All too often when missions is talked about, it is seen as the exclusive sphere of message bearers (missionaries) who actually go out as frontier cross-cultural workers or who are in some fashion engaged in full-time service related to it.
There is too often, a forgotten or ignored group of people – those who remain at home. They are those who do not go out to the field, who are not engaged necessarily in any physical sense in the practical ministries related to the unreached.
They have regular jobs as civil servants, business professionals, bureaucrats, technocrats, artisans, traders, doctors, professors, and so on.
This category of persons are sometimes not taken as seriously in the missions movement or even by some message bearers, often thought of as not caring enough for the lost, worldly-minded and as having a less-than-a-missionary status in God’s scheme of things.
The twist to it is that many of these people themselves who live ‘regular’ lives back at home also consider themselves to be not quite up there as the message bearers who have left all in order to sacrificially labor among the unreached.
I recently had a friend of mine who expressed to me all the guilt and frustration she felt over what she called her lack of mission life.
One whiff of truth remains that the Bible has no basis for this kind of attitudes and dynamics among disciples.
Practically speaking, it is not even possible for all disciples to ‘Go’ as message bearers. Some, in fact, most will have to stay at home.
An incidence in the Old Testament drew out a very important principle we need to consider. David had set out with 600 men in pursuit of their raiding enemies but at a place called the Brook of Besor, 400 of these men became too tired to pursue and fight on.
So David and 200 men continued with the chase, while 400 stayed back at the Brook to rest and guard their stuff. Those who fought on, didn’t think the others deserved the spoils, so David said:
“Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” (1 Sam. 30:24)
Based on this principle, we cannot glorify one or the other category. In God’s eyes, they are equally relevant. They will all share alike!
However, it is necessary to clarify what it means to “stay at home” as far as God’s purposes are concerned. In this story, not everyone at home in Israel was eligible for the spoils but those 400 who “stayed by the stuff.”
To understand what it means to “stay at home” and still ‘share alike’ in the spoils, there are at least 2 questions we need to ask ourselves as we look at the example of David and his men:
1. Why did they not go on to fight (why did they stay back at the Brook Besor?)
2. What were they doing back there when they stayed away from the battle front?
If we can answer these questions very well, we will be able to understand how God looks at his servants who ‘stay at home’ and message bearers out in the field to be equal in His eyes, and what he expects of them.
In response to the first question, “why did they stay and not go to fight?” we recognize the fact that the decision to stay at the Brook Besor was not an arbitrary one. It wasn’t even a casual decision. It was a necessary one. They were unable to go. This implies that if the circumstances were different, they would have not stayed but gone.
Those who stay at home still have their hearts consumed with passion and interest in what God is doing around the world, but cannot physically go. Most times this has to be because they have clearly identified their God-given role in missions as best done at home or some genuine reason might keep them from going.
With the second question, we recognize that their home activities of a truth still have some kind of connection with the labors of the Message Bearers out on the field.
Those activities may be providing a pool of resources from which they sacrificially and lovingly support those on the frontiers or they may be creating awareness about their needs or recruiting workers to join them or interceding for them. David’s men stayed back to “guard the stuff.”
Staying at home should be, and indeed is a calling as much as going to the field as a message bearer is a calling.
None, in God’s eyes is a lesser calling. What each of us has to be certain about is that whether we stay at home as or go as ‘Message Bearers’ we are walking in God’s calling upon our lives. When that happens, they both will share the rewards equally.