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The City of Darkness, an excerpt from The Mind of a Missionary

The Vox Populi is Not the Voice of God 

God fashioned you for eternity. You are a spiritual being having an earthly experience.[xii] Thus, He desires that you set your mind, not on tangible things, but on His Kingdom.[xiii] This is no easy task when your spirit resides in your temporal frame. And the sway from an eternal perspective increases as you situate within the confines of your cultural context.

Day by day, the world seeks to usher you deeper along the currents of pop culture; it attempts to skew your perspective of Kingdom values and merge them with an earthly modus operandi. But the vox populi is not the voice of God; the opinions of the majority do not necessarily reflect the values of the Kingdom. As a Christian in the state of “not of, but sent into” the world, you confront this culture clash round-the-clock. Thankfully, God enables you to overcome the world’s influence by the power of His Spirit. He gives you the mind of Christ and sends you into the earth to shine the light of His glory.

Do you imagine mission work to be easy? Do you think it is a waste to have bright men and women spend their lives sharing the good news?

The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy; and he often accomplishes his mission through social influence. Today, many fallen aspects of culture impact the Christian mindset and permeate the Church at large. Our practices, judgments, and beliefs sway to social pressures, often giving way to the world’s breed of groupthink.

Could this be one of the reasons why over fifty-percent of professing Christians do not know what the Great Commission is,[xiv] why evangelism is going out of style,[xv] or why so few believers thrive on mission today? Or more broadly, why so few answer the call of Christ to cross cultural, geographic, and/or linguistic boundaries to publicize the name of Jesus in foreign lands? After all, the collective social codes of behavior pay little respect to such radical expressions of love for Christ.

The effects of social influence, conformity, and groupthink in the Church often leave little wiggle room in understanding the decision to go abroad. Most believers are comfortable to remain on the home front. That is fine and well as long as every believer recognizes that Christ sent them into their cities and neighborhoods to display the glory of His Kingdom. But when we downplay God’s mission, our sight grows myopic, and our worldview becomes ethnocentric. We no longer see the expansive fields that are ripe and ready for harvest—either at home or abroad.

Most of Jackie Pullinger’s church friends and family discouraged her aspirations for missionary work. Her story is not uncommon. A while back, one of my relatives asked me why I don’t “get a real job.” Given the obscurity and negative connotations surrounding the “missionary” label, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they meant well or did not realize the toil that missionary work requires. Still, it hurt. I wondered why they thought that responding to Jesus’ last commands to “go into all the earth” did not seem like “real job” status. “A family member recently said something similar to me,” Todd Tillinghast, a missionary friend in Panama told me. “They asked why I left a great job to become a missionary. After years on the field, I was surprised how much statements like that still bothered me.”[xvi]

Have we forgotten our commission to “Go and Make Disciples?”

Scores of present-day workers told me similar stories of friends and church members who questioned their choice to become missionaries. Many believers who do not grasp God’s worldwide redemption plan perpetuate the social expectation to veer away from overseas work. Is missional service abroad so deviant from conventional social norms that even professing followers of Christ cannot comprehend this manner of obedience?

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2019

About the Author: David Joannes is the founder and president of Within Reach Global, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary and The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.

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