Who am I to tell someone to accept my religion?
This question is often asked, and not just by skeptics who have always been outside the orbit of the Christian church. Instead, it is often asked by young people, raised in a Christian context, who accept the idea that God is and that He spoke through Jesus. However, they see missions and evangelism as an imposition of something that, while good for them, may not be good or necessary for all. Or, perhaps they haven’t come to that conclusion but do have that question.
A full response to such an important question can’t be provided in the space of a blog posting. The often quoted statement of John Piper, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis is a start. “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” He points out that when Christ returns to put all things right, missions will be at an end, but worship will just be reaching its fullness.
The ultimate goal of missions and evangelism is not the benefit of the person who hears and accepts the Gospel message. It certainly is not the benefit of the person who communicates that message. The ultimate goal, according to Piper, is that God, the Triune God, receive all the worship that He deserves. This means that evangelism and missions is witnessing to the truth about Jesus and the abundant life that comes only through Him. It is then up to the one who hears (and sees) the Gospel to respond.
So, the answer to the question “Who am I?” is “No one.” I’m no one special. No one should embrace “my religion,” because it is mine or because I know best, or because my culture is superior to another one. The important question is not “Who am I?” but rather, “Who is Jesus?” That is a question that Jesus Himself put to His disciples. “Who do you say I am?” When Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17).
This question and answer are foundational to what the Church is and how it ought to engage with those who are not yet part of it.
As I said at the beginning, this is a huge question and deserves more and better response than I have provided. What do you think about this? How can this issue be addressed in 21st century North America?