As Christianity and evangelical practice in general evolves, so does the world. Arguably, the practices of faith ought to change with the times as well, but there are certainly the groups that push hard against this. Tradition-based faith, like liturgical and Anglican or Catholic practices in likeness, tend to do the pushing, while charismatic and “inspired” young congregations continue to grow and find more and more footholds in an ever expanding, evangelical world.
While minute doctrinal or practical aspect may vary, the bases remains roughly similar for nominal, protestant, and/or evangelical Christians: the Gospel and Bible in whole is both food and water for our religious health. From here, methods of worship, subscription to beliefs, skepticism, and a wide variety of daily, weekly, on up to yearly practices, branch and split to give us the denominational separation we currently have. One of the core doctrinal aspects is evangelization while the methods are often varied.
But perhaps it is herein we find our question. Take this example: across many different denominations, you’ll find people saying something along the lines of “everyone is called to be a missionary, only the location differs.” So while some Christians are called to be missionaries in Nicaragua, Ukraine, Sudan, or a similarly “hard” place to live, others are called to be cubicle Christians, coffee-shop crusaders, weekend warriors, or my personal favorite, the honk-if-you-love-jesus bumper stickered soccer parent. Especially in millennial dominated congregations and groups, the idea of active evangelization is on the rise. The millennial generation is currently spearheading this charismatic movement and ultimately spearheading what some are calling an evangelical revival in practice.
Forgive the humorous names I’ve given these “everyday evangelicals.” But I think it’s arguably true that the Christians that find themselves in these categories (whatever they may call themselves) genuinely do care about the state of Christianity today, both globally and in house – their job just doesn’t allow them the time for abroad missions. They have a family, they can’t up and move to a Christ starved country and risk persecution or disease or discomfort. They don’t feel called.
Too often you’ll hear people saying that these people are doing it wrong. That the people giving their lives away living under terrible conditions in a third world country are the ones that are truly serving Christ in an effective way. But let me present an idea to you; as of recent years, the “global south” or generally the regions that are thought to need the most mission work, are actually sending missionaries to an ever more non-christian “global north,” the very region that sent, and continues to send, missionaries to them. The dynamic has flipped. In the words of a classic paradigm, “The student has become the teacher.”
It’s not wrong to evangelize at home any more than it’s wrong to work from home.
One of the arguments I hear regularly against a common form of “support from home” is that writing a check to a group in a foreign country doesn’t count. Admittedly, there is also a good bit of research to back this up. Many time donations are very difficult to allocate and take a lot of time to reach the intended people. Of the 5+ million dollars donated to Nepal through DirectRelief for earthquake aid, about half of that has been used. There isn’t much evidence to back up claims of malicious intent or stealing funds, but aid can certainly be better served to places like this in different forms. Take Team Rubicon for example, while not a Christian organization, Team Rubicon started as a small group with common interest (veterans providing assistance) and shipped off after the Haitian earthquakes. While many people critique short term missions like what groups like this perform, service based missions still hold a huge value in the missions abroad market. Churches need to be built, water systems need to be established, road need to be laid, etc. An excess of money won’t necessarily help these situations.
So critics that bring up that money isn’t the support that missionaries ought to be providing may be true, it’s a balance between the two that I think ends up proving the best. Some people genuinely can’t move abroad. Some people can’t afford the time, the cost, the stress, or the “vacation time”. Not every Christian can drop everything and move abroad. The US, in 2014, was comprised of 71 percent Christians. If every one of them dropped everything and moved abroad, approximately 226.4 million Americans would leave the country. That doesn’t make purely logistical sense.
So to you, poolside pastors and elevator evangelicals, keep doing you. Send your kids on their youth group mission trip. Send a check every now and then when the earth fights back. Join the millennials in their renovation of evangelizing or just keep sending African children gifts and boxes of joy. I’m reminded of the verse “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16) and the idea that a body is made up of many parts just as the Christian body is. We all play a part, millennial charismatics and liturgical fundamentalists, gung-ho missionaries and in house patriots, to form the whole, working, body.