The Missionary’s Manifesto

October 12, 2015

missionary manifesto

Recently, my friend Jeff Goins, who runs a writing course I’ve taken (Tribe Writers) challenged us to write a manifesto about something we care about. Many of you know I write a lot about modern day missions and social justice based on my six years spent living in a war affected region of Uganda as a missionary and non-profit founder. I write a lot about how we need to change the paradigm, in order to shift from the way things have always been done. So this is my missionary manifesto, this is my clarion call to the world about what missions and social justice should look like:

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” -Bernard Shaw-

Missions is the relational witness of God’s love, the overflow of the Father’s heart to see everyone free, at home in His arms, fully known and fully loved.

Missions is about love, not just in word, but in deed.

Love that welcomes the weary refugee to take shelter in its home. Love that feeds the hungry child, and stands in solidarity in the hospital when the sentence of HIV is sounded. Love that holds the hand of the abused woman. Love that goes to the funeral even when a miracle doesn’t happen. Love that stays when others might have given up. Love that heals and fills the neediness of our hearts.

The Gospel means little if it is preached in pulpits, but not lived out in compassion for mankind.

At the heartbeat of all missions should resound the call to social justice and social justice should be lived out in the context of relationship.

Missions is not a proclamation of religion, but a persevering of love.

It should look like the righting of wrongs, the redemption of all broken things. It should be black lives mattering as much as white lives, it should be the way we don’t just stop to notice the Syrian boy’s bloated body on a Turkish beach, but in how we respond.

It should be the rescuing of fifteen year old girl from a brothel in Thailand and the walking with her into her identity as a precious daughter of God. It should reveal itself in the items we purchase that provide jobs around the globe, and the money we donate to ensure that people have what they need in crisis. It should look like trying to end the cycle of war in Congo through the educating of child soldiers.

This is the Gospel of Jesus lived out, not just in proclamation, but in practicality.

And part of Jesus’ identity is the practical. If you’re hungry, He’ll feed you, if you’re blind He’ll heal you, if you need hope, He’ll offer it with His words.

Jesus sees the need lying underneath the obvious need. The leper longs to be touched, the prostitute to feel unashamed, the child wants to feel safe. He touches the deepest parts of us.

Time and time again, I read through the gospel of John and I see my Jesus. I see my Jesus full of compassion. He’s felt everything I feel already. I see him teaching and giving away, healing, and getting hidden again, feeling anguish, praying that his disciples will love each other in unity, being frustrated, being joyful, but always listening to His Father’s voice and beginning again. And I see him suffer, laying his life down for the ones that he loves, for his friends.

This is the life we are called to as missionaries: to suffering, to joy, and to dependence.

Missions is more than just evangelism; it is justice. And it is essential to who we are as Christians.

Missions isn’t just a nice program to involved with, a trip we take for an adventure, or something to check off our to do list so we feel less guilty about our self-absorbed lives. It’s God’s whole heart. What he bled and died for. He died for freedom. And we cannot live selfishly in freedom while others remain captive.

So in our churches, we cannot make missions an afterthought.

We cannot pick and choose to do missions, like we cannot pick and choose whether or not as Christians we will stand for justice.

It should reside in the deepest parts of our identity: we are connected as brothers and sisters, your suffering is my own. I do not get to pick and choose whether I will act or look away while innocents flail in an ocean to escape a holocaust.

But just as we cannot ignore missions, we cannot place missions, social justice, or “saving the world,” or anything above submerging in His presence, or we miss the mark.

We fall headlong into our own web of self-deceit if we forget that we are dependent. It is not the song, or conference, or crisis, it is not even the sex trafficking which can propel us. It is His face and His arms, His voice, and His goodness. It is the looking into His eyes and seeing His compassion for the whole world. His love propels us because we are full of love, because we have imbibed it.

But to soak without giving, is to become bloated on our own self importance.

We receive, so we can go. We feel loved so we can love, otherwise we remain unfruitful.

Missions is about entering into His pain, my pain, and my own frailty. I feel my need for His love to fill me so I have more than enough to give away.

His presence is the soaking ground where we receive our mission to go into all the world and call it back to Him, to show the world that God is a good Father who loves His children. All His children.

Missions is not just a one week trip.

It is not just praying for someone and moving on. It’s not yelling loudly over a microphone. It’s not just laying hands on heads and calling forth a miracle. Missions is life on life, process, empathy, an offering, a friendship.

When you see the Father’s love enter a woman’s torn up soul and piece it together, and she begins to cry softly from an overwhelming sense of His love, you know this is the greatest gift and greatest reward. When one who has never been loved, feels that love, flowing through you, that is the greatest miracle of all.

When you are willing to become more than just an evangelist.

When you are willing to become a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, that is where the miracle of missions begins.

Some of us never get to see that kind of glory because we never stay long enough.

We never become family. We’re just a passer through. We want the quick fix, the picture for our Facebook profile, the statistics of people saved, but most of missions happens in the staying, in the breaking open of our hearts, in the serving, in the knowing and being known.

Most of missions is what happens inside us when our selfish ambition ends, and another life begins to matter more than our own.

This intimacy with God and with others is born in the hard places. It’s being willing to follow Jesus into the trenches, to follow him to the cross. To enter into His presence and feel His burden for the world and say, “I know how your heart breaks now.”

Missions is loyalty. 

Loyalty that says I’m going to stay and stand not just in the good times but in the bad ones too. God honors that kind of perseverance. But I don’t think he needs our loyalty. I think He is even willing to bless us without it.

But to grow close to Him, to walk side by side with Him into the dark, to see the tear-struck faces, is painful.

Those who are willing to enter the cave with him, get to see him in the light, get to touch the indentations in the palm of His hands and breathe near in a way that defines us.

In a remote region of northern Uganda there is a nomadic tribe called the Karamojong and they brand their cattle. Each cow belongs to a family and they brand them so that they know which ones are theirs. Their cattle are their treasured possession, moe important than their own lives. They live and they die for them. They tend to them and nurse them. They go after the ones which are lost. When we want to be close to our Father He welcomes us into His arms, His family, His fold.

And He puts His mark on us. His. Chosen. Daughter. Son. Branded.

But getting that mark is painful.

Being His is a process, and often a painful one. It’s a journey where we grow closer through the hurts. Where we become more like Him. But like every battle scar, it tells a story of where we’ve been, and who we are, and a memory of being close in the trenches. We belong to each other. No one can take me from him for His brand is ever on me. It testifies that I am His and He is mine. I trace that scar not in hurt, not in anger, not in bitterness, but like remembering a victory, like a sad, sweet song. What I fought and bled and died for: for freedom.

But if we want to create a revolution of freedom, we must first start with ourselves.

Our being healed up and whole, full of His presence is central to living out our call. We cannot say, “I want to save you,” while our own two feet are mired in mud. We have to be willing to deal with the junk in our own lives, our weighted histories, our childhood fears, our wounds, our insecurities, if we want to effect change in the world.

The biggest change we make in the world will flow from the greatest change we see in ourselves when we surrender to being healed.

It takes work. The excavating of our own pain isn’t pleasant. It is hard to delve into the depths of our psyche and realize the motivations underneath our motivations, the trauma that guides our reactions every day. The quick response of anger. The desire to control. The need for affirmation.

When these sins pollute our call to missions, we lose sight of our highest and true purpose. We cannot love the world until we have first loved ourselves. God’s acceptance and the acceptance of ourselves, is central to our salvation and our salvation is pivotal to the mark we will leave on the world.

Missions is less about what we do and more about who we are because the message we are spreading flows from deep inside our bellies.

Our beliefs, our fears, our desires, inform our love and our love is the way we will be known as disciples.

So who we are needs to be healthy. Who we are needs to have its priorities straight. Who we are needs to move not for approval, but from approval that Father has already branded us His. And what is His, is always good.

If we want to be of good to the world, then we must be good to ourselves, otherwise we will always ask the world to rectify our deficiency.

I am a missionary.

I am willing to die for what I believe, but I am not a martyr. I am not a victim. Bad things don’t happen to me because God wills it so. I am branded, but by my choosing. I am marked, but with love. I am a flood of change, but the change flows through my very essence.

I am a missionary and I am not broken, I am not something to be avoided, or made excuses for. I am not a detriment to my fellow brethren. I’m extreme, but that’s because the places I am called to are extreme and dangerous.

I am not afraid to go there because love illuminates the corners where violence reigns supreme.

I am a missionary and I’m committed to my own health, my own self-care, because without this I will suck life from the very ones I have come to serve.

I am a missionary and I am not afraid of what you think of me, or how you might be made small by my courage. I’m not afraid of how you might attack that which you wish you could enact yourself.

I am a missionary in service to justice and I will not apologize for the way in which my sacrifice highlights your apathy.

I am a missionary and I am in need of connection, for those who will say they are family, who will send me and not forget me, who will not pull back support when I am advancing into the unknown.

I am a missionary and love is my highest order, both in the lives of those I minister to, and towards my own family.

I will not look away and I will not stop. I will not make excuses and I will not allow you to either. I will ignite you to care. I will ignite you to navigate your own privilege. I will call you to move beyond yourself. I will call you to join me.

I am a missionary and I spend time leaning against my Father’s chest so I can get to know His heartbeat.

I am a missionary in passionate pursuit of a revolution of love, one that begins inside of us, looking for ones who are brave enough to walk hand and hand into the dark.

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  • laura


  • Deborah

    It’s as if you were reading my mind. I join you in your Manifesto (and your love for Uganda after also serving the people there). Blessings,

    • Sarita Hartz

      Thanks so much Deborah! Uganda will always have a special place in my heart. Have you lived there? :)

    • Thanks Deborah! Did you serve in Uganda as well? Such a beautiful country with beautiful people!

  • Jayna Coppedge

    It is wonderful to read your heart. Satan wants me to believe there is so few with a mission mindset. He fights our connection, our strength in numbers, our joined prayers. I feel empowered to fight as I know I am not alone.

    • I’m so glad you feel empowered to fight Jayna. You are not alone!

  • seth_barnes

    Just ran across this and you and your blog for the first time. Love what you stand for what you do!

    • Thanks so much Seth! I really appreciate that!