In his message at TGC21, Lloyd Kim defines social justice as giving equity, fairness, and inalienable rights to all people, and he explains why the gospel is included as a right. Kim gives five objections and solutions for why Christians might not be answering the call to global missions.
Objection 1: Mission work is associated with colonialism and imperialism.
Solution: Christians should be honest about our generational sin in this and lament the past mistakes moving forward.
Objection 2: Local missions are more important than global missions.
Solution: When unreached people come to the United States, they then have access to Christian resources, but those in unreached countries still do not. We must go to them.
Objection 3: Raising support is overwhelming.
Solution: Trusting God for his provision in missions is faith-building, and raising support allows for God’s people to participate in the Great Commission when they can’t go themselves.
Objection 4: Short-term mission trips aren’t enough.
Solution: Short-term missions don’t allow time to build relationships that are necessary for discipling new believers, but they do allow opportunity for people to feel a call to full-time missions. Therefore they’re still valuable.
Objection 5: Bi-vocational missions are complicated.
Solution: Going on mission primarily through a job doesn’t allow the time or support needed as a missionary—unless one connects to a mission organization and gains the needed support and prayer. Support is essential.
In addressing all these roadblocks to missions, Kim provides encouragement to answer the call to the Great Commission and bring Jesus to the unreached.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
My name is Lloyd Kim and I am the coordinator of mission to the world, which is the mission sending agency of the Presbyterian Church in America. And our family had the privilege of serving as missionaries for about 10 years in Southeast Asia, first in the Philippines for a couple of years. And then in Cambodia for about seven. And so today’s topic is about unreached people groups, and which I believe is the most important social justice issue facing us today. But before we begin, can I offer a word of prayer? Father, we do ask for your help, as we come in, think through a very important topic today. Help me Father, by your Spirit, to speak just what you want us to hear. pray this in Jesus name. Amen. So one of the trends that we are seeing today is a greater emphasis or interest, certainly in social justice issues, things like anti sex trafficking, poverty alleviation, racial reconciliation, abortion issues. And I will say this is absolutely commendable. Certainly our Lord will honor these efforts that we are trying to make to bring mercy and justice to this broken world. Amen. In many ways, it’s how we fulfill the great commandments, right? loving God and loving neighbor. However, today, this morning, I’d like to suggest that there is another justice issue that may not be getting as much attention as it really deserves. What’s that justice issue? Well, unreached people groups, maybe you’re asking, Well, how is that even a justice issue? Well, that’s what we’re going to explore today in this seminar. But we’ll also go and ask the question, how then should we, as followers of Jesus, respond to this justice issue? So when we think about social justice, we generally think about equity, fairness, inalienable rights for all people.
Now, where do these ideas come from? Well, they’re derived from the fact that all men, and all women are created in the image of God that’s right, created in the image of God. And those who bear God’s image, then should be treated with respect, with dignity, because of the inherent value they have as God’s creation. Even the moral obligations that we have for justice for all people come from God, He is the one who gives sunshine and rain both to the righteous, as well as the wicked. And therefore those who have been trafficked have the right to freedom, those unborn babies have the right to life. Those who are experiencing racism have the right to dignity and respect. Why because they are made in the very image of God and deserve all the dignity worth in value for those who are in God’s image. And so justice, what it demands is that what is in ample supply for some, whether that’s freedom, life, dignity, etc, should be available to all who are made in the very image of God. Okay, how does this relate to unreached people groups, and we will define unreached people groups as populations, where there is less than 2% evangelical Christians and 5%, less than 5% professing Christians. When when you think about these populations, it’s also a matter of equity. It’s a matter of fairness, it’s a matter of inalienable rights, because these communities that we’re speaking of have no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. No access to Christians. No access to Christian communities. And so they’re being denied the opportunity to hear the message that leads to true life. True freedom. True security. And so what is an ample supply for us? The Word of God. Teachers, resources, conferences like this one community godly examples, the fruit of a society that has been influenced by believers. All those things are denied. Those made in His image in unreached, unengaged people groups
You know, it’s this discrepancy that has led to the Apostle Paul motivated the apostle Paul, to write in Romans chapter 15, verses 20 and 21. These words, he says, and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation. But as it is written, those who have never been told of him will see those who have never heard, we’ll understand. And so what Paul is describing here is the desire to preach the gospel, not where Christ is already been named. But in places where there is no gospel witness. The apostle Paul sees this as a justice issue. He quotes this passage, actually, it’s a prophecy from Isaiah 52 Verse 15, that phrase in our texts that we read, those who have never been told of him will see those who have never heard will understand. And so if you remember Isaiah 52, is the beginning of this, this longer prophecy, extended prophecy describing the suffering servant set in the context of the End Times. And so Paul wants this prophecy to be fulfilled. And he wants the boundaries of the kingdom of God to extend to all peoples in all places. Therefore, for the Apostle Paul missions is a priority. He is saying that going to places where Christ is not known is a priority. And he himself passes up the opportunity to visit believers in Rome, because he is so invested in wanting to see Christ proclaimed to unengaged, unreached peoples. And so far, the apostle Paul, investing in those unreached unengaged places is not simply strategic. Scriptural. He sees his pioneering work as fulfilling the prophecies of Scripture, and playing his part in God’s redemptive purposes for the world. Now, how about us? How should we respond to this issue of justice?
Well, the answer is really simple. We all need to be involved in eradicating this discrepancy between gospel resources, whether those resources are people, finances or prayers. And so sending missionaries is how we eradicate these discrepancies. sending missionaries to unreached unengaged people should be a priority for the whole church. What might this mean for you? What might this mean for me? Well, as followers of Jesus as disciples of the Christ, either God has called us to send and mobilize, or quite honestly, he’s, he’s called us to go. And one of the disheartening trends that we’re seeing in the North American church today is that fewer and fewer people are answering this call, being obedient to the Great Commission to pursue long term global missions. And as hard as it is to be a senator, we are finding that it is much more challenging to find those who are even willing to pray about going to go. And as we talked to people across the United States, we come up with the same objections, those same barriers, those same hindrances. We’ve heard them over and over again. And so for the remainder of our time in this seminar, what I’d like to do is present a simple case, a simple argument for pursuing long term global missions, particularly to unreached and unengaged peoples, and to address those questions, those hindrances, those barriers that are commonly brought up as we engage people in pursuing global mission. So what there’s five of them today. And the first is missions association with colonialism, and imperialism. So,
first barrier that we’re going to talk about is the fact that myths sins is associated today, particularly with the younger folks with imperialism and colonialism. There was a study done by the Barna Group in cooperation with the international Mission Board IMB, the sending agency of the Southern Baptists. And what they had found is that a third of young adult Christians 34% agree that in the past missions, missions work was unethical. And two and five or 42% of younger Christians, those under the age of 35 agree that Christian missions is tainted by its association with colonialism and imperialism. So how do we respond? What do we say to those who say why would I want to be a part of something that promotes colonialism or imperialism? Are those who are reluctant to pursue missions because of its association with these things? Well, I think the first thing we should do is be open and honest, and admit the past mistakes of our mission forefathers. You see, we need to acknowledge and denounce the use of missions in the eighth century by both religious and political leaders, using missions to further their own kingdom advancing empire building ambitions, we should acknowledge and denounce the fact that some in the 12th and 13th century these crusades had forced conversions. Yes, acknowledge and denounce we should acknowledge and denounce the fact that some missionaries supported the colonizing of people. Taking away the sovereignty, and self governance of many people during the 16th to 18th century Western colonial expansion, we should lament, in fact, that the name of Christ has been marred because of the sins of our missionary, some of our missionary forefathers.
But after we acknowledge the sins, we should also acknowledge the context in which many of these mistakes were made. In the past, there was not a clear separation between the church and the state. And oftentimes the state was either a servant of the church or the church was a servant of the state. In either case, what you see there was a systemic problem in intermingling both national and church or religious goals. source of a lot of the problems that we just described. We should also acknowledge that while some missionaries did support colonialism in the 16th to 18th century in the past, not all of them did. In fact, many missionaries defended their national hosts, their national partners, from their own national colonists. And so while missions today is far from perfect, the mistakes of the past are really being addressed today. You see the best mission agencies, what do they do they train their missionaries to be self aware of their home cultures, their their cultures, sins and idols and those patterns that are so endemic and to a individual culture, to be self aware of them and not to replicate or propagate them in the country that they’re serving the people groups that they’re serving. And you see missions is really at its best when all cultural practices are evaluated by the word of God, by scripture, and where missionaries come as students or learners of culture, and seek to apply in partnership with local believers, the Gospel to all areas of life. This is what missions looks like today.
Okay, second objection, local missions versus global missions. One of the most frequent statements that we hear today is that aren’t we all missionaries? Right? Aren’t we all missionary? Why should I go overseas and do missions? When I can do it here in my own hometown? Have you ever seen on the back of a church sanctuary as you’re exiting that sign that says you are now entering your mission field, right? Beautiful. In many ways, this emphasis on local missions is a necessary corrective to simply doing things overseas while not lifting a finger to help people in our own backyard. We’re all called to be witnesses of Jesus, wherever we are. We’re all called to engage in our local communities with the gospel of grace. And so some might be asking, so might be thinking, why should I go overseas? If I’m being fruitful here in my own local context, and my first response is this. Big because of the overwhelming discrepancy in resources for those who are here, and those who are in unreached and unengaged places in the world, there are 5.5 million full time Christian workers in the world. 75.9% of them serve in a context where there is a majority of evangelical Christians 23.7% work in a context where there’s, there’s more than 2% evangelical Christians still have many who are not saved. So what’s left? Point three 7% of these full time Christian workers only less than 1% point three 7%. Minister in these places where there is less than 2%, even Jellicle Christians, these statistics, these statistics come from the traveling team dot o RG you can look them up at your convenience.
And so what do these numbers tell us? Well, they tell us very simply, we need our best. We need our most fruitful local evangelist and disciple makers to serve in those places where there is little to no gospel witness. It’s not the same when unreached peoples come to the United States or North America. It’s not the same. Why because once they come here, guess what? They have access to all the resources, all the teachers, all the Christians, everything that we’ve described earlier that those who are living in unreached, unengaged places may live their whole life without ever knowing a Christian they have no access to an ongoing discipleship relationship. Secondly, we go because we belong to a global community, we belong to a global family. And our brothers and sisters who are serving in these unreached areas are asking us to help. Do we really do we sincerely believe the statements that we say, often on church every Sunday that we believe in a holy Catholic Church, that we believe in the communion of saints, what we are saying by the statements is that we are intimately and deeply connected with believers in Bangladesh, in Japan, in India, in China, in Syria in North Africa. And therefore, we have this collective responsibility to come alongside our brothers and sisters. In carrying forth God’s mission, and redemption for the world. What a time to go and share our faith, right? What a time to reach people in these unreached unengaged places more than ever before. People across the world are asking questions about the meaning and purpose of life coming to grips with their own mortality. Doors are being open for compassion and mercy, gospel demonstration as well as gospel proclamation.
In those areas that are most affected by this global pandemic, now is the time to share now is the time to share and show the love of Christ for those in great spiritual and physical need. Finally, why do we go we go? Quite simply because our King King Jesus, He commands us to go, he commissioned us to go. And we as his subjects want to see his name exalted throughout the world. You know, there are 6741 unreached people groups in the world. These groups make up 42% of the global population. We’re talking 3.1 4 billion people. And less than 1% of all full time workers serve these 3.1 4 billion people. Famous mission mobilizer from Canada Oswald J. Smith challenges us with these words he says we talk to the Second Coming. Half of the world hasn’t heard of the first Number three, raising support. Now we’re gonna get a little bit more practical. I know a lot of young people or people in general are reluctant to even think about long term Foreign Missions because of the fact that they know that part of this calling is to raise their support. And so we see more people shying away from pursuing a mission call, because they feel like they would be a burden to the church, to their friends, to their family, by by asking them to support them financially, and I get it. I totally get it. We’ve we were there we’ve been there.
I remember being so nervous about going to different churches, going to different individuals, and giving them my missions pitch. Doing my best to guard my heart from simply seeing other people as potential donors. It’s a challenge. But I also remember the incredible affirmation that that we experienced as people who we would never expect came along side of us, and gave generously sacrificially from their own resources. And they remember the incredible relationship that that we had with them because of the intimacy that we had with our supporters, and the incredible growth of our own faith, as we learned to depend upon our God, for our daily needs, our daily bread. And so you see, there’s something incredibly liberating when we live by faith, when we lay it all before God, and we have to trust Him, for everything that we have, and everything that we need. So our encouragement, is that missionaries, well, they’re really ambassadors, ambassadors of the kingdom of God. And not only do they represent King Jesus, who else do they represent? All the citizens of that kingdom, they represent everyone who remains. And so when we ask people for support, we are giving fellow citizens of the kingdom the opportunity to participate in the Great Commission, the very thing that our king commands us to do. We’re giving fellow citizens the chance the opportunity to invest personally in Kingdom advancement, in storing their treasures, not here on Earth, but in heaven. One other fact that is really helpful to point out is the fact that very little money relative to overall giving actually goes to reaching the unreached in terms of Christian giving, 96.8% of all Christian giving goes guess where? Local Church That’s right. 2.9% goes to home missions doing things locally. And only point 3% goes to reaching unevangelized non Christians in the world point 3% of overall Christian giving. There’s no reason to feel bad about encouraging your church, brothers and sisters, fellow members of the of the kingdom of God to give towards missions, especially to unengaged and unreached people groups. Okay, number four. How many of you have thought, well, I am doing missions. I’m go,
I go every year, I go often on several short term mission trips. And now while short term, mission trips are very helpful. I am a supporter, I’m a fan of them. very strategic. Short term missions has its limitations. If you’ve ever been involved in any cross cultural discipleship ministry, you will know that it takes a lot of takes a lot of time. Why? Because there’s there’s no way of getting around making a disciple without a relationship and relationships take time. Living together, crying together, laughing together, eating together, all of that is part of making a disciple of Jesus. And with learning the language and learning the culture. forging relationships, it takes a long term commitment. Beloved, no way around it. Even to be positioned in most places, to be engaged in a discipleship relationship.
So number one, short term missions are good, but they’re at their best, I would say when they help someone confirm their long term missions call to win when they come alongside long term missionaries and national partners in meeting a specific need, whether that’s medical or education, theological he or three, by encouraging greater support and prayers for long term missionaries and national partners. So that was number four number five, last objection hindrance by vocational missions. Some people say, Well, what if I just go overseas and get a job and do missions by vocationally? And certainly this is a path you can take, especially in those countries that many unreached places that our creative access, right, we need a job, we need a way to get in, where traditional missionaries are not welcome. But that you know, there are some disadvantages in simply finding a job and not connecting with a mission agency, or involving your local church. What do you lose? What do you lose if you simply move overseas with a company or go and try and find a job to support first you lose an army of people who are at home praying for you, supporting you reading your your updates, invested in you. And wherever you go, especially to unreached unengaged places, you will be subject to all kinds of spiritual attack all kinds of temptations. And so intercessory prayer is vital, non negotiable. As you enter into these contracts. Number two, if you’re spending 40 to 50 hours at a job, you honestly don’t have a lot of time to do much else. And entering a new culture takes a lot more time, doing simple things that you would do in your host culture. So trying to get up to speed with language and culture a new job, or finding a job takes up most of your time and energy. Three, you might be beholden to a boss, or a job that’s not supportive of your real intentions. And so you might be subjected to these forces that could jeopardize your ministry very quickly. And finally, what you lose is all the experience, the community, the training, the vetting, the care, the support for you and your family, as you go and engage with a mission agency. So while it may seem like getting a job is the fastest or most, most economical way to go overseas as a missionary, there are some challenges with this approach as well. We just need to be open and honest with that. Okay, so those were the five hindrances. Addressing these objections only gets us so far, so far, in helping us to mobilize missionaries to address this great discrepancy of resources. Because at the end of the day, what we need is a calling not only the external call, which is others, validating the gifts and competencies that we need to engage in cross cultural missions, but that internal call. What does that internal call look like? Not necessarily a voice from heaven. But a strong persistent desire to bring the gospel to people who desperately need it. Our first family trip to Cambodia was in 2006. And it was my opportunity I had visited before to convince my wife and my young children at the time why God was calling us to move to Cambodia to be missionaries.
The first night that we were there we were staying at a another missionaries house and a typical longhouse in the city. It’s it’s a house butted up against a bunch of others, concrete building, and it was miserable. It was so hot and humid. That first night, we were all sleeping in one room on the third floor. My wife and I were on on the bed and our children, two of them were sleeping on the floor and sleeping bags and we had a baby in a crib, sleeping and she was crying on and off all night. And in the middle of the night, I heard her crying and I awoke to someone else. There was another man standing in our room. And still waking up, I leapt out of bed and went toward him and then he dashed out of our room out onto the balcony out on the neighbor’s balcony down on somebody’s roof hit the ground and walked off. He turned and he looked at me. And of course, my heart was beating furiously at the time and I was trying as best as I can to calm myself down and, and by this time my wife was awake. And I said, Honey, lock the doors. It was just a kid. He’s gone. Let’s just try to go back to sleep. She said check the rest of the house. trying to be somebody else. Check the house up and down the stairs. Nobody who says it honey says Go back to sleep. We’re okay he was where’s your wallet? Where’s your phone? Where’s your watch? He had stolen all these things. These things were laying on the headboard of the bed that we were sleeping on. Right? The next morning, the neighbor came by and said, Are you guys okay? He said, No, there was there was this break in?
And she says, Oh, I know. And we said, Wait, you know, how? How do you know? Well, I heard him coming across my balcony in two years, you should really lock your doors. And we said, Why didn’t you yell or scream or or help us? And she said, Oh, we don’t do that here. You see, because if we do then Well, he’ll come after us. Why didn’t you call the police? He goes, we don’t call the police either, because a lot of times the police are behind all these things. So we just shook our heads and said What kind of place is this where neighbors don’t help neighbors. And I thought for sure there is no way that my wife is going to agree to move here. But we continued on in that week, and we visited the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, right there in the capital city of Phnom Penh. And there we learned of the tragic history of Cambodia. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, and his radical communist Khmer Rouge, we learned how families turned on families, how neighbors turned on neighbors. And it dawned on us why the people around us were the way that they were. And it was there in the courtyard at that museum, that interrogation center, where my wife turned to me and she said, This is why we need to come to Cambodia. These people need the gospel. We need an internal calling in bringing this gospel of grace to people who desperately need. So it might be hard to believe but people can actually make a career in missions. A real career with health insurance and life insurance and benefits. You see, missions is not simply something you do before you get your real job. It’s not something you mark off your your Christian bucket list. missions is a calling. But it’s not only a calling, it could be a career, something you do for your entire working life. And I’ll tell you the truth, it is the best job in the world. For those who are followers of Jesus, you wake up in the morning and your job is to tell people about Jesus. Your job is to apply the gospel to your own heart, your own family, your own life, and to let that change you so that you can share that in making disciples of Christ. What are the benefits, you have an army of people who are praying for you praying for your marriage, praying for your kids, praying for your soul, praying for your ministry in youth experience this incredible sense of purpose and privilege. And so beloved, for those who belong to Jesus, it is the best job in the world. This is why missionaries even after years of being in the United States, when they hear a sound or smell a smell or or see something that reminds them of their their host country or culture. They can’t help but weep and grieve and break down and mourn their time on the field. Because there’s this bond that you experience with the people that you serve that it’s it’s not just mere nostalgia, your hearts become knit together not only with the people but with your missionary teammates. And best of all, what it does is it forces you to draw closer to Jesus and to love his gospel more and more. So that, my friends is my simple case, in pursuing long term global missions. Let me end with this challenge. It is a benediction from our brothers and sisters in India and this is how it goes. Now May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father be with you and disturb you and trouble you and set before you an impossible task and dare you to do it. Until in your desperation, you fall on your knees and you remain there until he fills you with his power. And then, but only then May the Lord grant us peace. Amen.