This is second part in blog from my Lunch Bunch presentation, April 12, 2000. In thinking of the Television show, Who wants to be a Millionare, I ask: Who Wants to be a Missionary? April 12, 2000.]
A popular book which is shaping pastors’ and church leaders’ thinking is titled: The Missional Church, edited by Darrell L. Guder who is the Peachtree Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. The subtitle of the book, “A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America”. It is a book being quoted and discussed and must be taken seriously as we define ourselves as “the church” in this new millennium. How are we to proclaim the gospel truth that Jesus Christ Reigns if we are not proclaiming this truth in this community? There are a lot of spiritually hungry people around the world. There is, I truly believe, a hunger for the gospel of Jesus Christ in this community – the reign of Christ in this community.
II. A glimpse into this book:
First, the United States is the newest, most immediately pressing and demanding mission field in the world. This reality does not mean, however, that a lot of issues don’t remain around the globe or that we abandon our interest and support in mission elsewhere. This book talks about our living in the territory and culture of a postmodern/post-Christendom culture – which is growing more and more indifferent to the gospel message we want to see proclaimed. More and more our society is moving away from Jesus Christ. And this is not what we want to see!
Second, we are to recognize and except that many of us as congregations have become experts at what this author calls “diligently sending”. We send elsewhere (other nations and global cultures) money, designated persons called missionaries, work and study teams, and general resources to support Global Christian mission. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a Missionary presence in over 80 nations – thousands of missionaries.
The mission field in our Saginaw community and throughout this country mandates that we understand ourselves to be sent people as well as sending people. Pastors and parishioners alike – male and female – young and old – are to be motivated, trained and organized to be sent onto that mission field that is close at hand – right here – this community.
Third, if the area around the church – our respective churches – is a mission field – if we can begin to get our minds around this and accept this, and if we are motivated and trained to be sent onto that field, then such training and being sent must be done with a missionary mind set. We are called to see ourselves entering a postmodern, post-Christendom environment where truth is ambiguous. God in many corners of our society is unrecognized.
Romans 12: 1-2 “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
There is the worship that takes place in the malls of the new god (small g) perhaps this god (small g) is named “consumerism”. There is a disease in communities of our nation – “Affluenza” is infecting good people. There is a passion – addiction – to have things / own things. And where is the reign of Jesus Christ our Lord? The modern-day truth? Our story of Jesus and abundant life found in him is but one of many stories to be believed – and shared with others as the MissionalChurch.
Is a missionary mind-set the answer? Wherever we are, we cannot be passive. We are to be transformed from people sitting in comfortable pews – being served – into missionaries doing the serving! Perhaps a church – any of our churches – could accept this challenge (pg. 236) written as a statement of faith:
We believe that we are the church, that is, we are a community of God’s people called and set apart for witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing. As the Father has sent Christ so Christ sends us. Jesus Christ had defined us as his witnesses where we are. We believe, therefore that the Holy Spirit not only calls us but also enables and gifts us for our mission. Our task is to determine the particular focus and direction of our mission. We are to identify the charisms (those things we value and are passionate about) given us by the Spirit for mission. We have the responsibility and capacity, through the Holy Spirit, to shape ourselves for faithful witness. Our purpose defines our organizational structures – which means that our mission challenges is to re-form our structures so that we can be faithful in our witness.
As God sent Jesus – who sent twelve – who engaged others to be sent: so we are sent people (missio – to send). Now we must ask the critical question: Sent onto the mission field as missionaries to do what? Some leaders of missional churches would say to tell people our story, bringing them to faith in Jesus Christ (not to be confused with “stuffing” church rolls with new members of sanctuaries with lots of people).
As the missional church we must weave together as a fabric of witness Jesus’ manifesto found in Luke 4, and Jesus’ description of acts of mercy described in Matthew 25, with Jesus’ Great commission in Matthew 28. Such co-mingling of the messages and purposes of these passages will be a complete missionary witness of a sent missionary people.
YES! I want to be a missionary! I am a missionary! In faith I can work with others to turn the corner in recognizing the power of the reign of Jesus even in our messed up and troubled world.
And this gift – the proclamation of Jesus Christ in this world – is more valuable than all the money in this world.