Spiritual Luxury

Revolution in World Missions post #4.  I'm only planning on writing one more - this upcoming 5th post is the crescendo of sorts.  It's the part of the book that moved me the most - and all of these other posts are laying the groundwork for it. Here are a few excerpts, woven together, from chapters four and five in the book.  None are taken out of context - I only edited for length - the point remains.  I've bolded/italicized the statements that particularly impressed me.

"One morning,...I picked up a popular Christian magazine... I noticed that this magazine offered ads for 21 Christian colleges, seminaries and correspondence courses; 5 different English translations of the Bible; 7 conferences and retreats; 5 new Christian films; 19 commentaries and devotional books; 7 Christian health or diet programs; and 5 fund-raising services.

"But that was not all.  There were ads for all kinds of products and services: counseling, chaplaincy services, writing courses, church steeples, choir robes, wall crosses, baptisteries and water heaters, T-shirts, records, tapes, adoption agencies, tacts, poems, gifts, book clubs and pen pals.  It was all rather impressive.  Probably none of these things were wrong in themselves, but it bothered me that one nation should have such spiritual luxury while 40,000 people were dying in my homeland every day without hearing the Gospel even once.

"...The United States has about 5,000 Christian book and gift stores, carrying varieties of products beyond my ability to imagine -  and many secular stores also carry religious books.  All this while 4,845 of the worlds 6,912 languages are still without a single portion of the Bible published in their own language!  In his book My Billion Bible Dream, Rochunga Pudaite says, "Eighty-five percent of all Bibles printed today are in English for the nine percent of the world who read English.  Eighty percent of the world's people have never owned a Bible while Americans have an average of four in every household."

"...The saddest observation I can make about most of the religious communication activity of the Western world is this:  Little, if any, of this media is designed to reach unbelievers.  Almost all is entertainment for the saints.

"A friend in Dallas recently pointed out a new church building that cost $74 million.  While this thought was still exploding in my mind, he pointed out another $7 million church building going up less than a minute away...I rarely spoke out on these subjects.  I realized I was a guest.  The Americans who had built these buildings had also built the school I was attending, and they were paying my tuition to attend.  It amazed me though, that these buildings had been constructed to worship Jesus, who said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).

"In Asia today, Christ is still wandering homeless...there is such an emphasis on church buildings in the United States that we sometimes forget that the Church is the people - not the place where the people meet.

"But God has not called me to fight against church building programs - we try to provide adequate church buildings for the small but growing Asian churches whenever possible. (So glad he acknowledges this)  What troubles me much more than the waste is that these efforts often represent a worldly mindset.

"The United States , with its 600,000 congregations or groups, is blessed with 1.5 million full-time Christian workers, or one full-time religious worker for every 182 people in the nation.  What a difference this is from the rest of the world, where more than 2 billion people are still unreached with the Gospel.  The unreached or "hidden peoples" have only one missionary working for every 78,000 people, and there are still 1,240 distinct cultural groups in the world without a single church among them to preach the Gospel.  These are the masses for whom Christ wept and died.

"From India, I always had looked to the United States as a fortress of Christianity.  With the abundance of both spiritual and material things, affluence unsurpassed by any nation on earth, and a totally unfettered Church, I expected to see a bold witness. God's grace obviously has been poured out on this nation and Church in a way no other people have ever experienced.

"Instead I found a Church in spiritual decline.  ...In church meetings, as I listened to the questions of my hosts and heard their comments about the Two-Thirds world, my heart would almost burst with pain.  These people, I knew, were capable of so much more.  They were dying spiritually, but I knew God wanted to give them life again.  He wanted His Church to recover its moral mandate and sense of mission.

"I didn't yet know how.  I didn't yet know when.  But I knew one thing:  God did not shower such great blessing on this nation for the Christians to live in extravagance, self-indulgence and spiritual weakness."

K.P. Yohannan tells a story of a native missionary in India who is literally starving, whose family goes days at a time with no food.  And then writes this paragraph, which blows my mind.

"Is it God's fault that men like Brother Paulose are going hungry?  I do not think so.  God has provided more than enough money to meet Paulose's needs and all the needs of the Two-Thirds World.  The needed money is in the highly developed nations of the West. North American Christians alone, without much sacrifice, can meet all the needs of the churches in the Two-Thirds World."

"Often when I spoke at a church, the people would appear moved as I told of the suffering and needs of the national evangelists.  They usually took an offering and presented me with a check for what seemed like a great amount of money.  Then with their usual hospitality, they invited me to eat with the leaders following the meeting.  To my horror, the food and "fellowship" frequently cost more than the money they had just given to missions...I slowly realized that they just had not heard the meaning of my message. "

I'll close with this quote from the book,

"But along with the privilege comes a responsibility.  The Christian must ask not only why, but also what he should do with these unearned favors...Throughout Scripture, we see only one correct response to abundance: sharing."

It is tempting for us to read a book like this one and think, "Whew, I am so blessed."  We read about the Third World and say, "God, why me?  Why was I born here instead of in India?"  We feel bewildered and overwhelmed with gratitude.  We say thankful prayers to God for everything we now recognize we have been given.  And too often, we stop there.

We must also ask, what should I do with what I've been given?  What is my minimal responsibility?

At this point, I recognize that K.P. Yohannan wrote this book because of a specific burden/love/vision that God gave to him, and I do not expect everyone to share his passion for Asia.  But agenda aside - what are you doing with what you have been given?  Where are you giving back?  Because I think he's right - throughout the Bible, the only correct response to abundance is sharing.  Where is the greatest need?  And what can you, WILL YOU do about it?

Dan and I have done quite a bit of re-evaluating, asking ourselves what spiritual luxuries we are currently enjoying that we could certainly live without, so that we can INTENTIONALLY redirect that money -so that others might be able to hear the life-changing, life-saving, good news of Jesus.