Yesterday, I wrote a short parable about a battleship defending a convoy. Today, I am going to explain what I mean by that parable.
I imagine this is how missions work. There is a desperate convoy out there. It is a lost world that needs to know the high command, God, is coming for them. God, in turn, sends those he can, even when they face horrible odds like the Captain in this story. Over and over again, my mind returns to this battle scene. Over and over I think about those huge guns turning right (or starboard for the Navy types out there) and opening up on the enemy. Each shot fired brings the convoy closer to safety. Each time an enemy shot hits the ship, the chance of damage is high.
Our enemy is relentless. Just look at the lack of missionary emphasis in our churches to day and you’ll see how good he is. He’s got us complacent or unwilling to reach others, both in our home country and abroad. Until we realize that this means war, we’ll probably continue to fail to live up to our potential.
This does not mean that I misunderstand missions. I know it’s not all glory and fighting. I know that the vast majority of missionaries today, as in days of old, don’t see their struggle to win souls as a fight against two opposing forces. I know that missions are often boring, tedious, and frustrating. I know that missions can also be exciting, fascinating, and joyful. I know that a missionary’s life is everything in between. I’m not trying to paint a picture of mission work that isn’t true. God help me if I do that.
But we must live authentically, and to live authentically for me would be to see this as a war against an enemy more powerful than I am alone. I have a powerful High Command who often comes to my aide, but who also sends me into battle seemingly unready, outgunned, and undermanned. This doesn’t make it true, but Jesus wouldn’t have told us to pray for more laborers if there were already enough.
In my own ministry on the USS Mobile Bay, and then on the USS Antietam, I saw firsthand how hard it is to live the missionary life. It’s very difficult indeed at times. People made fun of me. They certainly more than not laughed me off. Sometimes they were argumentative, or believed that I was just naive. Oh, the things they didn’t know about me!
In a way, we should be naive. Christ said that he was sending us out as lambs among wolves. Not only does this imply that we’ll be outnumbered and outgunned, but also that we’ll appear the weaker force. It’s just a fact for us. It is a fact that any missionary who is reaching the lost must not only face, but has to accept.
So yes, I know that there aren’t real battleships coming down the Strait of Hormuz to attack my missionary force, but there are very real enemy forces within the country of Iran, albeit spiritual. If we are willing to move forward with that fight, then we’ll start to see some very interesting things happen. They’ve already started in India and have been going on quite well in China.
I’ve been to over a dozen foreign cities in my time in the US Navy. I’ve seen a number of missions and missionaries, and I’ve learned a lot about the work that goes on in those loctions. Whether it is Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, Dubai, or any other country in the world, one fact is clear…we serve a spiritual Being, and we fight a spiritual enemy. Our fight is on the spiritual plane, as Paul said in Ephesians chapter six, and as such we must realize that this fight is going on all around us, even where you sit right now reading this parable.
This isn’t a game and I don’t take missions lightly. Maybe once upon a time I misunderstood how things worked, but that isn’t the case any longer. I am passionate about missionary work because I have seen it with my own two eyes and I will never forget the impression it made on me.
I hope that, if you currently think of missions as a game, you’ll stop immediately. I furthermore hope that if you think of missions as someone else’s chore, you’ll stop that now also. People serving God at the tip of the spear need your support. Don’t let them down.