I keep coming across the same arguments against Christian ministry and not just from those outside the church, but from Christians. We’ve all heard the claims before, they are 2000 years old. While reading this morning I came across this passage where Paul speaks directly to these criticisms: 1 Thessalonians 2:3-9 (NIV)
1 Thes 2:3 “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.”
Claim 1. Christians are ignorant or have hidden motives and therefore, mess things up.
– Christian organizations value freedom and education and will won’t stop working even after making mistakes.
Paul said, “We do not spring from error”, something Christians are learning to do better. It’s scriptural to not spring from error, it’s also scriptural to spring into action. Paul didn’t say “we sit in perfection to avoid messing up.”
Get involved, be intentional and get wise about how to do it.
Slavery – Now the highest in recorded history at an est. 20-46 million slaves with an est. 4 million sex slaves living in the USA. The sex industry in Atlanta alone brings in $290 million a year. We should be cautious about rushing in to assume that those working against this corrupt industry have impure motives. Any organization worth its salt will have a legitimate track record and financial statements so you know where the money goes.
You know who does has impure motives? Child Traffickers. You know who are going out and educating families on the red flags? Christians. It’s proven that children who have activities and educational programs are far less likely to be targeted and sold into slavery. Many of these programs are provided by Christians in places where governments won’t or can’t provide them.
Education – The church was the first to educate women and slaves when Rome was in power. Later the church founded almost all schools before the state, including free schooling for the poor, schools in the slums and education for the deaf. The church started 100 of the first 110 universities in the US and became the largest single provider of education in the world.
In America and Britain, when there was no state education or child labor laws, Christians decided to give these uneducated, working children a chance and they created Sunday school. They valued children, their freedom and education before the world caught up.
1 Thes. 2:4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Claim 2: Missionaries care about their own agenda; trying to feel less guilty or they have a savior complex because they’re wealthy Americans.
– It’s God who tests their hearts. Stop expecting perfect people to be used by God. Healthcare is a Christian value implemented by imperfect Christians.
Healthcare – It was in Rome that Christians pioneered and started the first hospitals. From the first reported pandemic in 403AD to the bubonic plague, to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, believers were the only people crazy enough to risk their lives attending to those infected because they understood people are of infinite value created in the Image of God. It should be no surprise then that it was a Christian who started the International Red Cross, receiving the first Noble Peace Prize in history. The church is now the largest single provider of healthcare in the world.
Healthcare is a Christian value.
Recently, Franklin Graham has opened himself up to a lot of criticism. I won’t address some of his comments. What I will say is that love or hate him, God has used this imperfect person all over the world, including Mosul, Iraq. His organization, Samaritan’s purse, is the only organization currently treating both the victims of terrorism AND ISIS terrorists in the same facility. You can read more about those controversies and their work here.
Samaritan’s Purse also documented the first vaccine for curing Ebola in 2014, only after its own medical staff assisting in the crisis was infected with the disease. The UN continues to call on Samaritan’s Purse as one of the few organizations it can trust to help in places like Iraq, Sudan, and Haiti.
…Stop expecting perfect people to be used by God. There are none
God uses messed up people to carry out impossible tasks. These tasks might not be beautifully wrapped displays of idealistic perfection. International ministry has its problems. Churches are messy and full of ‘churchy’ politics. However, Christ works. The church is the only hope of the world. Stop expecting perfect people to be used by God. There are none. Paul said people “are approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”, not approved by other’s opinions or their own seeming ‘perfection’.
Side note, why are all missionaries assumed to be privileged North Americans? They aren’t and the belief that all missionaries are is ignorant. Did you know that Brazil, China, South Korea and many other countries also send out missionaries?
1 Thes 2:5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.
Claim 3: Missionaries are fake and Christians are after my money.
– Churches use money as a tool for good. What do you do with yours?
Clean Water- In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the lives lost to armed conflict since World War II combined. According to the UN it would cost 30 billion dollars to solve our global water crisis. Forbes said we spent 1 trillion on Christmas in 2016 in the USA alone. So I guess as long as we use money on ourselves in the name of a Holiday it’s fine but if a group gives water in the name of Christ, suddenly we question everyone’s motives and point out their flaws.
…“Our government has visited us three times. Each time they promised us a well. Each time they have lied. Will you be any different?”
From personal experience, I had a friend in New Mexico who was from a small village in Haiti that had been without clean water. Before my first visit to Haiti she and her father asked if we would visit their village and see if it would be possible to put in a well.
Three of our team traveled up to her village. We visited with the locals, met my friend’s beautiful family, saw their current water system and talked about whether or not it would be possible. They had been praying for water for a long time.While we were there one of the women challenged us, “Our government has visited us three times. Three times they promised us a well. Three times they have lied. Will you be any different?”
The world needs you to be different.
We also came across an old man who said he used to be a Voodoo priest, right up until the previous week. He had recently burned all of his Voodoo artifacts outside his home and only some broken clay and ashes remained. We asked him, “Why did you decide against Voodoo?” He replied, “Voodoo doesn’t work. Jesus does.”
God provided and I’m thankful he allowed us to be a part of it. They not only put in a well, but a road to get the supplies where it needed to go. We did not bring in our own American workers and take a bunch of photos about how great we are, we did not “save” their water situation. We were Short Term Missionaries, the worst kind according to some people. (Frankly I think the word “missionary” is misused. We were visitors, peacemakers at best.) We worked with them towards a solution. We could not have done it without them and vice versa.
It took contacts, friendships and mutual trust.
6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.
Claim 4: Missionaries (Christians) are about self-promotion. They just want to feel important.
– No, they are hypocrites in transition, as compared to hypocrites that are stuck.
Haiti Earth Quake – 13 billion has been promised, 1.3 billion coming from the UN, but only half has been released. So much has been wasted that the goal now to get just 17% of the money given to actually make it to Haiti. The largest single recipient of US earthquake aid money was the US government. It was the same in other countries. Of 2.4 billion in international assistance in humanitarian funding, 4 tenths of 1% made it to Haitian NGOs.
I have given to Maranatha Children’s Ministries. Yes, a Christian organization. I can honestly tell you 100% went to Haiti. There are many other worthy causes and responsible organizations you can give to like this one. Governments don’t do an adequate job of what Christians are capable of and called to do.
Have mission organizations done a worse job than the UN or international government intervention? Consider the fact that cholera was brought to Haiti by the UN. Consider the fact that most of the education happening overseas where education is not available is done by religious organizations. Consider the fact that all money given to Maranatha and those like it have little overhead. Consider the fact we still don’t know what happened to the money for collected for Haiti by our own government or the Clinton Foundation.
Paul also said, “we were like children among you”. We should also be learning from the lives and cultures of the places we serve, not bringing our own assumptions. Separating ministry and ethics or morals from culture can be sticky, but not impossible.
1 Thes 2:7 Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
Claim 5: They should just stay out of ministry because that missionary/organization made things worse.
– Tell that to the adopted, loved, fed, healed and educated.
“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.” – As a mom who just finished nursing her child, I was bitten, screamed at, scratched, puked on, pinched and hit. So maybe all these accusations are to be expected as part of ministry life. But I endured it, because nourishment is important. Spiritual nourishment and ministry is worth the criticism.
…extreme love is a Biblical idea
Value for Children – During the Roman empire, it was common for families to leave babies deemed unhealthy or unnecessary to be left outside to die. It was the church that rescued & adopted these kids. Later the church pioneered foster care and orphanages. These people accepted children into their homes and changed their entire lives because they knew and understood the value of a human life. They knew these kids were to be loved because extreme love is a Biblical idea.
My church has personally come in contact with children in Cameroon and Haiti who ran out of options. These children would be left on the street, alone and possibly dead if not for organizations that do value children.
“But adoption rips families apart and Some organizations pay and trick parents into giving up their kids.”
“It’s an industry.”
I won’t pretend like this doesn’t happen but I think we’d both agree that this is not loving or valuing children. Loving and valuing children also looks like working to keep families together. It’s important to be informed, but don’t put those corrupt organizations under the same umbrella. Don’t assume because an organization supports adoption, they don’t support local families.
…The more we become like Christ the less we look like the world
Since the church was formed, Paul had been dealing with the same poisonous thinking. If Satan can get you to doubt the work God is doing through you, the work will cease. If we care more about what someone says online, at school, or work than about what God is leading us to do, we’ve missed the point. The more we become like Christ the less we look like the world. If no one has ever questioned your motives or challenged you, you’re not rocking the boat. You look like the world.
More so, if the enemy can get you, a believer, to speak those things against what someone else is doing, he can use you as a strong instrument to cause doubts; to slow down or stop what God is doing through someone else. I have never known a leader who wouldn’t admit to struggling with feeling overconfident, perhaps even arrogant, at one time and completely insecure and inadequate another. The enemy attacks areas where leaders struggle and perhaps he’s using to you do it.
…We’re to judge by their fruit, not assume they’re rotten right off the top.
The world is complex and we should be cautious and careful about our work and our leaders. For every one of Paul’s points we can all share a rebuttal where someone has been all about themselves, money or looked for significance through the world and in the name of Christ, causing havoc and hurt to others. But we shouldn’t be quick to assume that what someone else feels God has told them to do is always under arrogance or selfish ambitions. We’re to judge by their fruit, not assume they’re rotten right off the top.
Could it be we are not doubting the people in question but doubting God? He used a coward to minister to Ninevah and a stammering a criminal to speak to Pharaoh. Thankfully, He didn’t ask us which jobs were actually of value and which people were qualified to do them. Perhaps he can still use a messed up, insecure, culturally insensitive person to do great things. I definitely wouldn’t have been betting on Gideon if I’d known him.