My mom hated taking me to amusement parks because she was always worried I’d get kidnapped or molested. It was an irrational, if understandable, fear. It’s far more dangerous to take children to remote parts of the world in an attempt to convert people whose culture and beliefs are either different from or unknown to you. You don’t know how they’ll react to your attempts, and you don’t know how you’ll handle the surroundings.
But Pastor John Piper says those are all acceptable risks for the task at hand.
Should a Christian couple take their children into danger as part of their mission to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world? Short answer: Yes.
Why? Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.
Piper uses the example of Paul, author of most of the New Testament, who was persecuted and ultimately executed for his faith, as justification for his argument, failing to take into consideration the drastic differences between ancient Rome and Christianized, 21st-century America.
I’m not a parent, so maybe I’m not qualified to dispense advice on how to raise holy, God-revering children, but I do know plenty of devout Christians whose parents weren’t missionaries (much less ones who put their lives in danger to evangelize).
Technically speaking, all Christians are required to be “missionaries” anyway. You don’t have to travel far or put yourself in harm’s way to fulfill that biblical mandate. 1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to provide an answer for the hope that you have,” while Matthew 28:16-30 says Christians are to “go out into the nations, making disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Not only that, there are plenty of ways to instill “Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles” that don’t involve knowingly bringing young children into unknown territory. You can start by educating them about poverty, teaching them to live frugally within their means, and donating what they can to charity. My non-Christian parents instilled this in my brother and I by having us choose a toy we no longer played with at the end of the year to donate to kids who had none. No passports were required for our lesson in “comfort-renouncing” compassion.
But Piper, as you may recall, is the same pastor who once recommended that abused wives stay with their husbands because abuse is a “crisis of submission.” He’s an advocate for exploitation, rather than protection, of the innocent.
This irresponsible advice, that children can be put in dangerous situations as long as the goal is to put a few more notches on the evangelical tally board, is no different.