The Great Commission, is it to spread the Message of G-D to those who have no access, OR Is it a mobilization of troops for a political war on the hearts of men?
"Religion is regarded by the common people as true,
by the wise as false,
and by the ruler as useful." ~ Seneca the Younger
I would like to start my article with some facts:
Christian mission has been widely defined as that which is designed "to form a viable indigenous church-planting and world changing movement." This definition is motivated by a theologically imperative theme of the Bible to make God known, introducing him to cultures that have yet heard of Jesus Christ. The definition is claimed to summarize the acts of Jesus' ministry, which is taken as a model motivation for all ministries.
Proselytism is the practice of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another denomination or religion. Today, the connotations of the word proselytism are often negative.
About half of the population of the world, today claims Christianity in one form or another:
Catholicism: 1,229 million
Protestantism: 751 million
Eastern Orthodoxy: 260 million
Oriental Orthodoxy: 78 Million
Anglicanism: 77 Million
What right do we have sending missions trips to third world predominantly Catholic countries who already know of G-D? Why do we build and feed houses for people thousands of mile away, yet barely lift a finger to the poor in our own land? How is it we can send food to Mexico or Africa, but only send bibles to the starving right down the street?
Unfortunately, I have observed mission trips to Central America have become a form of entertainment that feeds the "holier than thou" attitude amongst the congregations. For example a one week mission trip to Costa Rica may cost $1000 per person, how many people could that feed across the street? How many children would that tutor? Why are we repairing a house many miles away, but not repairing the house of the lonely widower who has not family and has fallen in disrepair.
I Challenge Everyone who feeds a starving child in Africa, Everyone who goes on mission trips, Everyone Who believes in G-D, to step out of their comfort zone and do your mission trip in your own cities and towns. Get to know your neighbors! Help the Needy, Feed the Starving, Tutor the Children, Heal the Sick, not in the name of G-D, forcing religion down the throats of those you are giving help to. Christians going on deputization trips around the country so they can go "preach the gospel" to foreign lands who already have a dominant form of Christianity.
G-D's light will shine through our example. People will see HIS good in us and ask us. We should not do good works constantly saying this is for G-D to the recipient. That tends to cause people to believe that they are paying for our giving by quietly listening to our sales pitch.
One example is "mission" trips to Mexico. Mexico is practically all Catholic. Therefore, what is called a "mission," should be called "proselytizing" and therefore hypocritical. There are lots of protestant "missionaries" who wrongly think that Catholics are not Christians and travel to Central & South America to bring the Gospel to Catholics. That is hypocrisy in the extreme, not to mention somewhat offensive.
I have done many missions trips in the past. I have gone down to Mexico with a Church, then driven down to Mexico with a friend. I would stop and check out the places we have done missions trips to and found that quite often where we stopped providing other churches have picked up. In fact, the same stories told to me on the mission trip were also told to me as a civilian in order to gain anything I had to offer (they mistakenly thought I was with the church that was providing for them at the time). I also discovered that the bibles we handed out were tossed away into a garbage dump.
The problem is that, as a foreigner, we do not really have a means of accountability. For me, it turned out that the single woman I was helping was actually married, had been married for ten years, but was saying that she was single and had no husband to collect benefits from missionaries going to her village. The reality of missionary work has an average estimated 32% discrepancy of funds that is unaccounted for. Further more, distance prevent local oversight by the churches providing funds in the first place.
Another Issue I have with Christian Missions is what I call religious blackmail. Instead of offering to do good works in the name of the G-D, because they are good and in his will. We had forced large numbers of those professing already some form of Christianity, Catholic or otherwise, to sit through our presentation like some sort of Time Share Apartment Salesman.
I feel that if we are going to go to a country to do good, we do good in G-D's name. We should not force individuals to sit through the presentation before we give them the help they need. Not everyone who is being witnessed to on a mission trip is not saved, some of them feel that they would not be able to get the help they need if they said they were.
I have seen two examples of this first hand. One was a man was turned away from the food distribution because he said that he already had a bible and was a Christian. Another was because a woman said she did not believe in G-D but needed the food for her children.
So tell me, is it worth causing people to lie about there belief and faith? I go on trips now to just do good, to show an honest G-Dly example of what is supposed to be done. If anyone asks why I do this, then I tell them of G-D and his plans for my life. I then ask them would they like to know more, or be a part of the plan as well.
The food I give them feeds them temporarily, the example I set may last a lifetime.
"When the Missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land."~Bishop Desmond Tutu
Part 2 will be on the effect of Religiosity on Politics in a Mission Field