Last night as I was reading, When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch, I came across a quote that made me think. In speaking of our desire to be liked, appreciated, and respected, Welch writes the following:
Aren’t the most popular mission trips the ones that take us from our neighborhood? Russia is easy; our own neighborhood is a constant challenge.
Although short-term mission trips can be rigorous and trying, they are just temporary and they do have us serving people we don’t know in a place we don’t know. We get on a plane, go to a foreign land, work hard at ministry for a week or two, and come back home with our spiritual tank full; feeling good about the fact that we suffered for Jesus.
Now, it does feel good to expend ourselves for Jesus and I think short-term mission trips are a wonderful thing to be a part of. But if we’re not careful we can use them as a justification for not doing the hard, ongoing work of getting to know our neighbors and co-workers, loving them in word and action, sharing the gospel with them, and in so doing, take the risk of being disliked, disrespected, and unappreciated. Maybe there were people in Russia that didn’t like us for the ministry we performed while we were there, but we don’t have to pass them in the hallway or look into their eyes as we say “hello” at the mailbox.
Church, ministry away should never take the place of ministry at home. We must remember that Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Self-denying ministry is not a once-a-year gig in Russia or Abu Dhabi; it should be our daily practice. But may there be no illusions about this being self-denial for the sake of self-denial. No, it is self-denial for our glorious Redeemer because he denied himself for us on the cross.