“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’…(Matthew 25:35)
When the Nepal earthquake hit in April of 2015, it left over 9,000 dead, over 20,000 people injured and hundreds of thousands homeless, as well as displaced in this small area that sits next to China. If our gospel is not Christ centered or shown in such a way that benefits the people equally in such a way that denotes a true and genuine expression of love toward those who are hurting, then we are merely paying lip service about a God that we do not know ourselves, and we become more of a hindrance than a help. Yet that is exactly what has happened in this area not long ago when a disaster took place, which left thousands dead, and even many more with no home. When American missionaries came into Nepal as well as western China to preach Christ, but in the end left little in regards to solving the more serious issues that those who were stricken by the earthquake were experiencing. Yet worse, never actually meeting the desired need of the people, instead, only giving out bibles (no food, no warm blankets, no water – nothing but bibles).
Recently I was sitting with an individual who had been part of a humanitarian relief group for Nepal, who is now back in this part of China, as he began to explain to me his experiences (good and bad) with Christian missionaries from the U.S.. The event which challenged his perspective on American Christianity for the most part was the fact that the only image he saw, as well as the hundreds of others in this little remote village where he was stationed, had been when a large group of missionaries showed up in a large van and began to do “outreach” to the people. At first the people were thrilled that help had come, but instead of help, what came was a form too often seen these days under the guise of “mission work”, where teams would venture into a remote area and preach the gospel, but never actually meeting the physical needs of the people. The people of Nepal, as well as western China told the tale as this large group of U.S. missionaries came into the area that had been ravaged by a natural disaster, and never offering any service of help to restore what had been lost. Instead, they offered bibles. Bibles. Not clothes, or warm blankets, or food, or even bottled water – but bibles. Then, when they finished ministering to the people by handing out the word of God, they left. And with that they were gone.
I asked my friend what did the people do with all those bibles that the missionaries handed them, which were in the hundreds, if not a few thousand? His answer both shocked me, but as I pondered on it later that afternoon, it made perfectly good sense – they burned them. No, the Nepal people, nor the Chinese locals burned those bibles out of some sort of hatred for the gospel, they actually appreciated the care that these well intended (albeit misguided) young men attempted to do. Yet in the end, the people burned their bibles to keep warm during the night.
While there are certainly many good and sincere Christian organizations working in Asia who do have a heart for the people, not just in mere words, but also in demonstration, still, I’ve seen an increase of those who come to Asia with the least bit of desire to work with the people, meeting their needs where they are at, and instead, giving them religion disguised as faith. It never works. The apostle Paul stated it like this, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. “ (1 Cor. 2.4,5)
Paul not only met the spiritual needs of the people, he met their physical needs as well. It was the same as Christ, who fed the 5,000+ who came to him hungry. How shall we then show the love of Christ if we neglect the very purpose of Christ and God’s message to man if we care not for the needs of the people? We not only reject the commandment of our Lord, we prove that our claim to Christ is nothing more than a false declaration, not merited by a genuine love for others, but a love to be seen and nothing more. If mission work, or even evangelism for that matter is not founded on the central core of the love of Christ, the message of the cross, which is salvation, followed by the demonstration of that same message, then we have failed in whatever purpose we had to begin with, and we’ve become nothing more than a cheap imitation (religious), a counterfeit.
My heart broke today inside as I listened to how the gospel which could have been used to reach untold numbers of people for Christ, become nothing more than a religious symbol of pride and nothing more. Yet as I look at the work my wife and I do here in China, the churches we establish, the lives that are being changed, the children being educated, people who need medicine paid by and from this ministry, it sets us apart from those who only see the lost as a mere symbol of prideful gain, but a people who need to not only hear that Jesus loves them, but see it in action as well. That is what separates those who preach Christ for all the wrong reasons, from those who preach Christ out of a genuine love for them. That’s the difference.
The world out there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity but a new demonstration. ~Leonard Ravenhill
From my desk in China,