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Missions a joke to most Christians, speaker laments at student conference

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–World missions is insignificant to most Christians because they are reading only half of the Bible, Bob Sjogren told 300 students at Mpact 99, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual student missions conference Feb. 26-28.
“To the average person on the pew, missions are a joke,” Sjogren said. “The average Christian can think of eight verses of the 8,000 in the New Testament that focus on God’s global purpose. Missions has at best a 1/1000th priority, giving the Great Commission a ‘by-the-way’ emphasis.”
On Christianity’s bookshelf are numerous books about money, marriage and family, justice, youth and church growth, said Sjogren, co-founder of Frontiers, an evangelical, interdenominational mission agency that plants churches throughout the Muslim world.
But missions, which should be the shelf on which all Christianity rests, is a small, thin paperback book pushed back in the kingdom of God series, he said.
Sjogren blamed the neglect on Christians’ failure to read the entire Bible.
“The Bible is one book with one complete story,” Sjogren reminded, adding many Christians practice a “yearbook theology,” reading the Bible like students read their school yearbooks — scanning the pages and asking, “Where am I in this?”
Instead, he said, Christians should realize that with God’s blessing, “the top line of the covenant,” comes responsibility, “the bottom line.” To illustrate his point, Sjogren asked the students, most of whom are weighing mission careers, to quote Psalm 46:10. In unison all said, “Be still and know that I am God.” But only a few could finish the verse saying, “I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted among the earth.”
Although most Christians have heard slogans like “To know him and to make his name known” or illustrations about their vertical relationship with God and horizontal relationship with each other, the North American church has caught the Christian “cold” of thinking only “bless me, bless me,” Sjogren said.
“Our Christianity and a Mexican dinner are alike: By the time we eat all the salsa and chips, we aren’t hungry,” he said. “We are so satisfied with God’s blessings, and the amazing thing is that God will bless us even if it kills us. He’s looking for people who can survive the blessings.”
Sjogren pointed out many familiar Bible stories have a bottom-line responsibility for world missions not often shared. He cited the story of King Darius, who after seeing God rescue Daniel from the lion’s den wrote a praise to God and sent it to “the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world” (Dan. 6:25-26).
The bottom line of the Ten Commandments found in Deuteronomy 4:6, Sjogren said, is that Israel’s obedience to God’s law will capture the attention of other nations.
Sjogren lamented that currently the Muslim world sees Christianity in light of American television shows like “Beverly Hills 90210” and the President Clinton scandal and not Christians’ obedience to God.
A neglect of bottom-line responsibility results in an “A is greater than B lifestyle,” Sjogren explained. If A is the “us-es” and B is the “thems,” the A is greater than B lifestyle says, “Bless us, and if the blessing spills out on them, OK, but the higher priority is God blessing us.”
God desires the A = B lifestyle, Sjogren said.
God says: “I want to bless your socks off so you can be a blessing to others; I love them just as much as I love you,” Sjogren said.
If God’s desire is the A = B lifestyle, missions service is not just for the “called,” Sojgren said. In the New Testament, called, or “kaleo” in Greek, means called to be a Christian, not a special calling to go overseas, Sjogren said.
“God doesn’t steer a parked car,” Sojgren said. “We can’t sit comfortably in our culture and say, ‘OK, God, talk to me.’ As you’re ministering, God will steer you.”
Sjogren warned of the default mentality: “When I get out of school, I should get a job or a ministry here in the United States.”
Instead, he said, Christians must have closure mentality: Seek closure to the harvest. He cited Matthew 24:14 and five other passages that directly link taking the gospel to all nations and the end of the world and asked, “What is the end?”
“I don’t know,” he continued. “But if we don’t reach all nations, God has broken his promise to Abraham. Something happens when nations worship God together, when there is harmony among the diverse — God gets greater glory.”
“Consider how valuable you are,” he told the students. He gave the following statistics: 10 percent of the world “really knows Christ,” while .0001 percent of those are missions-minded and .00000001 percent have a biblical foundation.
He cited more statistics: 99.99 percent of all full-time ministers serve in America, or one for every 200 people. Worldwide, there is one missionary for every 2 million Muslims. Less than 4 percent of the .01 percent who comprise the overseas missionary force go to the Muslim world.
“And you want to start another church in your city to put your flavor into it?” he asked.
He added even if Christians are called to minister in America, they need to go overseas.
“Many of you need to serve overseas for at least three years even if you’re called here to North America,” Sjogren said. “The biggest obstacle for effective ministry is comfort in your own culture. You won’t know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you’ve got.”
In addition to messages by Sjogren, the missions conference included seminars on numerous, related topics and opportunities to minister in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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  • Cindy Kerr