by Rex McDowell, Sr.
It is a common cliché among us: “You can go, or you can give, or you can pray.” We are so familiar with the statement about missions that we seldom pause to question it; however, it presents two problems serious enough that we may need to repeal and replace it!
A False Sense of Completion
First, the “or” suggests a choice among mutually exclusive options. When dad tells daughter, “You may have a brownie or a cookie or ice cream,” she understands that she will get one desert, not two or three, and she has to decide which one she wants. Though the intention behind “go or give or pray” is not to limit involvement, the subtle message comes through: If you do any one of these activities, you have done enough. You have fulfilled your responsibility to the Lord of the harvest. Furthermore, it can seem as though the choice is up to you. “Let’s see, which shall it be? Do I like going or giving or praying better? I believe I will have praying this time. ‘God, bless all the missionaries, amen.’ Whew, done!”
Though the intention behind “go or give or pray” is not to limit involvement, the subtle message comes through: If you do any one of these activities, you have done enough.
Actually, the dad-daughter-dessert analogy breaks down. Daughter finds it hard to choose because she likes all three options; she wishes she could have them all. I suspect that most of us consider going, giving, and praying to all be pretty unpalatable, so we latch onto what seems least distasteful. Let’s be honest. When we hear “go or give or pray,” does it motivate us to substantial missions giving, serious consideration of going, or even more earnest, specific missions praying? Isn’t the net effect rather a sense of relief (as long as we can remember mentioning a missionary in our prayers sometime this past month) that we have this area adequately covered? “I pray; therefore, I’m fine.” Instead of increasing our Great Commission participation, I fear go – give – pray more often excuses our low level of participation. Perhaps we should at least rephrase it: “You can go, or you can give, but you can’t just pray.”
Limiting Our Limitless Opportunities
Second, “you can go, or you can give, or you can pray” implies that these three options exhaust the possibilities. You have to find your place among these alternatives, because there are no others. False! Rather, virtually limitless opportunities for involvement in the Great Commission exist all around you. For example, OMF International doubles the list to “6 Ways to Reach God's World”: Learn. Pray. Go. Send. Welcome. Mobilize. Its website offers six “brief videos that help you discover how you can be involved through learning with intention, prayer, going cross-culturally as messengers of the gospel, sending (which includes giving), welcoming internationals around you and even mobilizing others for all of these strategic roles.” Neal Pirolo in his book Serving as Senders Today identifies six areas in which missionaries need support—support you can help provide: moral support, logistics support, financial support, prayer support, communication support, and reentry support. Mission Helps, a holiness missions support organization, doubles that number again to twelve existing areas through which you can immediately channel your skills and resources toward advancing God’s global purposes. Lift up your eyes! Not only are the fields already white to harvest, but also the available ways you can have a part in reaping them exceed your imagination!
Virtually limitless opportunities for involvement in the Great Commission exist all around you.
You may notice that the expanded lists above include go – give – pray. “Repeal and replace” does not mean eliminating these three vital, biblical ways of obeying God’s call; rather, it means challenging this particular phraseology by highlighting its insidious pitfalls. But every believer must be open to going (and God wants many more to go than are; He may well want you). Almost every believer should be systematically and liberally giving to missions, above the tithe. And scripturally, prayer is never an or option; it is always and (Luke 10:2; Colossians 4:3-4): “You can’t just go or give (or x); you must also pray.”
How to Break Out
Let’s get practical. If you sense the Holy Spirit inviting you to embrace God’s heart for reaching the whole world, how can you break out of a deadening “go or give or pray” mentality?
And if you don’t sense the Holy Spirit inviting you to embrace God’s heart for reaching the whole world, start by inviting Him to do so!
Your options for personal, direct contributions to the completion of God’s Great Commission never end, but one option is not available to you as a Jesus follower: noninvolvement! You can’t not go and not give and not pray!