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Your Safety Serving in Mission Is Not God’s #1 Priority

by | May 14, 2021 | Articles, Missions, Resources

I had the opportunity to travel to Russia a few years back with some Assembly of God Missionaries working among the Russian people. We flew on our fan-favorite Delta Airlines to and from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Before we started serving in the mission ahead of us, the in-country airline to St. Petersburg really grabbed my attention.

The Assembly of God Missionaries booked our flights on Russian-owned Aeroflot. That was a name I had completely forgotten until I saw it plastered on the side of the airplane outside our gate. I was immediately transported back 30 years to an international business course I took at Indiana University.

Now a valued Delta Skymiles partner, Aeroflot was once dubbed the most dangerous airline in the world with over 5x as many airline deaths as any other global carrier. We studied them as an example of how not to build a business! Yet here I was with an Aeroflot ticket in my hand. I did not inform my wife.

Obsessed with Safety

I thought about Aeroflot again last week while listening to the flight attendant give her well-worn pre-flight speech on the tarmac at Denver International Airport. I’ve been doing a fair bit of traveling again following 2020’s pandemic shutdown, and while airlines have always been concerned about customer safety (and gratefully so!), they seem to be more obsessed than ever that I know it.

On top of all their typical maintenance, they require masks, compulsively hand out sanitizing wipes, and deep clean the cabins between every leg of the flight. Thankfully, they are trying to make sure each passenger feels as protected as possible from COVID-19 transmission. This is good customer care and a smart business policy; I’m grateful for it.

But this one phrase kept ringing in my ears: “Your safety is our #1 priority.” I heard it over and over again.

Your safety.

Your safety.

Your safety.

While I love this promise from my favorite airline, it got me thinking. Is this the kind of “customer service” I expect from God while serving on our mission too?

Risk Management

I joke with our team that the business world is run by attorneys and insurance companies. Risk management is what they call it. In the throes of a global pandemic, this seems to be the driving force for every decision being made, from Congress to schools to local businesses. After 2020, our risk management procedures have injected some serious steroids.

There is apparent wisdom here. Reckless behavior is not God-honoring. But when I overlay our culture’s safety obsession with some of the stories I hear from our partners on the front lines of global missions, there is a definitive disconnect. For Assembly of God Missionaries, there’s a fine line between reckless, negligent, and foolhardy and bold, obedient, and faith-filled.

When it comes to embracing and engaging the Kingdom, is our safety God’s #1 priority? I think it’s a fair question!

We get regular updates from Assembly of God Missionaries serving in mission about former Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus. In recent weeks, I’ve heard stories of kidnappings, beatings, attempted stonings, and supernatural intervention from God amid near-martyrdom. The most recent incident left one of the young men so traumatized, it took him four days to physically and emotionally recover enough to tell his story. And yet, these new believers refuse to recant their newfound faith. “God is with me, and God is always good,” he declared. “I cannot abandon my faith in Jesus.”

Safety is not their #1 priority.

I know a young family serving on mission with four young children that live in a war-torn part of the Middle East. They carry a deep conviction that Jesus called them to this dangerous place to proclaim the Gospel to the unreached people who live there. They work and move about with wisdom and caution, but it’s not abnormal to put the kids to bed to the sound of gunfire in the streets. Their call to take the Gospel to the hard places compels their obedience.

Safety is not their #1 priority.

I know Assembly of God missionaries serving on mission that live in the shadow of one of Islam’s holiest cities, building a business that serves the community as they make the church among the unreached there. They’ve baptized 8 new believers in the last year and are under constant scrutiny from the local government about their work. At any moment, they could be detained, deported, or worse. 

Safety is not their #1 priority. 

I know a family of Assembly of God Missionaries serving on a mission that functions under the watchful eyes of a Communist regime. The government monitors their every move as they build a BAM business to serve the local residents in the town where they live. Sharing Jesus comes at high risk. Is the person they’re engaging with the Gospel sincerely seeking or a government informant?

Safety is not their #1 priority.

I could go on for quite a while…

Faith Can Be Dangerous

Please hear me; I’m not celebrating stories of rash behavior masquerading as faith, especially during a global pandemic. My point here is not that real Christians serving a mission throw caution to the wind. Assembly of God Missionaries don’t honor God by being dumb. Faith is not reckless, but faith is always obedient.

And in that way, faith can be extremely dangerous. While I know many “snake-handlers” have bizarrely twisted these definitions, I do think Christians need to wrestle with our Western obsession with safety and security.

I’ve seen plenty of people do stupid things and call it faith. But I’ve also seen plenty of people dodge uncomfortable obedience and call it wisdom. I have to wrestle those two tension points in my own life every day.

I Didn’t Call You to Be Safe

Last week, I was privileged to hear Dr. Beth Grant speak to a roomful of 250 college students. Dr. Grant is the co-founder of Project Rescue, one of the most Gospel-centered and effective anti-sex-trafficking organizations worldwide. Beth recounted the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. Like many churches and ministries, Project Rescue was deeply worried about how COVID would impact their ministry and their finances.

She immediately went to prayer. What she brought back to her team was undoubtedly a word from God.

“Beth, I didn’t call you to be safe,” she shared. “I called you to be ready.”

That bold challenge from God propelled the Project Rescue team into an unprecedented year of impact – during a global pandemic. They saw miraculous funding and never-before-seen rescue opportunities emerge because they didn’t hunker down and hide; they stepped into dangerous obedience. 

Safety was not their #1 priority.

He is Good 

I’m reminded of that powerful moment in The Chronicles of Narnia where Lucy asks about Aslan the Lion.

“Is He safe?” she asks. 

Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 

Maybe you’re a missional entrepreneur serving on a mission, and God is asking you to leave your solid career footing behind to start that new business for His glory. Maybe you’re feeling a tug to leave your comfortable home and take the Gospel cross-culturally so that the unreached can hear about Jesus.

Maybe God is asking you to give more than you’ve ever given before, and it’s scaring you to death. Maybe there’s a divine idea that God has dropped into your heart, and it’s time to risk everything to bring it to pass.

This year has sent many of us scrambling for safe places. But our safety is not God’s #1 priority. Of course, He isn’t safe. But He is good.  

Let’s not allow our culture’s obsession with safety to keep us from dangerous obedience to God.

Erik Cooper

After starting his career in the business world, Erik spent 12 years in full-time ministry, both on staff at a large suburban church and as a church planter in a downtown urban context. In addition to his role at The Stone Table, he also serves as the Vice President of Community Reinvestment Foundation, a nonprofit real estate company that provides high-quality affordable housing all over Indiana while investing its profits into missions through The Stone Table.

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