Dr. Michael Oh delivered a message centered on the Gospel, suffering, and missions to over 4,000 college students and collegiate ministers in Louisville, Kentucky as a part of the 2013 Cross Conference being hosted by John Piper's Desiring God ministry.
Michael Oh is a gifted Christian leader and a missionary to Japan. He was appointed CEO of the Lausanne Movement earlier this year, whose mission is to evangelize the world for Christ. Oh joined Dr. John Piper, David Platt, Matt Chandler, and Kevin DeYoung, among others, at the missions conference. The aim of CROSS is to mobilize students for the Great Commission - "Our focus is on all the unreached peoples of the world where Jesus is not worshiped as God and Savior," their website reads.
So as not to seem provocative, Oh began his message by explaining where the phrase "give a dam" likely originated - in the marketplaces of India where the dam, a small copper coin, was used in trading. If one would not even "give a dam" for an item, it was not valuable to them in the least. The expression came to mean "I don't care"- and this is what Oh fears is the attitude of some in the church today when it comes to social justice and even the Great Commission.
Oh began by listing several things that the church should not "give a dam" for - things like "money, reputation, success, what you look like." Instead, the body of Christ should focus on "the Gospel, suffering, and missions," he says.
The world is suffering, and many are without hope in Christ. Oh gave numerous statistics about global sex trafficking and abortion, and challenged the church to be agents of change for the suffering. While speaking out against trafficking and the oppression of the poor will likely be lauded by society, Dr. Oh says, the church also needs to be willing to boldly speak against prevalent cultural norms such as materialism, homosexual practice, and abortion. We should be willing to endure ridicule for the alleviation of suffering with "love, humility, integrity, boldness, and urgency," he says.
The Christian calling is one of servant-hood, says Oh - we are to help meet the needs of others, just as Christ came to meet our direst need of salvation. He cited God's desire to help the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner in Deuteronomy 10:18-19:
"He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt" (English Standard Version).
Inviting international students into your home and circle of friends is one way to minister to sojourners, says Oh - "Many of them are some of the top scholars and future leaders of their nations." Dr. Oh says that eighty-six percent of Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims do not know a single Christian personally. He encourages Christians to "give a dam" by inviting them into their lives.
"Not everyone wants to be rescued from every type of suffering," Oh says - Christians often even increase their exposure to hardship for the sake of alleviating physical and eternal suffering in others. Missionaries are called to leave their friends and families and lands for the sake of people they do not even know. Not only do they go without the familiar comforts of home, but also there is intense persecution of Christians all over the world for the sake of the One Who has rescued us from "the greatest possible suffering." Jesus' death on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sin is "what makes moving into a bad neighborhood sane ... the insanity of ‘throwing away your life' for missions sane," he says.
"Changing the world is not as easy as some would have you think," Oh cautions - it takes more than "liking" things on Facebook or wearing a pair of Toms; it "costs, and costs dearly," he says. Christians can be tempted to believe that life as a missionary would be miserable; however, this is far from true - "You may lose out on the things that don't last, that do not satisfy," he says, "but you will gain more and more of Christ."
When we care about those suffering in this world, our witness about Christ is strengthened and we often have more opportunities to propagate the Gospel. We ought not focus on the fight for social justice and lose sight of the Great Commission, however. "How great an injustice it is to know about eternal suffering and do nothing ... anything less than knowing Christ isn't enough," says Oh of the foremost priority of addressing peoples' Spiritual need for Christ. Christians who share the Gospel yet live unrighteously - those who "Champion for Jesus on Twitter but not in [their] neighborhood" - damage their witness of Christ, he says.
Oh also touched on Romans 10:14-15 and encouraged his audience to be senders - those who joyfully give "costly, worship-filled giving" toward missions:
"How then will they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'"
Oh challenges Christians to give at least ten percent to the church and at least ten percent to help reach the unreached.
"It's an incredible blessing to be a part of something that really does change the world, it really does have an impact that lasts forever," says Oh of the calling to be a missionary - "You will celebrate the fruit for ten thousand times ten thousand years."
The Cross Conference ends tonight, with speaker David Platt beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST.