I had a friend ask me this question right before I left for the congress. He said something like, “Some folks are saying that Cape Town 2010 is just a bunch of hooey . . . a way for rich Christians to get together and talk about things when the money could be sent to those who are actually doing something in the world.” He spoke of using resources more wisely, of funding homes for orphans, digging wells or providing schooling. I didn’t really have an answer for him because logically his words made all the sense in the world.
We felt the same way when we came home from France. We’d raised funds, lived off those, tried to plant a church, then came home prematurely. Some could argue that the mission we endeavored to start was a failed effort, a colossal waste of the kingdom’s money. So I get that. I lived that. And to this day, I live with the shame of that perceived failure.
But as I spoke with a friend about our time in France over a meal here at Cape Town, I was able to see what God had done in our lives in those money-wasted 2 1/2 years in France. What did God do?
- Through the trials, our family bonded together. Our children love each other dearly. We enjoy spending time together. All because we endured suffering together.
- Our children have hearts toward missions. Who knows what will happen in the world because of their future influence?
- One of our kids led a friend to Christ. And that friend is walking with Jesus now.
- The ministry continues and flourishes without us. This actually makes me exceedingly happy. I love that God kept it going with new life, new families, new people.
- I learned that God is not after outward success with big numbers and things you can point to. He uses failure (perhaps more) in our lives than He uses our success.
So, yes, we “wasted” thousands of dollars as missionaries to France. In retrospect we could logically argue that the whole thing, in human terms, was a waste of kingdom cash. But because we believe God specifically led us there and He specifically led us back to the USA, we have to believe that His purposes aren’t as clear cut as simply answering the question if something is financially astute. It wasn’t. But we are changed. And the landscape of missions, our family, and the world are changed.
So is Cape Town 2010 a giant waste of kingdom resources? Could the money be spent wiser? Perhaps. But I have a feeling as I interact with people who love Jesus from all four corners of this big world that the impact in the kingdom through relationships, discussions, unity, conflict, hope, and divine appointments cannot be measured by simple economics. The kingdom of God is a woman taking her most costly gift and pouring it at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps that’s a better picture of Lausanne–a gathering of people who pour their resources out on the feet of the Broken and Scarred One, in hopes that He would further His paradoxical kingdom. And it’s a testimony, too, of the many, many people who sacrificed to help others to get here.
I know I am deeply humbled and in awe that I am even here. I feel small and insignificant–me a “failed” missionary who “wasted” kingdom resources, is able to interact with others with similar stories.
I don’t know what the kingdom result will be. I don’t know the deeper questions of provision and money and what could best be used. I do know that the Lord owns it all anyway, and He can do whatever He wants with what is His.
What do you think? Is an international missions and evangelism conference a waste of kingdom resources? Is there a place for this congress? Is it a bunch of rich Christians getting together to talk? What’s your take?