Monday, January 12, 2009

On a Mission

A faithful reader prompted this post with the question, "What do you think of churches who make their members become missionaries, and would you want to be one?" I think I can dissect a few more questions out of that and address additional issues.

What do you think of churches who make their members become missionaries?
If the church and Christ commissioned Christians to go out and convert the world to Christianity, I suppose the idea of missionaries is biblical and proper. However, seeing how many times I've had nice missionaries knocking down my door at dinnertime and how un-Christian they seemed to be, I quite dislike the whole idea. To me, the point of going on a missionary trip is that it's voluntary. Mandating that members are initiated by going or that they pass a test by converting people seems more like a cult than a faith. I'm not opposed to the idea of missionaries, but I do not approve of churches that require members to go on missions.

What do you think about missionaries in general?
Great on paper, bad in practice. I don't have a problem with people going into another person's home, city, or country to help rebuild after a disaster. I don't have a problem with offering money or clothes to people who need them more than others. I am, however, adamantly opposed to the idea of forcing religion on another person. If a church wants to spread the gospel by serving and setting a good example, that's great. But when missionaries cause a riot or otherwise disrupt another person's life for the sake of winning converts, I think the trip is over. In my opinion, missionaries should act passively and with great respect for local culture and customs. Christianity will adapt--that's one of its greatest strengths.

Would you want to belong to a church that requires missions?
No. I can't imagine Jesus approving of a church that says, "you must convert a hundred people or you'll never get into Heaven." Jesus urged, "love your neighbor as yourself," not "beat your neighbor over the head with a Bible daily." And even though I know plenty of people who insist on Bible-thumping as often as possible, that's not the most effective way of spreading the gospel. No, I can't see myself belonging to a church that requires missions.

Would you want to be a missionary?
An interesting idea. I think I need to work on being a good example in my own life before I can go to a foreign place and convince others that which I have not yet figured out. As above, I'm not opposed to going places to help others, to share my knowledge or my gifts, but I'm completely against forcing my beliefs on someone else. If someone wants to hear what I know when it comes to my faith, Christianity or Catholicism in general, or simply wants an ear, I'm up for the challenge.

The take-away message about missions and missionaries is this: we can't force someone to have faith. Setting a good example, answering questions, and trying to help wherever I may be is how I'll go about things. Can anyone tell me how to make the boys in black suits stop coming to my door at dinnertime though?

1 comment:

cm0978 said...

I like your points. I too admire those people who go to a part of the world that is in chaos and simply help the people improve their lives by building schools and wells. Not everyone has the gift of St. Paul and can exhort others to be more spiritual. But we can all surely lead by example.