FIRST-PERSON: The path to a missions resurgence
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Real men eat rare steaks cut from the grizzly bear they killed with a hunting knife. And, they think the only real sports are those that routinely result in crushed vertebra and ripped ACLs. Real men played football in high school and now they think that is the only sport that matters. They are certain that kicking a soccer ball into a net is a sissy sport, not worthy of their TV time.
But all of that begins to change when the real man's son shows an interest in soccer. It doesn't take long before he starts telling the guys at coffee break about the new soccer trophy sitting on his mantle. Suddenly the dad finds himself online, learning all the intricacies of the player positions and strategies. When his son makes the traveling team, the dad cancels important meetings to help the coach on the trip. And without blinking an eye he pays $500 for a summer soccer camp that will give his son a leg up on the other players.
Why would a real man give this much attention to sport he doesn't like? Because it is important to his daughter or son. And why would a parent who has dozed through years of missions challenges suddenly become vitally interested? The answer is the same -- because it has become important to a son or daughter.
I dream of a day when God's people will call out and send out almost all students to spend a summer, semester, or year in front-line missions, within a year or so of high school graduation.
God seems to be orchestrating a cultural shift to make this practical. An increasing number of secular and Christian universities are granting admission to recent high school graduates but not requiring them to register for classes for one year. They use the term "GAP year" to describe this period where students are allowed to do something immersive before beginning university studies.
For Christian students, that could mean going to the hard places internationally, nationally or even locally. Parents will never see missions the same after they get the e-mail that says, "Daddy, I held a baby while she died last night. I cried a long time because this is so needless. If believers just sent a little money, we could dig a water well and the dying would stop." Or, "All the people crowding around our van wanted Bibles. But I ran out before most got one. I do not understand why Christians don't live more simply so they could give more."
For the life of me I do not know why some theologically confused people in Utah would be the only ones to prepare and send out all their sons and daughters on an adventure that will shape their lives.
The Great Commission Task Force and then the Southern Baptist Convention must weave together many elements to achieve a true resurgence in missions. But sending our own children to the front lines can capture the hearts of churches in ways few other things can.
Richard Ross is professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.