grace to be a missionary – in Jerusalem, in our own home; in all Judaea and Samaria, among our neighbours, geographically or categorically; and to the ends of the world.

There are a few ways we can be involved in mission work. We can ourselves by God’s calling, be missionaries. We can get involved in short-term mission work, whether a week or a year. We can release our children to do mission work. We can support mission workers financially and spiritually. There’s YWAM, Wycliffe, World Vision.

I had a word with Joshua after the service to ask him about his thoughts on short-term mission. I had my reservations. I felt that short-term mission if not done properly may not be beneficial to the receiving party. Joshua agrees and gave me an analogy: it could be like the monkey on a tree pulling a fish out of the water to “save” it, because to the monkey, life is better on a tree. However, he says that short-term mission is good. If done well, it can bring the needed help and relief to the people who need them. He says that if the language and culture are similar between two parties, the time needed for the work to bear fruit is shorter: which is why how “short” a short-term mission trip should be, depends on a lot of factors.

In small ways,
I don’t think I am a missionary atheist.
In bigger ways,
I just might be one.
Lord, I believe,
help my unbelief.

Picture by Felipe Daniel Reis


  1. Well said, Pearlie.

    I belong to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church, and I have the hardest time accepting what they call missions. I don't have the strength this week to start a long conversation about it, but I really wish I did. Thanks for your great words.

  2. Thanks CP.
    Don't worry about not being able to converse. Hearing from you and that you are well is good as well.

    Take care!

  3. A thought provoking post, Pearlie. I am afraid I fail in this area of "going" although we do support various mission efforts.

  4. Pearlie, check out my recent post on stones as I've given you a challenge in it!!!

  5. Susan, I fail too but we try in our own ways to be involved though.
    And thanks for putting me on stone :) :)

  6. Pearlie - Please don't feel pressure about tagging people. I just wanted you on mine :o)

  7. Susan,
    I just wanted you on mine
    you are so sweet ... you made my day ... what the heck, you made my week :) :) :)