Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mission: Accomplished or Forgotten?

Today we arrive at our last major points of the missional movement! But first let's restate the missional points we've made thus far:

Point #1: God is on a mission (which flows out of the love intrinsic to His nature).
Point #2: The church is a product and expression of God’s mission and exists for that mission.
Point #3: We don’t get to determine the mission, God does.
Point #4: We don’t get to determine the methods for mission, God does.
Point #5: Mission is the organizing principle of the church.

Flowing out from these points we get our final two points:

Point #6: Mission is for all disciples of Jesus.
Point #7: A ministry's success or failure can only be determined by reference to God's mission.

Let's take a look at these last two points one at a time...

Mission is for all disciples of Jesus.
If the church (the community of disciples) exists for God's mission, and that mission is the organizing principle of the church, then it follows that every disciple should be engaged in mission. Of course, many in churches today would agree with this, and yet, frankly, few disciples are currently engaged in mission. So why is that? Here are a few of the causes:

1. They are too busy serving on church committees or in ministries serving church-members.
2. They are too busy participating in discipleship programs that are inwardly focused, because...
3. Mission has been broken off from discipleship, and there is no integration of learning and doing.
4. Mission is portrayed as a program or service activity to be occasionally engaged in.
5. Mission is portrayed as something for the elite few.

The first three causes listed above plague the traditional church. I have a lot of compassion and mercy here, because so many followers of Jesus are taught this model and are so busy sacrificing to make their church's programming run that they don't have time for mission. Of course, there is a place for serving the body Christ and participating in some interior-looking ministries and learning about our scriptures and theology. But when disciples of Jesus cannot fulfill the mission He gave them because they are over-loaded with other church programs or duties there is a problem. And when our bible studies and teaching and classes contain no missional impetus or integration, there's a problem. If we are not forming disciples who can carry on the mission Jesus gave us then we're not actually forming disciples. We're forming Christian consumers of Christian programming instead. If mission is not a priority over programs for members, and there's no plan to integrate it into our discipleship then it just won't get done. Mission requires too much of us to be done as a secondary task.

The last two causes are more offensive. Honestly, it kills me for churches to check the mission box with one special event a month or less. I don't have time to discuss here why this is a total theological fail, but when Jesus said, "As the Father sent me I send you" (John 20:21) He wasn't telling the disciples to go and do some pain-free, social media covered service projects. And as for mission for the elite few, that's usually the product of ministry super-stars who would prefer for their followers to celebrate their success and perform supporting tasks for them than to equip them to do mission themselves.

Success or failure can only be determined with reference to the mission.
If the mission is God's, and the method is God's, then the standard for success must also be with God. Therefore we cannot use our culturally determined standards (in America it's size, money and speed) to judge ministry success. I believe that Jesus' most chilling words speak to this point:

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

In the end, it will be our obedience to God's command- our faithfulness to His mission- that will be the measure of ministry success. The missional movement calls out the contemporary church for substituting culturally defined success for faithfulness to the mission, and seeks to develop new metrics for success that are aligned with God's mission. (Much of this has to do with tracking output instead of input. For example, don't measure how many people come to a program, but how many people implement what they learned to serve as witnesses in their spheres of influence.)

Book Recommendation: The Church as Movement, by Dan White and JR Woodward 


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