The Lifestyle Challenge

Pray, Give or Go.  Those are typically the options you have in regards to missions.

I’ve been writing lately on something I saw on Facebook with the regard for the need of missionaries to live simplistic lifestyles.  But I’m not sure it’s so much an “on the field” issue as it is a home issue.  While 1 Timothy 6:10 talks about the love of money being the root of all evil, we often don’t recognize how a lifestyle of excess is the offspring of the love of money Perhaps that explains our country’s problem with debt… and our personal problem with debt?  Everyone is always talking about debt. We buy more than we can afford and more than we really need.  Our eyes are bigger than our wallets. J

I was particularly challenged by an article I read in the Perspectives Course by a great missiologist named Ralph Winter…  In his article Reconsecration: To a Wartime, Not a Peacetime, Lifestyle, Winter talks about our country’s preoccupation with itself:

“The essential tactic to adopt a wartime lifestyle is to build on pioneer mission perspective and to do so by a very simple and dramatic method… But others can stay home and deliberately and decisively adopt a missionary support level as their standard of living and their basis of lifestyle, regardless of their income.  This will free up an unbelievable amount of money– so much, in fact, that if a mission average Presbyterian households were to live within the average Presbyterian minister’s salary, it would create at least two billion dollars a year.  But what a mighty gift to the nations if carefully spent on developmental missions!”

It’s interesting that there exists a disconnect between what we view is an appropriate lifestyle for ministers and what’s appropriate for everyone else.

If we are all working toward the same goal (world evangelization– no matter where you are), then why do so many have the idea (or even mental image, which is what I used to have) that for missionaries, poor is the appropriate lifestyle all the while excusing themselves to go out and buy the newest everything?

Winter talks about what a blessing it would be to have an influx of money going toward spreading the Kingdom of God. His purpose is not to shame anyone nor to impose standards on people, but to say—hey, let’s deliberately slim down our lifestyles, with the purpose to reach out even more so by pouring into the Kingdom of God (similar to how the church started in Acts 2).

There must be a balance of course. Extremes are never helpful. But perhaps it may be a good time to lighten our ideas of an appropriate “lifestyle” for others (thinking here of the harsh standards some seem to have for missionaries because they live on support) and perhaps tighten our own ideas of what is an appropriate lifestyles for “me”.

If we have different standards for ministers/missionaries and ourselves, then we are giving into the concept of clergy vs. laity: Clergy does everything and laity receives everything.  Laity is not responsible, Clergy is. That is NOT what the Bible teaches.  So to speak,is to do the work of the ministry, clergy is to train them (Eph. 4:11-13).

Anyway, I’m getting off-subject.  The challenge of this article is to put into check the lifestyle that we are living. Instead of looking at others, let’s just look at “me”. Is ours a lifestyle of peacetime– excess… whatever we want [read: focused on ourselves]?  Or is it a lifestyle of wartime– cutting back so that we can focus on what really matters [read: focused on a purpose or others]?  If we place standards on others of what is appropriate for others who minister to people to live by, then let’s live by them as well because we are also called to minister.

The challenge is to cut our budget back to what is simple and necessary.  Not to be poor or not own nice things and never have fun. But to put our money where our mouth is and really live dedicated to the Gospel message.  What income we have that goes beyond what we need (do I really need another pair of jeans when I have 5 pair?) and some of what we want (it’s not good to give into all our wants immediately: that’s called impulsiveness), give to the highest priority of mission you believe is out there. Where is it that you see is strategic mission in reaching the world? Start there. (I am particularly excited about missions that reach international students here in the US—I think that’s strategic because they go back to their unreached nations. Or missions that train Hispanics or Africans to be missionaries in places where Americans can’t usually go. That’s strategic. Again, off subject. Sorry.) It’s a challenge—not a law.

This is dual-purposed. It’s not merely for the sake of not letting ourselves become self-consumed and distracted. It’s for the sake of the Gospel going forth.  Did you know that less than one dollar of money given to missions (that’s not even our own programs/church needs) goes to the unreached peoples?  If we’re actually serious about reaching the world, then we need to be serious about it in all areas of our personal lives. If we think reaching the world is important, then let’s change that number. And let’s let the change start with “me” (aka “you”, but I’m not supposed to say “you” because it’s too confrontational. J) Because that’s where all relevant change in this world starts anyway.

Let’s shake off our excess, the things of this world that really entangle us.  Let’s shake off our concept that our money is our own– it’s the Lord’s. That’s what we say anyhow. We are merely His stewards. If we are working for His glory, then the income we generate ought to go to His purposes.

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