From Taylor Swift to Justin Bieber
This generation of young Americans likes to help people. Every other Muslim, atheist Buddhist, or Wicca gets excited about humanitarian relief, saving young girls from sex slavery, and tutoring the disabled. Celebrities pick their passions and throw millions of dollars at organizations to feed the hungry and save the whales.
Taylor Swift is donating heaps of money to causes from anti-bullying campaigns to victims of natural disasters (see CS Monitor article). Justin Bieber gets in the spotlight for his support of Pencils of Promise, a non-profit school-building program–even though Forbes ranked Bieber “dead last in a survey of the most valuable celebrity charity relationships” (2011). We look up to these people who make millions as entertainers, and then give some of their income on the side.
Creative entrepreneurs, non-profits, and TOMS
Or, even more gutsy, young people, are founding and running their own non-profits, replete with emotional photography and well-designed marketing campaigns to get people involved–such as Blake Mycoskie and his innovative efforts with TOMS. This generation is energetically seeking to save the world from hunger, slavery, and injustice through their own efforts.
In the words of Barry Salzberg in his article “What Millennials Want Most: A Career That Actually Matters” published in Forbes, “Millennials want to know how they will make a positive difference in the world if they join your business, not by wearing a colorful T-shirt on a special project once a year but in their actual work.” Why? Because it gives us a sense of purpose, and it’s fun. It has become a generational passion that makes us feel good about ourselves.
Unfortunately, sacrificing time, money, and lives for the sake of helping others was never meant to be about us. This kind of sacrifice necessitates that it be part of our everyday lives. This kind of sacrifice is missions, and you cannot do this for relaxation, or to make yourself feel better. Did Jesus endure torture and death for relaxation, or to make himself feel better?
This is not about you
As I keep shaping my definition of missions, I have the words of a certain missionary imprinted on my brain: “This is not a hobby. It takes all one’s heart, mind, passion, and soul given freely.” These words came from a woman whose name I can’t include because of the nature of her ministry in a country very closed to Christianity. But she spoke from experience because her husband was gunned down on the mission field. Sacrifice, focused and energized by Jesus? Yes. Self-focused charity? Never.
Missions is not about you because missions is a life or death decision. And without the saving grace of Jesus Christ, you are not worth dying for. Jesus Christ alone is worth dying for, and he is what missions is all about.
Check out the blog of my friend, Angela and her journey in sacrificing comfort and plans for the sake of God’s calling on her life: Life and Gleanings.