Dangers of Serving God

Paul and Allisan Beeghly are missionaries in Thailand. They shared a bit about their ministry last summer at Refuge - you can read more about it on this blog post, Allison & Paul's Mission. They've been living in Thailand for half a year now and wrote an update for us. If you'd like to support them financially or read more about their ministry, you can visit their website Beegs Abroad.


Six months ago we moved to Thailand to undertake “Gospel-Centered justice and compassion work amongst women in the sex trade.” We have been tasked with starting a charitable foundation in Thailand and establishing a vocational training salon for sexually exploited women getting out of prostitution.  We love where we have been called and are excited about how God is working in Phuket.  With this said, we have also run into many dangers, all viable threats to our ministry and our relationship with God.  Oswald Chambers says, “beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentration on Him.”  We are wanting to address these dangers to ministry with the same spirit that Paul stresses the importance of unity to the Ephesians and building one another up to be more like Christ.

“It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:11-13). 

We are still learning how to be missionaries, so I would like to address warnings to both mature and maturing Christians.  We believe that, we, as well as any Christian, have characteristics of both.  My hope is that this will be an encouragement to the church body to be mindful of certain human tendencies that can occur while serving God.

Hazards of a Maturing Christian

We can’t save people. - Often I see maturing Christians putting together the conversion formula.  "If only I share the Gospel in this way or first create a relationship or first read this book, then they will believe!”  Furthermore, parents raise their children in church and later guilt themselves for a child that walks away from God later in life.  "Why? What could I have done differently so that my child would be saved?”  Similarly in missions, it’s easy to overstep your role in converting people to the one true God whether it’s outside pressure from sending organizations or supporters asking for numbers on baptisms and conversions or an inner pressure that demands spiritual fruit from your own efforts.  Chambers gives his insights as to the role of the Christian worker, "Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them.  Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God.”  We can’t force people’s eyes to Jesus as our savior, but we can have peace in knowing that He is in control.  I would also add that creating space and opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move is a great perspective to take when evangelizing.  Whether this is through asking questions or building relationships or attempting the perfect gospel share, remember that you can’t save people.

Caring too much about how you are perceived in ministry.  I like to be liked.  This has carried over to missions, although it’s typically a lot less about what non-believers think.  I am human and even in ministry I care what other Christians think.  I want you to think of the Beeghlys as successful missionaries who are earning their supporters’ donations and making them proud.  We want to be perceived as people who are doing God’s will and have fruit to show it.  Now, I will say that a lot of how we want people to see us is true, but the point is that we still care more than we should.  As Hughes writes in Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, "the audience of our mission inexorably becomes man rather than God.  Subtle self promotion becomes the driving force.”  I think it’s great to share about what we’re doing, but the only thing we need to worry about is complete obedience to Jesus alone.  May we seek "to offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1) alone.  

Hazards of a Mature Christian

Spiritual Success - The last topic we looked at “caring what others think.”  This is a similar topic, but it’s less about what others perceive and more about the success that we just flat out want.  For example, we want to start an awesome thriving organization.  We want to rescue thousands of girls, eradicate the sex industry in Phuket and see revival on this island like the day of Pentecost.  Let me be clear, I don’t think this is a bad thing.  But, Oswald Chambers argues, “Worldliness is not the trap that most endangers us as Christian workers; nor is it sin.  The trap we fall into is extravagantly desiring spiritual success” more than God’s will.  This can be a tricky one to describe because it isn’t a distraction to want to be successful and serve God will all your might, but often the success can be an idol that you serve in the place of Jesus.  What happens when you care more about “winning” than obedience?  While referencing Matthew Henry’s commentary, From Luke 10: 17-20, "All our victories over Satan, are obtained by power derived from Jesus Christ, and he must have all the praise. But let us beware of spiritual pride, which has been the destruction of many."

Self-Dependency - In Thailand we have very little control over starting a new foundation and the vocational training salon.  Average time is about two years to get approved for a Thai charity, and that depends on how fast you can create a relationship with a high ranking government official who will approve your Christian charity (very uncommon).  We are trying to start a school, which will eventually require a business license and work permit all typically requiring a bribe.  We are depending on God to see us through these challenges and He has showed up over and over again, affirming us and providing the ministry’s needs.  Any success that we have has been from God.  We know this and it’s obvious!  But, even with all that He has done in the past, we are often depending on our own efforts for the future.  As CEO of Hope International, Peter Greer says, "It’s possible to sacrificially serve God and be completely self-centered in the process!”  

Again, this warning is for a mature Christian.  One may see that he or she has all of the tools for success in ministry and when they put hours of hard work, sweat, and tears into a ministry, the spirit of ownership or possession starts to creep into your heart.  Not only can they do it on their own, but they start thinking they deserve it too!  One will finally get to a point where he or she thinks their plan will work faster than God’s will.  The hard truth is that God doesn’t need you to do anything for His ministry.  He has invited you but he does not need you to accomplish things for Him.  Quoting Micah 6:8 "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  The first two don’t matter unless you’re obediently and humbly walking along side your all-knowing Creator.

Over the course of 6 months we have seen ourselves fall towards these distractions as we work to establish For Freedom International in Phuket, Thailand.  We have a lot to learn, and even though we will never be perfect enough for Him, we are doing our best to answer His calling on our lives.  Remember, the global church is a group of sinners, led by sinning pastors and leaders, to tell other sinners about a Perfect God who loves them.  Maybe you’re in ministry, or telling your friends about Jesus, or serving in a church; let’s remember we are all susceptible to sin and have no power to bring glory to God’s kingdom without His power working through us.  Also remember that we are in this together.  We are the church, and I hope this message will help you catch yourself before sin does.  May we all learn to love God and serve well, all the while trying to live out Paul’s words, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). 

-Paul & Allisan

References:

Hughes, K&B. “A Dark Night of the Soul.” Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc, 1987. 13-31. Print.

Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Discovery House Publishers, 1992. April 23-24. Print.