Missions and Jesus: An Atheist’s Surprising View

Around 7.8 million dollars was used by Canadian Lutheran World Relief for good work around the world last year.  From hospitals, to clean water, to feeding the poor, this organization does so much.  In fact, CLWR is well respected internationally for these wonderful activities.  For all the good work that this organization does (which we happily support), one thing that it does not focus on is evangelism.  Over the past 50 years, the Mainline Protestant church (a rapidly shrinking segment of the Church, interestingly), has largely removed cross-cultural evangelism from its mandate, opting instead to focus more strictly on aid.  Perhaps evangelism is viewed as an imposition onto other people, or perhaps physical aid is given greater importance than telling people about Jesus, whatever the reason, evangelism is demonstrably lacking from most of the work we Lutherans do overseas. 

So you can imagine my surprise to read an editorial by South African born, UK former member or parliament, and atheist, Matthew Parris saying that Africa needs more Christian missionaries and evangelism.  He says,

“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”

What a striking shift in thinking from what we’ve become accustomed to!  How is it that a South African would embrace the colonial or imperial impositions of Christian evangelists and missionaries on Africans?  Perhaps it’s because a living relationship with Jesus is not an imposition.  Perhaps Jesus wants a relationship with everyone and perhaps the Kingdom of God is good news for all cultures in the world.  Matthew Parris holds the surprising conviction that the world needs to hear more about Jesus, not less.  He believes that physical aid is simply not enough to change the world, the hope of Jesus is foundational to any cultural change. 

I’m pleased that the CLWR and others have reached out to share the love of Christ in the form of food and clean water, but we need to expand our mandate to include sharing the hope of Jesus.  We can give clean water (and we should), but let’s also tell people about the Living Water of Jesus who satisfies a much deeper thirst.  That’s what it truly means to be “In Mission for Others.”

I encourage you to read the full article by Matthew Parris from the London Times, it’s really very insightful. Click here for the original article.

Also, check out this remarkable campaign from Compassion Canada called “The Difference is Jesus;” they say that “poverty has an eternal solution.”  It’s a bold move, but I agree with Matthew Parris, Jesus might just be the one to save people from poverty.  Who’d a thought?


3 Responses to Missions and Jesus: An Atheist’s Surprising View

  1. Tom Brook says:

    Amen. A thoughtful and inspirational message. I know front line workers will find it encouraging!

  2. Steve Pye says:

    Great article… Compassion’s site really is great, and you’re right, that’s the one thing people tend to forget: that poverty is as much a core of Christianity as evangelism is… too bad most people don’t realize it.

  3. Nixon is Lord says:

    Religion is a waste of time. Using religion to cure poverty is like using arsenic to cure strychnine.

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