Keith Green said, “if you don’t have a definite call to stay here [in the US], you are called to go” as a cross-cultural missionary to another country.
This quote has consistently been a guide and a fire for my walk with God as I attempt to discern where and how I should live and work. (There are opportunities professionally for me to work in a country in the 10/40 window, and my wife is open to examining whether or not God would lead us in that direction.) But what I just read in How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it) by John C. Knapp is making me uncomfortable by forcing me to re-examine this quote.
The world of business and the world of church are kept apart, in part owing to the false dichotomy of “sacred and secular” according to Knapp. And this leads to a “hierarchy of occupations” in the church. Full-time clergy and missionaries at the top. Then other paid workers in Christian ministry right below. Then “helping professions” like social workers and nurses below that. Finally, at bottom, are the rest: “salespeople, postal workers, accountants, business owners, electricians, corporate executives, lawyers, and countless others who comprise most of the body of Christ.”
Let’s look at that quote from Keith Green again.
“If you don’t have a definite call to stay here, you are called to go.”
I understand — I think I understand — the prophetic impulse behind the quote. Keith Green is challenging our default position that we are not called to be missionaries unless we hear a “definite call.” One can, of course, examine the biblical evidence and see whether the default position ought to be this or something else. We have friends who are career missionaries and they advised us to wait for a strong sense of a call. At any rate, is there an undue, perhaps unbiblical, sacred-secular distinction implicit in the quote? By endorsing being a missionary as the proper default stance over against all other alternatives, is Keith Green unintentionally presenting a message that being a missionary is on the higher rung of the hierarchy of occupations? Quite possibly. Confession: it certainly did have that very effect on me the first time I heard it at a missions conference when I was a freshman in college.
Perhaps a more charitable way of interpreting the quote, though, is to see it as a necessary wake-up call to us lukewarm Christians who, out of lack of passion for God’s mission rather than as a result of hearing God’s call to stay, hold to an unexamined assumption that, of course, God wants me here, where I am comfortable, where I am respectable, where I am not subject to unpleasant surprises, crises, and challenges. Yeah. I like that better.