Well, it looks like the title did its job. Some of you may have followed the title here to learn about aliens, others wondering why I am referring to a term by Karl Marx. A few of you know that if I am writing I am writing with the desire to help you as you do your job in sending, in regards to foreign missions. Let’s jump in and talk about the second two.
Recently I read about Karl Marx’s “Theory of Alienation.” Obviously I am not a communist, socialist, or (whatever you think proceeds this). At times I find entertainment in seeing how philosophers “discover” truth about us, humans, that is taught clearly in Scripture, and how people are amazed by their findings. He said, “Alienation is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity.” You probably didn’t find that extremely helpful, nor did I, but let me break it down in some good ol’ country vernacular for you. If you work on the assembly line but never get a chance to see the final product, you will get discouraged.
Even though, you may not have known this term, I am certain you have felt this frustration. You have toiled in a ministry, with a group or people, or on a project and started to wonder if what you were doing was making a difference. You may have gone down that slippery slope that Asaph told us about in Psalm 73. You are wondering why the wicked prosper, and you are having such a difficult time.
You may have never considered this but the New Testament has many examples of people coming to report to other believers about how God has been faithful! In Acts 14 you see Paul and Barnabas in a wonderful season of ministry. After Paul and Barnabas had seen many wonderful things they “gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them. And there they abode long time with the disciples.” You will see this as a recurring theme in the New Testament. Acts 11:22,
Wonderful things happen when people get together and “rehearse all that God has done.”
- Everyone acknowledges Who deserves the credit for all that has been done. God is glorified. Acts 21:20
- Those listening and encouraged in the fact that they are involved in is really making a difference. Saints encouraged. Acts 15:3
- More people have a desire to get involved. Workers are recruited. Acts 11:22
It is the goal of the enemy to try to cause disunity between us. Rev 12:10 Jesus prayed for our unity. John 17:23 We are unified together as we serve together in the mission given to us! We should work diligently to remind others that we are in this together! Testimony services are a great way to see this happen.
An Unhelpful Division
Let’s take a trip in the Old Testament to see an example of people making a decision to try to alienate themselves from their God-given mission. Joshua 22 gives us the Paul Harvey “rest of the story” of the happenings of Numbers 32. The children of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Mannesah decided they would be satisfied to stay on the side of the Jordan River that did not require blood-shed to gain. Moses, in one of his last actions of life, told them that wouldn’t fly. When we get to Joshua those same tribes felt the need to build an altar. The other 9 1/2 tribes declared war on them and told them they did not need to build an altar that one they had would do jus fine. Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Mannesah explained they wanted an altar because they wanted the future generations to know that even though they didn’t live in the Promise Land they were still part of the children of Israel. We see later in the Bible that this was a legitimate concern. 1 Kings 22:3 (take note of the question mark)
We often try to chance the historical account of an event to justify our current poor decisions . Those of you who are married and honest know what I am talking about. God has given all the tribes a lot of land to claim, so the all should be involved in the battle. In Joshua 22:25 “For the Lord hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the Lord: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the Lord.” Yes, it is true that God made the Jordan River. Yes, it is true that rivers are natural divides between those on opposite sides. It was not true, however, that God desired to have them divided into their mission. They were all supposed to be involved. They felt alienated from the other tribes so they built an altar to be a “witness” to the fact they are of them!
We often do the same things inside of our churches. This can be seen on many levels, but it can be easily seen in the way people view missionaries and those who do not go to the foreign field. We often accuse God of making a division He did not make. Yes, it is truly different roles to be played but we are both to be on the same mission. Many people feel like they are part of the church but on the outside edges. They feel alienated from the mission of the church. When people are amused by the ministries of our church but feel alienated from the mission of the church, we have a problem.
Those of us who serve in sending in missions have the responsibility of helping remind everyone in the church that we are in this mission together. This is true unity. This is what Jesus was praying for in John 17, not that we agree on the carpet color in the new Family Life Building.
Getting people together to “rehearse all that God has done” is a wonderful and God-ordained way we promote unity in our church. I would like to give some practical applications to how this can help you, your church and missionaries, in not feeling alienated in the work. This helps keep us from the frustration of being involved in a process and never getting to see the product.
- Encourage missionaries, when they visit your church, to share testimonies about Godly people in their church that have influenced them along the way.. This helps encourages all those who work in children’s ministry to see how God has used other children workers to help raise missionaries.
- Consider asking the missionaries who will be visiting your church to give you the names of the people who have influenced them in their lives. Take some time and write them letters expressing your appreciation for the work they have done. This will encourage them in the work of the Lord.
- Allow people to share their testimonies in your Sunday School classes. It does the heart good for people to tell you about how God has used “average people” to make above-average impact in their lives.
- Missionaries that will read this, I encourage to thank the people you meet along the way by name. You should work at reminding them of the role they are playing in helping get you to the field. “Rehearse” your stories with them and let them know that they shared in the work and will share in the reward with you!
- Right now take a few minutes to make a list of people who have been used of God in your life to help cultivate a love for Jesus in your life! Do those people know how appreciative you are of how they ministered to you?
So here is the “missions theory of alienation.” When people inside of the church work and give but never get to hear “great things God has done” it can become disheartening. One of the best ways to encourage people to get involved in the work of the Lord is to have stories shared with them reminding them of how their lives are making a real difference! Think about these things next time you are given an opportunity to share a testimony, give a report, share a praise, or “rehearse all God has done.” God could use your life to help encourage someone in the fact that what they are doing is making a difference!
People often feel “alienated” from the work of the Lord. There are two different categories of people who feel this way. You should work at lovingly, confront both of these groups with truth.
- There is the group who is working diligently in the things that matter in life and they could use some encouragement! You could do this by sharing with them a report of God working in your life!
- There are some who have decided that wanted to be counted among God’s people but they are more than okay with their “brethren going to war” as they sit here. Those people need to be exhorted!