EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from The Cure by Harry Kraus (Crossway).


I’m tired. That’s a bad thing. But that’s a common thing for missionaries serving on foreign fields. In Africa, tiredness is almost a badge. I’m working hard for Jesus, you know. Others should notice and break into some sort of spontaneous expression of praise; if not directly to God, at least stop and pat me on the back. But this isn’t a book about being exhausted for Christ, and in fact most of what I have to say will show you how futile and empty most of our precious work has become. Because we’ve strayed away from the main thing.

Yes, I’m tired. I am. But not like you might think. I’m tired of Christianity being misunderstood. Tired of Christianity being judged on the basis of Western culture. Tired of letting Hollywood define us, tired of materialism being the first love of the Christian, and tired of watching church growth being made up of disenchanted souls hopping from congregation to congregation instead of the lost swelling our ranks. I’m tired of seeing Islam make advances when I know the truth is on our side. Tired of seeing people embrace a religion that hides behind a cloak of lies while truth sits idle on the curb, ignored and forgotten.

We’ve strayed from the essence that defines us. We’ve left the main thing long behind, while we strive forward. We’re busy. Fruitless. And don’t forget that admirable missionary trait, tired.

We are awash with conferences and filled to the brim with discussions about methods for effective evangelism, contextualization, cell churches, culture-appropriate dress, and techniques for language acquisition. We talk about church planting strategies, partnership, and biblical visions for our eleventh-hour calling to complete the Great Commission. Just this week I attended a week-long missions conference where we spent more time learning about emergency contingency plans (in case an under-the-radar team in a creative access country is compromised), self-defense techniques, and spiritual warfare than we did about the main thing.

In fairness, the conference planners didn’t really ignore the main thing. They just assumed the attendees (many were seasoned missionaries) had already mastered the main thing. So on we go with other items of importance while the very heartbeat of the gospel is sidelined.

Don’t misunderstand. There are other important components of effective ministry. I am a huge proponent of thinking and acting strategically in planning outreach. An understanding of spiritual warfare is vital. There is even a place for study of safety issues and preventing possible hostile actions against missionaries who serve within environments unfriendly to Christians and our message. But it’s still not the main thing.

I’ve spoken to dozens, perhaps hundreds of missionaries serving on foreign fields and many more Christians back home, and I’ve concluded that most of us have tilted away from the core of God’s motives behind the Great Commission. In a moment of profound tenderness we answered the call. But in the busyness of doing church, the heart of the gospel has faltered, its rhythm pathologic and in many cases expressing a fatal asystole. The heart of the gospel that once beat strong within is now stilled, registering a flat line, being ineffective and room-temperature dead.

Back home, the Christian church is facing its own onslaught of problems. The evils inherent to postmodernism, cultural irrelevance, the rising threat of Islam, and materialism need to be combated and overcome, but too many congregations are mired in pettiness, arguing over externals, worship styles, and schedules. The heartbeat of the gospel gasps beneath arguments over dress, programs, and budgets.