Founder of International Justice Mission Identifies Common Misconceptions Stemming from ‘Martyr Complex’ That Christians Have About Mission Work

Gary Haugen, Founder, CEO, and former President of International Justice Mission, speaks during a Transforming the Bay with Christ event. | Transforming the Bay with Christ/ScreenGrab

Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, has identified common misconceptions Christians have when it comes to engaging the lost with the Gospel and highlighted the importance of fighting injustice while manifesting the fruits of the spirit.

“I’ve encountered some mistaken ideas of what it means to engage the suffering and the hurt and the darkness of the world,” Haugen said at a recent Transforming the Bay with Christ event, adding that many of the misconceptions stem from a “martyr complex.”

“It’s the idea that what really makes Jesus happy is if I go out there and I just completely destroy myself by overworking, by never coming up for air, by feeling guilty about if I ever enjoy my life,” he said. “But God actually wants us to enjoy our lives, even if we’re involved very intimately in the work of justice and in the intersection of human hurt.”

Joy, Haugen contended, is the “oxygen” for doing hard things: “You will not do the work of justice or of caring for the hurting or engagement with evil unless you are in, as a spiritual discipline, coming up for air, for joy,” he said.

The idea that Christians shouldn’t enjoy their lives is a lie from Satan, Haugen warned: “Our spiritual adversary … wants us to just grind all the time and just go down to where all of the darkness is and then just drown in it,” he said.

When Christians fail to re-invigorate themselves by spending time in prayer and engaging in activities that bring happiness, they fail to effectively lead, he argued. “There’s nothing more powerful a leader can do for the team than to bring their best self to that leadership, and that requires a refreshment, a constant joy,” Haugen said.

He pointed out that on airplanes, passengers are told to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others. The same principles apply to ministry.

“The work of justice and healing is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “We have to stay connected to joy.”

Haugen speaks from experience: A former prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice, he decided to start IJM after becoming aware of the chronically neglected global epidemic of violence against the poor while investigating the genocide in Rwanda.

“It seemed that there was something missing in our response to poverty, where we had solutions for those who are hungry and those who were suffering from disease,” he said. “The only thing we didn’t have a response for was violence. Like, when your neighbor is suffering … because a guy with a machete is coming at you, or they’re coming to steal your land, or the police are coming to put a gun to your head to steal money from you, or they’ve just tricked your daughter to come with them to the big city where they’ve sold her into a brothel and now she’s being serially raped.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett