We tendered to land at a small town named Kailua-Kona, located on the “Big Island.” What a beautiful venue. Some may know this community as the start of the annual Ironman World competition. We were not there to participate. In fact, my wife and I simply took a leisurely stroll along the main road, shopped and even had lunch. It was a great day.
It was also an interesting day. As we walked down the busy street there was a man who was handing out bits of literature. They were cards with a clear biblical gospel message. We asked him about his activity of talking with people about Jesus. He said that he always comes to town on Wednesdays because that is when the cruise ships are in port. That was the best time to meet with people.
He was standing across the street from a prominent church building known as Mokuaikaua Church. This Congregationalist church is the oldest Christian church in the islands we know to be Hawaii. It is an interesting story. Established by missionaries from New England in 1820, this particular structure was built in 1837 and is still in good condition.
The church was advertising an event; the Christmas Eve worship service. I asked the man on the street if he was a member of Mokuaikaua church. He said, “No.”
“Do you live in Kailua-Kona?” I asked.
“No. I live about thirty miles south of here.”
“What congregation do you belong to?”
“I lead a house church,” he said. “About 16 people, but they all know the mission.” He was clear to communicate—”but they all know the mission.” After reading the card and visiting a while, it was clear that the mission was that they were sent to proclaim the gospel to people who don’t know Jesus. That was their singular focus.
We said goodbye and then walked across the street to the Congregationalist church. It was open for viewing. It was a beautiful structure. We were greeted by another man. He was a member of Mokuaikaua church. He was very friendly as well and spoke to us of the history of the congregation and the changes that have occurred over the years. But there was one thing missing. While we talked about that which was interesting, we did not talk about that which was important. The greeter introduced us to his church but there was no discussion of Jesus and His gospel. Such a conversation was not a priority. The mission zeal which established the congregation in 1820, from what I could see, had faded.
I am confident that both of these men know and love Jesus. Though I do not know their hearts, I assume that the object of the faith of both of these men is Jesus and on that basis I do believe that I will see these men in glory someday. It would be arrogant of me to arbitrate judgment, one man over the other, but the contrast of form struck me. It convicted me. I am so much more comfortable with the church in the building than I am with the church on the street. I grew up in church buildings. I have built church buildings and repurposed a bank building to serve as a church. But the street is different. It is open, not protected. On the street, however, the mission was clear. There was no reason to be there except for the mission of telling people that Jesus loves you and died for you.
For so many years I have proclaimed Jesus in safe places; a building, a congregation, a program or an event. And that is my comfort zone. But that is not the mission. “You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b) We do not proclaim the tools of our witness such as buildings, programs and events. No. We proclaim Jesus and Him crucified without cover. (1 Cor 1:23) We proclaim the reality of sin and God’s solution to sin in the cross. I don’t need to look for safety behind a comfort zone. I only need people who have been prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear the rich promises of forgiveness.
Let me ask you, where is your street? Where is the place where the only thing you have is the mission and nothing else? On which side of your comfort zone are you? I will long remember the street evangelist’s words, “They all know the mission.”
By: Rev. Steve Misch
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area A