When Pastor Sean told us that he would be sharing the pulpit with a missionary, I cringed. I know that as a Christian I’m supposed to be all gung ho about missionaries and evangelism, but I cringed nonetheless.
Maybe it’s my background in history and anthropology, but when I hear about missionaries I always think “rice bowl Christians.” In Imperial China, missionaries would come in and offer to feed the poor, but only if they converted. Traditional Chinese called these people “rice bowl Christians” It’s that “I’m right, you’re wrong, I have food, you have hunger” approach to mission that makes me flinch.
Then Sean introduced us to Pastor Juan, the evangelism catalyst for Presbyterian World Mission.
Yeah, I didn’t have any clue what it meant either, so I kept quiet and tried not to draw attention while I listened. He talked about the Presbyterian Church, as moderates, being invited into Egypt to help create change for the better.
He talked about missionaries going into communities and sitting down and talking to the people. What are your problems? What do you need?
He talked about building schools and helping children learn. He talked about clean water and safe food and housing. His enthusiasm was obvious as he told us about helping people all over the world and in our own communities simply by doing Christ’s work.
Finally, he also talked about people coming to the church. Yes, they want the education and the water, but they also want to know more about the One who has inspired people to help so much.
The term missionary still makes me cringe.
But the thought of being a Christian catalyst? An agent for change in a troubled world? That sounds like something I could do.