Sharing Jesus’ message or his love?

I was sitting in a hotel lounge in Johannesburg during a meeting for a mission trip I lead about this time last year. I had arranged for one of the local staff members, Karl, to come and talk about native African religions, and how to properly approach that topic with African people.

He began his talk by asking this simple question: “Why did you come to South Africa?”

After an awkward pause, someone said, “To share the love of Christ.”

Karl quickly said, “No, you didn’t.”  Everyone looked at Karl as if he had broken the unwritten Christian rule, “Never offend anyone at a meeting.”  Did he really just tell her no! The nerve!

But just as soon as Karl said, “No,” he said, “You came to share the message of Jesus.”

After a quick explanation, everyone got the point: If we only speak of Jesus’ love, we can be fluffy and avoid of the call to receive him and repent. If we speak of Jesus message, we share his true love, the love that comes with his hard call to intense discipleship.

So often, as Americans, we say, “I want to share Jesus’ love with little African orphans!”  And that is good and important, but it is not ultimate. The ultimate thing is to share the message of God’s redeeming work that he has accomplished in Jesus’ life and death on the cross. This work makes us right with God, removes our sin, saves us from a life of guilt, keeps us from eternity in hell, and does a thousand other things I don’t even know about. That’s a glorious message.

We cannot allow missions to simply be the “Christian” way to do social justice. If our mission teams are not centered on the gospel message they will fail to show Christ’s true love. And that would be a tragedy.

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Robben Island Prison and Soccer

I have been following the World Cup fairly closely this time around since I lived in South Africa last year. The New York Times has written a wonderful article about Robben Island Prison and the soccer league that developed for the inmates.

Here are some pictures from when I visited Robben Island.


The stories you won’t read about will matter the most.

I used to hate soccer.  I thought it was for Europeans who didn’t have the coordination to play American sports.  Then I lived in South Africa and was continually schooled by kids half my age who did things with a soccer ball with their feet that I can’t even do with my hands.  After a year there, my appreciation has grown for the game. I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard, but suffice it to say that I’m going to pay a bit more attention to the World Cup that starts this Friday. I’m even more interested because it is being hosted by none other than South Africa.

South Africa and it’s people has been preparing for this tournament for a long time. This is the largest sporting event to ever be hosted on the African continent. This is a big deal.  Most likely, Africa will never host an Olympic Games, so unless another World Cup comes to the continent, this is Africa’s (not just South Africa’s) finest hour.

As much as the international competition excites me, what’s more is the fact that the entire world is coming to South Africa, and churches and para-church ministries want to spread the gospel to the visiting nations.  They have been preparing for this since the vote was cast to bring the tournament to their beloved country.

In the next month, you will read or watch a lot about this tournament if you open up a sports page or log onto  You’ll read  about Wayne Rooney scoring goals for England, or Landon Donavon leading the Americans on an improbable run. You will hear about Bafana Bafana (SA’s national team) and their fans’ vuvuzela noise makers.  You will watch segments about the favorites, Spain, Italy, and Germany, and their superstar rosters that shouldn’t even lose a game.  You will learn about a country torn by racism that is slowing healing and how something as insignificant as a soccer tournament can be much-needed medicine.

But the stories that you won’t hear or read or see will be the most eternally important. They will be about a boy from Soweto who hears the Jesus story in his own language. They will be about a local university soccer player who is bold enough to share his faith for the first time. They will be about churches partnering with other churches from another denomination in order to tell people how God and sports are more related than you might think. They will be about Argentinian and Dutch fans who read a gospel tract in their hotel rooms and want to know more about spiritual realities. They will be about those lonely times after a loss when a striker realizes there is more to life than scoring goals and winning a trophy. They will be about a country that needs medicine — not in the form of futbol — but in the form of the Great Physician, who not only heals emotional wounds, but forgives the worst of sins.

These are the stories that will matter millions of years after World Cup 2010 is over. All these stories are bound up in the great story of redemption that God has been, and is still, writing. It’s a story worth paying attention to. Let’s ask our Mighty God to open the eyes of the blind and draw all people to his Son.


South African Hodge-Podge

Part 10 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.


Campus Crusade Leadership at UJ

Part 9 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.