A time will come when is no need for missions anymore. One day people in every nation, people, tribe and language will worship God because they have experienced saving transformation in Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9-17). John Piper is right: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man” (Piper, John, Let the Nations be Glad – The Supremacy of God in Missions, Baker Books, 1993:11).
Apparently, that time is not now. Until that time comes, it is important for us to think about the ways we describe what the work is that he gave us to do, just as it is important to examine the way we do it. Jesus told his disciples that they should not worry too much about the time. Rather, they were to focus on being His witnesses in Jerusalem, all of Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:7-8).
Over the years, in the MC, we have worked hard at developing an honest critique about how we are doing with the task. We also need to work hard in our critique of how we describe the task.
Right now, some churches–at least in the West–are stuck in old ways of thinking about missions that are paralysing their willingness to send and threatening their fruitfulness. Missional faith is dimmed by discouraging descriptions that Christianity is losing its vitality in some places and is overwhelmed by descriptions multiple thousands of “unreached” groups in others. We run the risk of reducing Christ’s mission into a statistical problem to be solved.
In another example from my own country. We Swedes have worked conscientiously to engage and understand followers of other religions in dialogue and witness. In the process, though, many churches have adopted pluralistic views that “all roads lead to Rome.” That may have been true in the Roman Empire but it misses the point when it comes to understanding the work of Christ as the crucified Messiah, his resurrection and call to gospel faithfulness.
When we think about the mission Christ gave us, we do it with God. And he seems to be working to keep the mission from getting stuck and to keep his people from missing the point. At the moment, his solution seems to be new leaders in new places. The fruit that these new leaders are producing is not only that new missionaries are sent from new places. God is also using them, and the missionaries they send, to talk about what the calling requires, and sometimes they are describing the mission in new ways.
Can we think out loud, together, about new ways in which Christ’s mission is being described? How do you feel about what you see?