Ed Foster calls us to use our salary to build the kingdom.
Ed foster is a year 4 clinical student and co-leads the charity '500k churches'.
Money. As medics, most of us are going to be earning quite a lot of it. Yet it's also something we don't really like thinking about. It feels a bit like there's something unspiritual about it. After all, chasing after money is something people of the world do. Most of us went into medicine because we're passionate about people's health - and passionate about using our skills as doctors to serve the Lord. We certainly didn't go into it for the money. But what if God's a whole lot more interested in our salaries than we are? The purpose of this article is to convince you that our salaries, rather than be a mere by-product of our calling from the Lord, are one of the greatest gifts given us for the building of Jesus' kingdom.
A greater goal
Let me start with some background. I have always believed that the Christian medic is fundamentally at odds with his secular colleague. For the secular medic, there is nothing greater than fixing the human body. Not so for the Christian. We all know that this life is transitory and but a prelude to an eternity that will endure for centuries unfathomable. Our greatest need is not the repair of our bodies, but the healing of our souls. It is commonly believed that doctors save lives. We don't. None of us will be able to stop even a single one of our patients from dying. Our greatest cures are only ever postponing the inevitable. And yet the gospel of Jesus Christ brings life. Life in all its glorious fullness - and life everlasting. Every Christian medic knows, for the very reason that they love medicine, that their first priority must be seeing the Father's prodigal children brought home. What good is it if our patients gain the whole world - and yet forfeit their own souls?
Well I want to suggest that medics' salaries, more than their practice per se, are their greatest asset for helping people be saved. And focusing in more, I'm going to suggest in particular that we can make our salaries have this impact by using them to empower and enable native missionary movements.
The era of native missionaries
A word on native missions. Many of us were raised on, and inspired by, stories of nineteenth and twentieth century missionary doctors who lead pioneering missions to nations that had never before heard of Jesus. Knowing they could never reach entire countries and continents by themselves, these men and women planted churches with the hope that these churches would expand and multiply and take over the work of evangelising their countries themselves. And that's exactly what happened. The fire being lit, local people began spreading the news of Jesus amongst their own people. This process is still happening today - and its spearhead is native missionary movements.
We are emerging into the era of the native missionary.
While the gospel falters in the Western world and doctors lose their jobs for preaching Jesus, the Church is witnessing explosive growth in the developing world. As a keen evangelist, I have again and again been frustrated by the striking lack of inclination of my friends to give their lives to Christ - despite having brought many to church and CU events. But, for whatever reason, among my young-adult peers in India, there appears to be a completely different set of rules - for out there, people hear the gospel and are, again and again, brought to tears by it. Maybe in the developing world Christians possess more courage. Perhaps non-believers in resource-poor countries have more need than Europeans. Maybe Christianity has a special power among 'gospel-naïve' communities. Whatever the reason, the fruit of native missionaries is nothing short of remarkable. On multiple occasions I have personally witnessed people younger than myself planting churches in several villages where they have never heard the gospel - and that in less time than it's taken me to complete my medical degree!
And this brings me neatly back to medics and the incredible gift which is our salary. For at present, the great power of the native missionary is not being fully tapped. It isn't even close to reaching its potential. The workers are there, sure - but they're not being sent. New churches in the developing world are poor, and struggle even to support their own pastors - sending out armies of church-planters simply isn't on the cards. It's a strange situation, but the workers are plentiful - and it's the support of the workers that is few!
It's in our hands
But now get this - God's provision for sending these workers is in our hands. The power of our doctor's salary to send native missionaries is incredible. If Jesus were here, he might say it was comparable to yeast working through a batch of dough or the explosive growth of a mustard seed. Native missionaries require as little as £50 a month to provide for their basic needs - food, rent, clothes - which means £600 a year. A full-time UK GP or consultant might expect to earn around £80,000 per annum (though many in staff grade posts earn less). Tax and pension contributions leave just under £50,000 to take home. Let's say we take our giving seriously and decide to live simply - as our missionary brethren across the world are living. For those of us with few family commitments and in cheaper parts of the country, we could live off as little as £20,000. This means we could give away nigh on £30,000 annually, worth £36,000 with Gift Aid. And with native missionaries requiring £600 a year, we could thus salary 60 native missionaries. Even an F1 on 2015 levels of basic pay will take home around £17,000 (with most earning more through banding). Consider how many missionaries that wage could fund if you lived off your student budget for just one year longer...Some pretty hefty food for thought, hey?
It's almost too ludicrous to be true. But it is true. Charities supporting these native missionary movements exist already, as do Christians committed to this radical giving. As a medic I have frequently been frustrated with how difficult it is to share the gospel with my patients. What a blessing it is to know that the money earned from treating these patients can be used to enable hundreds of others to hear the gospel - and these people living in communities being reached for the first time in history.
A call to radical giving
Well, if this article has in any way succeeded, you will be seeing your life and vocation with a newfound significance and responsibility. Our Church today has a blind-spot - that of encouraging enmasse giving for empowering native missionaries - and the impact we can make through this for the evangelisation of the world is staggering. As Jesus put it, 'those to whom much has been given, much will be expected'. Or if you prefer a quote from a modern day super-hero 'with great power comes great responsibility'. God has positioned us as Christian medics for a reason, and we have a duty to use our salaries for the building of his kingdom. So please consider this seriously. Make it a target of your life to be a radical giver and send tens or hundreds of native missionaries. Don't wait until you're earning mega bucks. Start giving today. I know medical students who already make the sacrifice of £50 a month to single-handedly send a native missionary. Let's invite Jesus to be Lord of both our medicine and our money!
'500,000 Churches' is a charity raising money to send native missionaries to every one of India's 500,000 churchless villages. Launched in October 2014, the charity (called '500k' for short) presently sends 131 native missionaries in India, reaching several times this number of villages. The 500k team believes India is the outstanding need of our time. According to the Joshua Project, there are more unreached people in the Indian subcontinent than in the rest of the world combined. 1 To find out more, get involved spreading the message, or to give and start supporting a native missionary yourself, visit www.500000churches.comor email firstname.lastname@example.org