I wrote this article couple of years ago for another website, but it was never published. Perhaps it was a little too provocative, or counter-Christian-culture? Not sure. So, I am posting it here. 🙂
You’ve heard the trendy phrases: “Being on mission.” “Missional living.”
When I hear such phrases I find that I am grateful to be living overseas, and that such trendiness has not entered my lexicon. Christian fads and Christianese phrases come and go. Unfortunately, they often do damage before they are kicked out the door.
I am not going to talk about being on mission, or creating missional communities. Instead, I want to discuss something far more important. A Biblical concept which, when applied, will have global repercussions. Missions. Not missional. Not on mission. But missions. Simple, not trendy. Black coffee, hold the soy and sugar substitute.
Missions is a non-Biblical term used to describe a Biblical church’s intentional and international evangelical activity. Hold on. You said international. Are you one of those guys that thinks that foreign missions is more important than domestic missions? Well, not really. I just think that somehow we need to differentiate between these concepts, both for the general understanding of the people in the pews as well as for proper implementation of the vision that the Lord has given to us as a church. For you see, when everyone is a missionary, then no one is. And when everything is missions, then nothing is.
Call it foreign outreach and domestic outreach if you insist on putting them on the same level, but please leave my friend, the word ‘missions’, alone. This word is special, for it is within this concept that we see the intention, character, and glory of our Heavenly Father. From Genesis to Jonah God revealed his heart for the nations. New Testament missions is simply the outworking of the eternal plan of God, and it continues today in our time, in our generation.
What is Biblical missions?
- Serving: In Acts 13 we see Saul, Barnabus, and the leaders of the church in Antioch ministering to the Lord. They were already actively involved in the life of the body of Christ, effective servant-leaders who had their hand to the plow. They had a history of faithfully representing Christ in their cities, and they were witnesses to the grace of God. Sometimes I ask people who want to come to the mission field what they currently are doing in their home church. Amazingly, many of these people are not serving in any capacity. Missions begins with serving in the place where God has planted you.
- Calling: The Holy Spirit will always faithfully represent the plan of God to the people of God. He is not trying to keep something hidden from us. God’s plan always incorporated active ways to make known his salvation to those who have not heard—and He called people to do it. In fact, when I read the Book of Acts I get the idea that the early church had to be chided along, even handed over for persecution, before they were willing to go beyond the borders with which they were familiar. The Lord will make His heart for the world known to those who are seeking and serving Him.
- Sending: Although Paul and Barnabus were sent out by the Holy Spirit, they were also sent away by the church in Antioch. There are two things here that are important to see. First, the church needs to be ready to release (with authority and support) those whom the Lord sets apart to Himself for the work of the Gospel internationally. Second, the church needs to thrust out, even their best workers into the distant fields of the world for the sake of the Gospel. The difference is slight, but important. Many times we just wait for the Lord to put the desire on someone’s heart to go. Or worse, we are grateful that some independent person (read potentially trouble-causing) all of a sudden wants to go to the other side of the world. But that is passive missions, or even poisonous missions, and it is a reason why most churches don’t have anyone from their own fellowship whom they actively and wholeheartedly support on the mission field. Active missions is discipling people with the specific intent of sending them out to be involved in church-planting oriented activities.
- Church-planting oriented: Wherever the Apostles went, the result was the establishing of local churches. The word church means assembly, and it is used in the Bible of gatherings of believers and non-believers alike. However, it is mostly reserved for this special organism which we know to be both the body and the bride of Christ. If our goal in missions does not encourage, revolve around, or result in a local church, we may be doing missions, but not New Testament missions. Am I saying that humanitarian trips are not missions? Orphanage ministry? Refugees? Business as mission? No, no, no, and no. What I am saying is that the New Testament model for missions seems persistent in the development of local assemblies. Did the disciples wait on tables? Yes. Did the disciples assist widows? Yes. Was the church tasked with helping orphans? Yes. Pure and undefiled religion… But these important activities are most effectively done in the context of a local church.
- Remembering: Paul the Apostle, missionary extraordinaire, saw the need to revisit the churches that he had planted, and the need to maintain continual connection and communication with them. Much of the first portions of his missionary journeys were dedicated to visiting those churches which had been established on earlier mission trips. Also, much of the text of his letters was written to address certain problems, people, or a mixture of the two. Always one who was sensitive to the fact that he was no pope holding sway over these local congregations, Paul could write sternly but in humility. His earlier letters, such as to the Thessalonians, are more stern and commanding, perhaps in view of their recent establishment and their lack of existing local leadership. His letters to other churches, such as to the Corinthians, were more suggestive and persuasive, perhaps because of the age of the church and the existence of other local leaders. But Paul saw the need to communicate a consistent vision and demonstrate an overwhelming love to these churches again and again and again.
Missions is the method that the Lord has established for the broadcasting of His splendor to the nations. Do you have an active vision for missions? This is not a passing fad, but is the heartbeat of our Father.