Mindful of the fact that we shouldn’t do anything for anyone that they can’t do for themselves, (at least that what I have been told), I wonder if we should be like the away teams on “Star Trek” and only observe and not interfere. With this “imperative” in mind why should we preach or teach over seas when they have Pastors and teachers? We have folks over there doing Vacation Bible Schools and I have observed that the folks that live over there are very capable of wonderful Sunday School teaching? I wonder if I did the right thing when I took a plastic bottle away from this child because he was sucking on something that had contained a caustic, toxic chemical solution that was used to clean batteries. I am exaggerating of course, but it still begs the question where do we draw the line? Why am I in Mission to you when you are capable of doing mission yourself.
“I may as well try and catch the wind”, Donovan sang in the 60’s and sometimes I feel like that. I have been trying to tell anyone that will listen that one of our problems in “funding the mission” is we can’t really explain what the “mission” is? Some one famously said in our church, “it used to be if you needed money all you had to do was say the word “missions” and the check books would open up. It’s not like that anymore”. I have a news flash for you. It hasn’t been like that for a long time. I will never forget the day in 1980 when we hosted a missionary who bravely explained that with his education, language instruction, transportation, medical care and cost of living, we the LCMS had probably paid close to a million dollars for his “mission” over ten years. When he also bravely informed us that in those 10 years he had baptized 2 people and they were his children, one of our old saints stood up and said, “I think you owe us a refund”.
Everyday I am confronted in the mail or by phone with another fund request for something that is a “mission” yet I am never told what the mission is. I received something asking that we support the translation of something into some language somewhere in the world and when I researched it I found out that most of the people couldn’t read the finished product because 90% of them can’t read! Many folks that have traveled overseas come back and ask the question “what is the mission?” Pastors have to answer that question in local congregations. What is the mission? What are we doing here? All kinds of groups and organizations in the church have to ask the question, what is the mission? If the answer has to do with doing what we have always done, or doing what makes us comfortable, it is not going to work. People are getting less and less comfortable giving to the status quo or giving for something that is mainly for us. Youth folks will tell you that raising funds for a camp because it is a good place for Lutheran kids to hang out and hook up will get you a fish eye. Principals and teachers are having to face the fact that parochial schools are having trouble finding funding, but if you are willing to reach out to the handicapped funds come in.
The great commission is big and broad and the New Testament it seems to me explains to us what Jesus meant when he said “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. What he commanded us was about mercy.