if christians were half as passionate about praying for missions and missionaries as they are for praying for jeremy lin, you can only imagine what could happen and what that would be like.
i get it. jeremy lin is from harvard, is asian, and is killing it in the nba. and most of all, he’s a Christian. some of us are only 2 of these things, some of us 1. so i get the excitement and fire that comes from him tearin’ it up on the courts. and i get the excitement that comes from him humbly pronouncing his faith at each and every interview. i don’t doubt that he is a true disciple of Christ. this is not about that. this is not about him at all, actually. this is about us. yes, us.
that christian us.
i just happened to run across an interview of Patrick Fung, director of OMF International, the other day. in the interview he talked about having gone to an archive room in a library in london, where it was essentially a warehouse of individual files of missionaries who gave their lives to the Chinese people. sure he only recognized the well-known names like robert morrison and hudson taylor, but what about the thousands of other missionaries who gave their lives to serve God and were forgotten? it’s where his book Live to Be Forgotten comes from. (D.E. Hoste – “live to be forgotten so that Christ may be remembered”)
when i think about the thousands of forgotten missionaries (past and present) in comparison with the attention jeremy lin gets, it’s hard not to feel discouraged.
don’t get me wrong. i’m a missionary and i can tell you, it’s not your attention we want. we simply want to see people on fire for Christ’s name to be known – without having to wait on christian celebrities to come into view. where is the gung-ho when there isn’t a celebrity to use as that model? westerners tend to forget that not everyone has a tv, and even if they do, they might not get NBA games on it. so who is jeremy lin to them?
so how is Christ’s name known to these people without tvs? well, it’s not through jlin, that’s for sure. but in case you’re still arguing that his faith will lead others to Christ and that God will work through that, here’s an example of what it’s really like on the mission field:
2 young teen boys are having a conversation about jeremy lin.
me: oh, so you really like jeremy lin, hey?
them: yes, he is such a fantastic player! so talented!
me: (just throwing it out there) yes, and did you know that he is a christian?
them: he always talks about it after the games.
me: and what do you think?
them: well, we definitely want to start going to a church too, so we can be as great as him! he must have prayed really hard.
i’m not saying that God doesn’t work through anything. He has that ability to, of course, since, well, He’s God. but the truth is, while jeremy lin (and other christian celebrities, for that matter) are on tv and giving shout outs to God, it is the local churches, the missionaries, and national (of the mission field) church leaders who have to deal with people who come into the faith with the expectation that God will make them great or grant all their wishes – the prosperity gospel, if you will. and oftentimes, this kind of genie-in-a-bottle thinking takes a long time to turn around.
of course, this is not jeremy’s fault, and he should not be held responsible for that kind of thinking. however, it’s just to let you know that christian celebrities, while they may have more of a medium to shout out their faith, are not the ones building relationships and investing in the lives of tribes, marginalized and the general public. they simply don’t have time for that, which is understandable. God has given them a gift used in a public arena, and they are using it to the best of their abilities.
but like i said, this is not about him. this is about us. christians who want to put these celebrities up on a pedestal and are on fire about getting fellow christians to be praying for these specific celebrities and yet…rarely pray for the kingdom of Christ to be known amongst every tribe, tongue and nation. where’d that kind of passion go?
i’ve had many-a conversations with other missios who have mentioned wanting to see people pray for the mission field as much as they pray for…well, anything else. because bottom line, heck, let’s just call a spade to spade: we just don’t think or care about global missions enough.
but imagine what would happen if we did.
what would happen if we used the same passion to pray prayers that were soaked with things that not just encircle our own lives but others peoples’? what would happen if we used the same passion to, instead of praying for the worldly and temporary (b/c let’s face it, everything is temporary), we prayed for what would be eternal? what would happen if we used that same passion to pray for more people to go out into God’s world, into the places where His name is still needed to be spoken of? and what would happen if we had that same excitement when we realized that one more new believer from a different tribe, tongue, nation, had been born?
what would happen? i wonder.