Saint Jude Gets it Right
Many of us have heard this simple sentence on the TV or radio around Thanksgiving: “Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and give to those who are not.” It is the tag line that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital uses for their Thanks & Giving campaign each year.
What I’ve always loved about that simple sentence is how life giving and honoring it is. It would be so easy for St. Jude to paint a picture of suffering children and use guilt as the motivator for giving towards the medical treatment of these children that are in such great need.
But instead they call us to give thanks for the healthy children that God has put in our lives first and then out of that recognition and thankfulness, to give generously to those who are suffering.
I wish we applied that same sentiment as we talk with people about the plight of the unreached around the globe! Unfortunately, we have been trained to communicate about this great challenge in a very different way. Instead of thanking God for all those who have come to Christ and praying for their growth in the faith, we relentlessly pound our fists demanding action for those who have not yet heard.
But isn’t part of reaching the unreached celebrating those now reached? As our recent infographic points out, much of the reason why the world is still only 33% Christian after over 100 years is because the back door to the Global Church is just as big as the front door.
Now to be fair, the back door isn’t equally as big in every part of the world. The Church is exploding in Africa even as it declines in Europe and so on. It is also important to note that much of the growth of Christianity (as with other religions) is based on birthrate. The teaching of children and discipling them in the faith is critical to reaching the lost!
But the point is that in the mission community we have focused on the unfinished task at the expense of thanking God for those He has brought in the door. Tokunboh Adeyemo, a well known Nigerian Christian leader, said it well when he stated, “Africa has been evangelized but the African mind has not been captured for Christ.”
Why are we so focused on the work not done even to the detriment of the discipleship of those that were unreached even yesterday? Well a lot of it has to do with mobilizing people and fundraising. Its easier to make a dramatic pitch for the unreached but very difficult to thankfully raise funds to grow those who have chosen to follow Jesus. Also the urgency of the unreached solicits a response, where ongoing growth and discipleship has no urgent response time.
But we are called to speak the truth. There is as much need to support believers as they deepen their faith as there is to give them the opportunity to hear. And the long-term growth of the Church in the world is dependent on investing in those who are reached and turning our eyes to those who have yet to hear. To use St. Jude’s phrase, we must “Give thanks for the believers God has reached, and give to reach the unreached.”
By: Jon Hirst