Is the Purpose of Missions the GOSPEL or the KINGDOM?

by Laura Parker on January 20, 2014


We sat across the table from them and they leveled questions at us about our work. It felt a little Spanish Inquisition, honestly.

“What happens to the girls after they are rescued? Do you give them the gospel? Can you guarantee they end up in a Christian after care center?”

And we had to honestly give them answers they didn’t like.

The government has authority, we said, so we can’t guarantee where the girls end up, though we do advocate their placement in quality after care, more often than not which is run by Christian organizations.

No, we don’t give them the gospel right after the raid. The spiritual abuse involved in that practice– giving a girl the four spiritual laws in the midst of the trauma of a rescue operation–feels well, exploitative.

No, we can’t guarantee they will hear the name Jesus in the process of our work.

You see, we work to empower undercover investigations into sex trafficking in India and SE Asia with The Exodus Road. We purposefully chose to make the organization secular, in an attempt to build more bridges with government partners and in an effort to bring as many people around the table for the sake of the victim. We have investigators that are Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu. And yes, Christian, too. We are a focused coalition that sends men and women into dark places on behalf of the child. And it’s working. 250 girls and women have been pulled out of brothels because of the brave efforts of our field partners– most of whom are not of the Christian faith.

But to the men sitting across the table from us considering financial support, that wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t enough to live gospel, in their opinions, we needed to say it, too.


It reminded me of other conversations we’ve had with many in the church-world who’ve said to us essentially, “Why save them from an earthly hell if you can’t save them from an eternal one?”

And I’ll be brutally honest, that type of thinking hurts. It hurts that Christians would so quickly write off justice if there’s no promise of the Romans Road. It hurts us personally, as we are bleeding out for this mission, but it mostly hurts for the girl behind the locked doors–the one who desperately needs brave, compassionate people to rise up on her behalf, regardless of her spiritual choices, past, present or future.

And I get that in missions there are church planters and evangelists and gospel-in-word-givers. And I’m not saying that missions can’t be that, but can’t it also be ushering in the Kingdom? Because the Kingdom comes when God’s will is done on earth, and I’m convinced God’s will is not sexual slavery for poor and oppressed women around the world.

And shouldn’t the Church, his name-bearers, be the ones out front leading the fight for this Kingdom-coming? Giving, with no strings or expectations attached? Protecting, without the hidden agenda to convert?

And if for some reason, a “missionary” can only love wildly but silently, does this negate the gospel, the good news, he or she is bringing to another human being? 

I can’t think of anything more gospel than going into a seedy brothel and loving by rescuing. It reminds me a lot of Jesus.

Though, admittedly, it doesn’t fit most missionary job descriptions.

Laura Parker, Co-Founder, Editor, Former Aid Worker to SE Asia

blog: Laura Parker Writes   |   work: The Exodus Road   |   twitter: @mrslauraparker 


I fully expect disagreement with this post. I’m okay with that. Please know that I do respect those who actively and verbally communicate the gospel to others. Having said that, I’d love to know your (honest, respectful, kind) thoughts about this topic–

Can missions be ONLY-KINGDOM or does it have to be VERBAL-GOSPEL or can it be BOTH? 

Other posts here that might be of interest: Rice Christians and Fake Conversions  |  The Purpose of Missions– Uh, What Is It, Again?   | How an Atheist is Teaching Me to Live Like Jesus   |  The Gospel of the Brothel 

*photo credit: David Bartsch

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About Laura Parker

Living on three continents and moving 15 times in 15 years of marriage, Laura is no stranger to transition. Recently living in SE Asia with her family, Laura now serves as the VP of a counter-trafficking organization which her husband began, The Exodus Road. Laura is the co-founder and editor here at A Life Overseas and writes at her blog,
  • Brandi Goff McElheny

    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!! I agree 10000)% <3 It reminds me of St Francis "Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words." You are LIVING the gospel. Seems Jesus did a lot of group feeding and then healing where "the gospel" wasn't spoken, it was shown.

    • Thanks! I think it is hard because I see a fear in many (and I think I get it) that when we approve of the gospel without words, then we are heading down a liberal path where Jesus gets forgotten and good deeds in missions ends up secular . . . . I think what I balk at is the idea in missions that we “love for the express purpose of conversion”. This feels manipulative to me. Especially when we essentially aren’t honest with people about our motives . . . . I know you *get* this in the very real sense, friend.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

      • Brandi Goff McElheny

        YES!!! and oh how I have been guilty of this in the past. I had my “impact list” and I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it…..and ya know what? I bet it didn’t feel like love 🙁 I bet they could sense that I had a plan that went beyond simply loving them. It hurt me too….the burden I bore for every single person I met. Now, when I simply love people extravagantly and pray for Jesus to shine through, I am at ease. His burden is light. I am simply to be the light. I don’t even have to MAKE SURE that everyone understands it! Because….let’s be honest, church….Jesus wasn’t all that clear either! He was a mystery wrapped in truth, beauty, healing and grace. xoxoxo

        • Oh, I love this, Brandi– especially those last two sentences– perfect!! Carry on, sister.

  • Marla Taviano

    I love this, and I love you. And I love Brandi’s comment. And your reply. Praying for you, friend. KEEP ON KEEPING ON. xoxoxo

    • Thanks, Marla. 🙂 Love to you guys and the ways you are BRAVELY living out Kingdom yourselves.

  • Colleen Connell Mitchell

    Laura, you know I love you and am all “YES, PREACH IT, sister.” I think missions can look like just about anything that is based in the Biblical command to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. In my opinion, it was the humility of knowing what would actually work to rescue victims that you choose a secular vision for Exodus Road, your love for mercy that made the consequences of that choice worth bearing, and without a doubt, you are acting justly. When I talk to people about our how our evangelization outreach to the indigenous tribe we work with interacts with our maternity care outreach, it is important to me that people know I will never withhold the resources we have based on whether or not the mothers are open to accepting our faith. Because I firmly believe giving moms and babies a better chance at surviving child birth is Kingdom work. Here’s my philosophy. I will never make everyone I meet or come in contact with or minister to as a missionary come to know and love Jesus. But my hope is that if they get to heaven and do not yet fully know Him, they can at least answer, “I don’t know who you are, but I met someone who looked a lot like you once.”

    • Colleen, this comment . . . . my heart was saying, “yes, yes, yes.” Love that you are living out Kingdom to moms and babies, love that you are looking a lot like Jesus while you are doing it.

      • Cindy Terry

        I admire what you are doing, and your desire to look like Jesus. But people need to know WHY you are helping them, and that they need a Savior too!!!! Your comment troubles me. The last 2 sentences-“if they get to heaven and do not yet fully know HIm” Their is soooo much danger in our modern thinking. If they don’t believe, have not repented and asked Jesus to be their savior, they will NOT be in heaven.

  • Ruselis Aumeen Perry

    I’m in the church-world. I tried to work for you guys. I admire what you do greatly.. Please don’t write all Gospel deliverers as speech only. We just are passionate with our speech like Paul. All of the body of Christ each have their own duty in accordance to the Lords will. It is not right for any of us to judge other faiths let alone each other. The most important work ever done was finished at Calvary. We go, because we are driven by compassion.

    • Ruselis Aumeen Perry

      Bless you guys. Praying for your safety.

      • Ruselis, Absolutely not all verbal-gospel-givers are speech only. I was just posing the question can non-verbal-gospel still be missions too. Glad you are passionate about Jesus. 🙂

        Thanks for your prayers and if you do want to volunteer still, we are always open– feel free to email: for more details and opportunities. Have a great day!

        • Ruselis Aumeen Perry

          Absolutely you are doing what Jesus will do, and IS DOING. The gospel is ONLY Christ’s work (life, death, resurrection, redemption of sin, and eternal peace with the Father), but the Kingdom is the work it takes to show the light of Christ and to fight against injustice, for compassion and love and submit to the Lord’s will. the Gospel saved us and changed us. The work we do is a result of our reverence for our Saviour and His heart against injustice which we share. We cannot and should not force our beliefs on anyone. But, I know God calls whomever has “an ear.” And at times the opportune moment nay present itself. But we don’t ever overstep our boundaries. I have never heard such horrors of missions trips before. I have never heard of people getting held hostage pretty much to hear the gospel? Sorry. I have never expirienced this. I have been Missions trips and have seen us loving on people, and every once in awhile a gospel opening happens. Either way…We must fight to make the world beautiful no matter how dirty it gets. We always press on towards Christ-likeness. And we forgive those “that know not what they do.” We are all broken vessels trying to make sense of this thing called life. Until then we proclaim the gospel and live the kingdom, until we are called home. Bless you all. Stay safe.

          p.s. Matt just emailed me. Possibly soon. Lords will. 🙂

  • Dalaina May

    Man, that was a zinger! I am totally wrestling through this myself, but it’s hard because many people I love disagree with me, like my husband who see ministry as more of a sliding scale with salvation and all of the things that go with it (like “evangelism”) as the most important part. His view is not quite “why bother” because he sees the need for justice, but more “why stop there?” I see a slippery slope of, as you said, spiritual manipulation. I know even in the past when I worked in medical missions, I saw a lot of stuff that made me uncomfortable like giving medicine only to the people who would sit through a Gospel presentation. I just don’t see Christ making that requirement (though the husband argues that he embodied the Gospel so he’s a bad example).

    I read this book recently called The Road to Missional by Michael Frost that is exactly about this issue – the so-called Gospel vs. Kingdom issue. VERY simplified, Frost insists that our role as believers, as the Church, is to provide a foretaste of heaven. We want to live our lives and use our words to give people a glimpse into what it will be like at the end of time when Christ has made all things right again. Essentially, we realize that the Kingdom of God has both come with the Incarnation and is yet to be completed. We are living in the in between.

    This quote smacked me in the face. ”If mission is the alerting of people to the reign of God through Christ, our mandate is to do whatever is required in the circumstances to both demonstrate and announce that kingship. We feed the hungry because in the world to come there will be no such thing as hunger. We share Christ because in the world to come there will be no such thing as unbelief. Both are the fashioning of the foretastes of that world to come. A core questions to ask is what does the reign of God through Christ look like in my neighborhood?”

    This is going to look different for each of us because God will reveal different aspects of his kingdom that are lacking in our communities and world. I’d say for you, friend, you rescue the slave because in the world to come, we will all be free.

    • Love that quote, too! And I love the idea of providing a “foretaste of heaven”. I think the real question here is . . . . Is THAT foretaste ENOUGH in Christian work? And here is the rub- that many say that it just isn’t. That there isn’t value there unless you can pair that foretaste with verbal introduction to Jesus. And in some ways I do agree with that . . . but . . . not totally. . . . Ahhhhh– the tension!

  • Lana

    Thank you for what you do, Laura I get it. With a tear.

  • Kevvin

    Interesting post. Thanks. The dichotomy of Kingdom and Gospel, Justice and Salvation here seems to play strongly into the problem that you wish to avoid. In the history of Christian witness, reform, and “Kingdom” revival, a communicated proclamation of the Gospel is almost always unabashedly accompanied with it. A proclaimed Kingdom without truly transformative, life-saving acts is perhaps the most unhopeful and empty Gospel I’ve ever heard. I read of Jesus healing the blind and proclaiming salvation. I think to organizations, schools, etc. that had the one-half mindset of justice, or written here as Kingdom, and I can remark that they are doing pretty good work, but I, having worked with many of these organizations or alongside them, see a significantly missing emphasis that was there at the birth of their history, but in the name of partnership, money, quality workers, etc. lost that vision, and lost the hope of transformation. It becomes removed from mission statements of an organization, and without continued reflection by staff, it becomes removed from the hearts of individuals as well. Now, the Church has a HORRIBLE history of neglecting justice at the expense of empty words and “proclamation”. My Latin, African, and Asian friends took the missiological task of a holistic or integral mission – some of my colleagues having had the privelege of coining the term mision integral around the first Lausanne Conference. That idea is not new and is present in Old Testament history, but ripe and fruitful in the Kingdom expansion found in the New Testament and early church living. Fringe movements in the faith have often been marginalized because they’ve been about justice, and really, only solid reform movements have occurred because the transforming proclamation was spurred on by something so much more – something holistic, which must, imperatively, include justice. What is more fun is the witness of Biblical justice also spurred on a fervor for authentic (not exploitative) proclamation. Thank you for your post, I will be using it in a discussion tomorrow with missionary interns – some who work with an organization directly involved in advocating and providing care for women and children caught in the sex-trade. We have two girls there right now working alongside local leadership – one in the advocacy, law, and immigration side, and the other in the social work and therapy side. NOTHING is more morally horrendous than an industry that preys on abusing men, women, and children, often young or adolescent (pre-pubescent leaves me nothing but a puddle of tears that I can’t even get off the floor to do something about) in such spiritual, moral, physical, emotional, and God-ordained ways as their sexuality. Blessings to your work. Keep up the good fight. Don’t promise any “Gospel-thumper” that every girl will here the name of Jesus, as you shouldn’t promise what you can’t keep, but on the other hand, let the name of Jesus be so readied on the tongue, hearts, and minds of workers that victims and partners – governmental, NGO’s,etc. know that it is a Just God who ushers in a Kingdom of humility, not to tear down where they might be threatened, but to truly proclaim good news and salvation (physical and spiritual) to all.

    • i really really loved this phrase you wrote —

      “Biblical justice also spurred on a fervor for authentic (not exploitative) proclamation”

      Love that idea of authentic proclamation and not exploitative ones. I think, unfortunately, I see the manipulative more often than not in Christian missions today. Thanks so much for your insights and hope your conversation is spurred well today in class! 🙂

  • Lauren Pinkston

    Love hearing your heart about this. I often want to stand on the tips of church steeples and preach the same thing. My husband was studying Jesus’ ministry of preaching and healing this week. It’s interesting that repeated accounts in Mark discuss how the people who came to Jesus were full of faith – BEFORE He healed them. And then in Matt. 13:58, it says that Jesus did NOT do many signs in his own country because of their disbelief. This probably has more relevance to missions in general {there’s no way I believe a girl needs to have faith in God before we should rescue her}, but don’t we often use medicine, clothing, and water wells as a hook to tell people about Jesus? I’m afraid we’ve gotten it all wrong…God is already pursuing His people in every culture. He’s in their hearts and He’s empowering them to live out the Kingdom on earth. But it rarely looks like a little American church. Call me liberal, but I believe authentic Kingdom living is greater than flaky gospel sharing.

    • Lauren,

      To be fair, most of the people we have spoken to that do NOT support our work do not say the girls have to have faith in God before they are rescued. It’s more of unless there is a guarantee of a presentation of the gospel in our work, then they can’t support it. Also to be fair, there are many churches and “church people” who greatly support us financially and otherwise.

      Having said all that, I love your point that God is already in pursuit of people in every culture in creative ways . . . . it makes God bigger and our methodology suddenly perhaps less critical. Love your heart, as always.

      • Lauren Pinkston

        Oh absolutely! I am constantly humbled by the hearts of the people in the churches back home. We stand on their shoulders and do the work we’ve been called to do because of their amazing support. I’m so thankful for this!

        I’m afraid my tone is one of discouragement, and for that I am sorry. I feel very alone in the good fight at times, and it seems that we’ve used the ability to share the gospel as one more hindrance to actually going and reaching God’s people. Lots of talk. Lots of talk. Not a lot of action. My God is SO big…I just think He’s pretty powerful and mighty to save. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be less eager to preach from church steeples ; )

  • This is such a hard topic! But maybe there are two sides. Obviously the greatest need anyone has is salvation. However, as those who are already saved, what flows out of us should be a deep desire to love others as Jesus loved, whether we are able to say the name of Christ or not. To me, this is a lot about our willingness to obey what God tells us to do, even if it doesn’t fit into the perfect little Christian box. However, I do struggle with the fact that, while there can be real steps toward healing apart from Christ, there can not be complete healing and freedom apart from Christ. So, should we only do the work of the gospel when we can clearly proclaim it, no. But, should we do everything within our power to proclaim it, yes!

    Also, this has me thinking….as a public school teacher (when I lived in the states), I was never allowed to share the gospel outright with students. However, I do believe that there was a real ministry there, that God called me to, for both students and parents. As believers, it is our job to be doing the work of the kingdom, with motives that would honor God, to make make his name great. Ideally that would always lead to an opportunity to preach in word as well. However, if that is not possible, then it is better to preach in deed, without word, than to do nothing at all, but I think it is best to be able to do both!

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense…it seems a little disconnected. I believe we really do need both, but that the lack of one, should not negate the necessity or goodness of the other.

    And Laura, I love your heart, your ministry, and the live changing effects it will have on all of those who are free because of it! My prayer is that they would find true freedom in Christ as well, but I am so thankful for the actual freedom, and that there is someone working on their behalf!

    • I loved your example of the public school teacher– I think THAT is the tension we walk, as you walked in the school systems– YES, Exactly. I wholeheartedly agree with:

      “As believers, it is our job to be doing the work of the kingdom, with motives that would honor God, to make make his name great. Ideally that would always lead to an opportunity to preach in word as well. However, if that is not possible, then it is better to preach in deed, without word, than to do nothing at all, but I think it is best to be able to do both!”

  • Holly Lovegrove

    Seems to me the problem is more the fact of evangelical Churchianity having narrowed down what they understand and promote as “the Gospel” to simply a doctrine of personal salvation. That is indeed an integral part of the Good News, but it is still only a part of it. What you are doing is Gospel, it is good news, and it is done in the name of Christ. Nobody can guarantee anyone’s personal spiritual choices; we can only see to it that, insofar as we can influence, they have options they didn’t have before. A woman enslaved to the sex trade who believes in Christ as her Saviour without having the option to exit her profession would hopefully be seen as a travesty even by these well-meaning but narrow-minded men (note they are MEN. I wonder if the Inquisition would have gone differently had there been a woman among them?). If it would not, something is seriously wrong here. But assuming it would be, why is not the opposite true? Is it not just as much a travesty to, at least passively, say it’s somehow OK for her to remain in slavery because she isn’t a Christian anyway? I would hope nobody would actually believe that. IMHO you don’t need the money of those who would limit the Gospel to signing a prayer on a dotted line at the back of a pamphlet. Go for it the way you are doing it and help to re-define “Gospel” for this generation.

    • Holly- I loved this:

      “Seems to me the problem is more the fact of evangelical Churchianity having narrowed down what they understand and promote as “the Gospel” to simply a doctrine of personal salvation. That is indeed an integral part of the Good News, but it is still only a part of it. What you are doing is Gospel, it is good news, and it is done in the name of Christ. Nobody can guarantee anyone’s personal spiritual choices; we can only see to it that, insofar as we can influence, they have options they didn’t have before.”

      This is really my heart. Thanks for writing it.

  • Annie

    “…but it mostly hurts for the girl behind the locked doors–the one who desperately needs brave, compassionate people to rise up on her behalf,regardless of her spiritual choices, past, present or future.” Amen. Love this a lot. Thanks for writing!

    • Absolutely, Annie, thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • Marilyn Gardner

    Excellent post and great discussion. It strikes me that we make this more complicated than it is. Anyone who has lived in a closed country knows this tension — that of living out the gospel and having to be wise with words; living out the gospel through our jobs and vocations but never preaching a sermon. We limit God when we think there is one way to do this. The kingdom is the gospel and vice versa and within all this, we are called to live with integrity, called to be authentic in what we’re doing, and within that give glory to God. God is infinitely creative in the ways he uses to draw people to himself. So – I say a mighty amen to these words “I can’t think of anything more gospel than going into a seedy brothel and loving by rescuing. It reminds me a lot of Jesus.” Thanks Laura – for opening up this important discussion.

    • Marilyn,

      I was hoping someone would mention the tension of living in a closed country and the necessity of “living” gospel. And love, too, your point about our creative God and NOT making things so “boxed in” and complicated. YES.

  • Tamara Tammy White

    Laura, I wholeheartedly agree with you and appreciate your sensitivity to those who may challenge your views. I love your work and would like to connect sometime as I worked for years in Chicago with men, women, and children in the sex trade. Great article.

    • Thanks, Tamara. Awesome that you have a heart for this work too– and in the inner-city– TOUGH! Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

  • Samuel John

    I agree it’s God’s heart to save those enslaved in human trafficking, but I also believe it’s God’s heart that Christians take responsibility for discipleship instead of letting Buddhists and Muslims fill their lives. Wouldn’t you agree?

    • Welllll . . . . honestly, Samuel, I think it gets tricky. Because in our cases, sometimes there isn’t a Christian after care center and the choices are government shelters or Buddhists ones. And honestly, the Buddhists ones have much better care and safety. So, yes, we’d choose the Buddhist one.

      I do think you get into the ethics of proselytizing too– take a girl from a horrific situation, give her great care and then teach her about Jesus– a “religion” that is not in her culture– and put pressure on her to agree with that. Of course she probably will– if her “saviors” are pushing that belief system. And if her care is in essence based on that belief system.

      I just think its pretty complicated and I think lots of us are getting it wrong.

      • Samuel John

        I don’t see any problem taking a girl from a horrific situation and giving her great care and teaching her about Jesus. That’s how it should be. It’s called discipleship, not proselytizing. It sounds more like you’ve had some bad experiences with some care centers, which I can understand. I’ve seen some Christian care centers cause more problems and solve them.

        But I do agree it does get complicated when there are few options, but that’s why it’s Christians responsibility to make one. Don’t you think so?

        • Samuel, I still struggle with the reality that most places/missions I’ve seen are more about results-evangelism-converts-oriented, more “proselytizing.” I’m not saying that is how it should be, but in my admittedly limited experience, that’s what I’ve seen. And I just think we need to be careful. I have another post brewing about the ethics involved in “child evangelism.”

          And YES, Christians definitely need to step up into this issue in sacrificial ways– but then again, there are lots of needs we need to join to meet – orphans, poverty, etc. Thanks for entering into the conversation, Samuel.

  • Anna Wegner

    Our society is so results based that it can be hard for some people to see the value of the small results. But I believe that just as God cares for the sparrows, he cares for each person in the world no matter how small- whether it is a child or woman trapped in sexual slavery or a starving baby. I don’t believe that help should be given with strings attached. Also you never know what seeds you may be planting in the minds of those you work with and those who observe you. Someone else may reap that harvest, and you might never know.

    • Anna- love this truth that God cares for each of us and that our love should be without strings. Two realities we all need to remember. 🙂

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  • I agree, there are times when the gospel has to be silent, when our prayers have to be enough. But we can trust a big-enough God to fill in where our words may damage the work that we are doing. To be sure, there are times when silence is merely a cop-out, but there are times when it is essential for the safety and well-being of individuals. We must know when to use words, and when to allow our actions to speak what words cannot.

    • Beautifully said.

      I like, too, the mention that sometimes silence is a cop-out– I totally agree with that, too. Sometimes our fear keeps us from saying TRUTH, and that’s wrong, too.

  • pastordt

    Holy crap, YES. This is kingdom work and this IS Gospel, even if those practicing it don’t ever mention the name of Jesus. Service to those in slavery is service to Jesus, period. If these are not ‘the least of these,’ then I haven’t a clue who is. Thank you for putting this down in black and white, Laura. It’s a huge issue and it’s pretty ugly, too. There is room for all kinds of missionaries – those who speak and teach and those who offer cold water. Please make room for all of God’s work. Thanks so much for this.

    • Love this: “Please make room for all of God’s work.” YES, exactly.

  • pastordt

    Also? I’m prepping a sermon on John 10 – the whole chapter – and repeatedly in that chapter, Jesus keeps turning the Pharisees back to HIS ACTIONS, HIS DEEDS. They want to trap him with words and he slides out from under it by saying, “Look at what I’ve done. Does it look like God or not?” Go, girl.

  • Cindy

    An awful lot of truth there 🙂 Can we look at the “other side” too? We are in a rural area and come across all types of situations: child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, extreme poverty, extreme physical disability, mental illness, widows, grandparents being the ones raising the kids, transgender men, AIDS, other crazy diseases, etc. We minister to who God sets in our path. Something that can be really discouraging for me is when people ask me why we don’t seek justice for all the victims of human trafficking. My answer: God just has not given us that opportunity yet. Often that is inadequate. God has gifted the body in various ways – we must rejoice in how He is working through His children. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the same manner that He’s working through others. I’m not angry, but there is a wee bit of education in this area that needs to be addressed. And, yes, some potential ministry partners aren’t “on the same page” that we are, so God has them partner with other ministries. I love Hudson Taylor: God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s provision (paraphrased, I’m sure).

    • Cindy, absolutely, we can’t all do everything. I hear that so often our obedience comes when we move towards the needs placed right in front of us. You are bringing Kingdom and Gospel to all those you meet in your area . . .and your LIVING is inspirational to the rest of us.

      Carry on, sweet sister.

  • Alison Swihart

    “Why save them from an earthly hell if you can’t save them from an eternal one?” I’ve heard that phrase.

    But if you don’t save them from an earthly hell, the chances of presenting the alternative to an eternal hell are pretty much nil.

    You do what you do because you are a believer and God commands it.

    The worst comment I have ever heard, and still makes me shudder, came from a missionary-minded woman in my church who, after the tsunami in Indonesia, flippantly said, “Well, that’s one less language group we have to reach before the Lord can return.” That broke my heart, and I believe broke God’s heart, too.

    • Alison,

      That comment you heard makes me want to throw up. For real. What in the world? Ugh.

      Thanks for joining the conversation.

  • Janine

    1st thing that comes to mind: Parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 29-37

    2nd: He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

    3rd. Sometimes its more important to BE the Gospel than to preach it.

    I for one can testify, God works in mysterious ways: Save them. Pray for them. TRUST IN HIM.

    God Bless you and all whom you help.

    • Thanks, Janine, for bringing the words of Jesus into this discussion. I love that. 🙂 And it resonates like nothing else for me. THANK YOU. 🙂

      • Shari

        I am chiming in very late indeed, having just found this. This is a difficult question, and many interesting comments have been made. What comes to my mind is: In Luke 17 Jesus cleansed 10 lepers, but only one worshiped Him. In James we are told to care for the widows and orphans in their distress. We are told the poor will always be with us, and we should help them. And in John 13 we are told to love, and that we would be known as His disciples because of that love. It seems to me that we should love, then trust God for the harvest. It is Holy Spirit’s job, not ours. That 9 lepers walked away from Jesus speaks volumes to me. Certainly we could use more Christian care centers, but until more Christians rise up to start them, we must still continue to love in their absence. May God give us wisdom.

  • Dee Sutton

    This is an interesting Topic. But I am totally for Kingdom!! We can love people to Jesus. I know of numerous cases of people coming to Jesus thru acts, not by words. Jesus did it too. I am not saying we cant preach the gospel, or shouldn’t…..but I totally agree with Colleens comments, we should not with-hold due to them not coming to know Christ, thats actually unjust! And who knows what that act of kindness will bring??

    • I love that we can embrace the mystery of following Christ . . . and the results of that following. Thanks, Dee!

  • John

    Good post. I understand all that you are saying that we as Christian need to love in our actions more than our words at times and rescuing woman or men caught in sex trafficking or slavery is something Christians need to be involved in. We should stand for justice. I love that people feel the need to help woman caught because it is horrific and the need for action is real. We can see and have our hearts broken by the pain and trauma these girls or women have experienced. At the same time I feel we forgot a couple vary real trues concerning the gospel. Truths we have to except by faith but unlike seeing the pain of woman tramp in the sex trade we can not began to see or understand. These two trues are God’s mercy, love and His wrath. With have to except them both by faith. As I share the gospel, what Jesus Christ did on the cross, with people I am amazed people do not understand it. I believe it they fully understood God’s love they would run to Jesus and put their faith in Him. I also believe if people could understand the wrath of God, God just response to sin, they would run to Jesus not wanting to experience God’s wrath themselves, the just punishment for our sins. The wrath that will fall upon everyone who dose not believe, put their trust, in Jesus. I have to believe this is real, just as real as the horrific results we can see everyday because of sin present in the world. (John 3:36). If you are like me I can not wrap my mind around what the wrath of God is like, I have nothing to compare it too, just what the Bible says about it. If we could fully understand it we would be out their trying to rescue people from facing God’s wrath just as much or more so as woman trap in sexual bondage. I believe is there is nothing on the earth that can compare to it, just like there is nothing on earth compared to the love of God. This is why we need to act and show God’s love by standing for justice so God can use us to rescue people from something far greater, the result of sin.

  • I love this post and discussion. Sometimes all we get to do is ‘live the alternative’.
    I moved to Thailand one year ago with my husband and we’re working as a teachers in a 100% Buddhist school. We joined a local Thai church and we are in the process of learning the language. Most days you do not have the opportunity to share the gospel with your words; and even if you could – they would not be able to understand you. I had the opportunity to share the true Christmas story with over 200 of my students who heard it for the first time. I could not exactly do an ‘alter call’ afterwards. To be honest there would be no point – because they were too overwhelmed (For more than 15 years they were convinced that Christmas was all about Santa Clause, reindeers and snow). I cannot even imagine how someone must feel just after being rescued from sex-exploitation! It’s obvious that there is a great need for Christian after care centers. Especially in countries where there is a great need for Christians. Perhaps asking ‘What can we do to guarantee that all the people you rescue will have a Christian after care center to end up in?’ Would be a much better question!

    Laura, keep on doing what you do! You are indeed LIVING the Kingdom by doing exactly what God called you to do. I know that God will keep on using you to inspire others to step-up and fill in the the rest of the gaps by doing what God called them to do. May His Kingdom come!

    • Dorette,

      First off, hang in there! Thailand is a beautiful place but I know its HARD to hack it out, too. Press on in love and perseverance.

      Second, I LOVE this point! “Perhaps asking ‘What can we do to guarantee that all the people you rescue will have a Christian after care center to end up in?’ Would be a much better question!”


  • Richelle Wright

    I’ve waited a bit to chime in here – wanted to take some time to think and pray before responding. Let me start by saying I am thankful for Exodus Road and the ministry and heart behind that ministry. I totally respect what you and Matt have done…are doing.

    Your final question bothers me, however. “Can missions be ONLY-KINGDOM or does it have to be VERBAL-GOSPEL or can it be BOTH?” I don’t really understand why ask it. The obvious answer is it MUST BE BOTH. As followers of Jesus, we are called to serve others and meet needs. That was what Jesus did. Jesus was also the Word made flesh, dwelling among us and so words must be a part of the message we share. Jesus was also not shy of using words and of confrontation when called for. Anything less is an incomplete Gospel. My son and I had a discussion just this past summer about the quote most off attributed to Francis d’Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” That quote really bothers me and does not set well within for the very reasons your last question disturbs.

    One of the earliest recorded descriptions of “the church” – from Acts 4, a prayer believers prayed together: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them…

    That passage is full of both – meeting needs, rescue, signs and wonders, boldly preaching the Gospel in the face of persecution… physical and spiritual rescue.

    Instead of debating the issue – I see these differences as a chance for celebrating beautiful diversity within the body of Christ and the calling He has placed upon our lives, but also mutual accountability.

    When you work with Buddhist after care organizations – you may not always have the opportunity to speak to those girls… but what about to those with whom you are partnering within that organization? And imagine the impact of God got ahold of their hearts… isn’t their desire for social justice evidence that His Spirit is already doing something? Is there opportunity to share the reason for the hope you have within, for why you do what you do – and that it isn’t just for social justice but because God weeps for the oppressed and downtrodden and wants to offer them hope?

    And those who’ve chosen not to partner with you because their focus is different. Maybe that conversation was an opportunity for them to re-examine where “Romans Road” has become the priority rather than a total rescue… while you and your organization are reminded to continually re-evaluate how you can make sure you are using words every time God opens that door. Grace says I trust God to be working through you and in spite of you just as I trust Him to be working through me and in spite of me. Grace also says that I will trust in God’s best when a brother or sister with a different focus confronts me with that difference and be teachable to learn what it is that He has for me to learn, to grow in the ways that He’s providing for me to grow.

    I wish the question asked was how we graciously and honestly “spur on” and hold accountable those who have different ministry focuses while remaining true to our calling and commissioning? The beginning of Acts 6 shows different ministry focuses – and God’s blessing as a result. And then there is this passage from Hebrews 10.14-25: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching….”

    • Richelle, I love this comment! (I’m a huge fan of all your comments). YES, totally, its a bit of a tongue-in-cheek question because I agree, it does need to be both. I think the rub for me comes when people will NEGATE Kindgom, if the opportunity for direct-gospel isn’t there. Someone on Facebook said, “She’s not asking if people shouldn’t get the gospel, she’s asking if they can’t, should you not save them?” I think that maybe should have been the question i asked.

      I love that you speak and comment in Scripture. That is beautiful and so necessary and honestly, something I need to overflow with more often. Thanks for your accountability, friend.

      YES, BOTH, always.

      • Richelle Wright

        Yeah… or as my oldest boy says, “Yup!”

        I saw that comment and I got that too. Perhaps in our desires to be intentional we become too focused and close too many doors? We each do what we can and then we must trust God and His working in others to do what we can’t… and since that is most of it???

        Thanks back at you – always – for being a friend. 🙂

    • Um, can I also say that I loved that you took time to pray before you chimed in? That speaks to a deep well and wisdom . . . again, challenging for me as I rattle off words on the computer far too quickly sometimes.

    • Colleen Connell Mitchell

      Knowing what St. Francis was truly like, I have done a lot of reading on that quote and whether he actually said it. Here is a good article addressing that:

      • Richelle Wright

        thanks for that link, Colleen!

  • Gary Ware

    Hello Everyone, Your situation and questions combined with all the comments are congruent with Jesus and his disciples discussions.
    In my opinion, current Christianity is primarily a business. The majority of ministry, I know, were former secular managers, business owners or family members of ministers. Production, profit margin, efficient operations and staff chosen for their administrative skills are the primary standard hierarchy. I quit judging this a decade ago, in fact, almost quit attending services over it. What I have learned to do is LIVE with the Program OR stay out of it.
    Readers may quote scripture or give other wise advice but Jesus told his group to change themselves and the World – NOT – the church. Jesus instructed a variety of people WHAT to do, then left the DOING up to them. When I HAVE to deal with the management, I use a buffer person who knows the answers they want and gives them to them.
    Please do not frustrate yourself wondering WHY? Just do what you must to accomplish your tasks. Summers here on the Texas Gulf Coast are HOT and HUMID. I do not like the heat or humidity. My options are LIVE with it OR MOVE but I am not given the authority or power to change either.
    A friend and I were discussing a similar frustration and reminded our selves that a Remnant has always existed to carry out every aspect of God’s call.
    Ya’ll are doing great work. God will continue to provide all your needs PLUS.
    God bless.

    • It’s an interesting insight you have that “current Christianity is primarily a business.” I assume you are talking about American Churches? If so, I can really see that. But, I love your point about essentially getting over it and plugging in anyway.

      Thanks, Gary, for the encouragement. I appreciate your insights and was really encouraged by this:

      The idea that “God will continue to provide all your needs PLUS.” YES.

      • Gary Ware

        You are welcome and Yes, I was speaking of the American community only.

  • Pingback: Some Links for the Weekend |()

  • Gary Ware

    You may find this article interesting. I did.

    “Lover or Prostitute?” The Question that Changed My Life

  • Pingback: Let Me Make Your Kid a Buddhist()

  • Sarah Gill

    Beautiful. As my husband and I are preparing to leave as missionaries, I’ve found myself wrestling more and more with this question. Your thoughts here resonate so much with my heart to see the Kingdom come. I think, of course, we need both – but it just seems so right to me to start first by bringing justice. Reminds of the oft-used quote by St. Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” Thank you for your insights helping me come to my own understanding of this!

  • tanya nareau

    Omgosh…you truly get it. I have been saying lately thas most times the “world” ACTS better and more like Jesus than most Christians do….i totally agree wit USING the world to do Jesus work….let your ACTIONS keep bringing in the kingdom girl!!!! Tanya nareau

  • BothAnd

    If people are thinking Gospel *or* Kingdom (whichever they prefer), then they’ve got one or both of them wrong. Jesus’ own Gospel was, “The Kingdom is here! You can repent at start living in it!” Then He taught and demonstrated what living in the Kingdom is like, then he conquered sin and death and made it possible for us to enter into and start living in that Kingdom.

    Paul’s statements that seem contrary to this (“Christ and Him crucified”) need to be put in the greater context not just in which Paul wrote them but also in the greater context of Jesus teaching as a whole, by which his statements can be defined.

  • Edwidge

    … This has me thinking the harvest and plentiful… I praise God for the courage He has installed in you and whom ever is involved with for this great mission… definitely eye opening. God bless you!

  • So I have been perusing your blog and one of the posts led me here . . . So sorry I’m 7 months late, but I want to AFFIRM everything you just said!!!! I wholeheartedly agree!! I don’t understand why “social justice” is not considered “evangelism.” In my mind, they are the same thing!! I believe that often acts of love and justice often carry more weight than someone preaching about some unfamiliar God. Actually sometimes, the words are harmful (if you’re on the Internet for 2 seconds, you see that) and can hinder the gospel. In your case especially, what these girls need is safety, security, and a way out of their situation. They don’t need someone trying to convert them, and their conversion shouldn’t be the cost of their freedom, either.

    Also, you may not be able to reveal what countries you work in but I recognized Thai in some pictures. I was an MK in Bangkok from 1989-1996. My parents were there until 2000. Loved it!!

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