When I hear the word missions My mind almost immediately conjures up images of distant and remote tribes needing to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but is this the biblical image? Is it only the most dedicated Christians who go over seas? Can you be an authentic Christian without a radical commitment to missions? These are a few of the pertinent questions that need to be answered if we are to adequately understand what the Bible means by mission.
Myth #1: A Radical Commitment to Missions is Optional
Here is one that we probably all cringe at. John Piper says that a “commitment to missions is the measure of the authenticity of your theology.” What that means is we cannot claim to love Jesus if we don’t also love what Jesus loves. Jesus says that he came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He spent countless hours with sinners, so much so that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunk.
What is so uncomfortable about this is probably that we feel like we have to do something and we don’t want to feel guilty. But the truth is mission isn’t about doing, it’s about being. Maturing as a Christian means you grow to be more like Christ, and since Christ was a missionary, we too will become missionary minded. If we are not the answer isn’t to go out and do a bunch of missional stuff (though that might be better than nothing) the answer is to get to know Jesus more. Something isn’t flowing right. When we see Jesus clearly we love him (we can’t help it) and when we love Him we become like Him. Mission is about loving, adoring and cherishing God and commending other to Him.
Myth #2: You Can Have a Commitment to Sound Theology Without Having a Commitment to Missions
Sound theology, will always have a missional bent. The Father sends the son, the Father and the Son send the Spirit, and the Father, Son and Spirit send the Church (John 20:21) John Stott says that “God centered theology is always missional because God is a sending God.” Michael Goheen in his book Light to the Nations explores the idea of the mission of the people of God all throughout the Bible. Mission was always the case. Israel was to be a Light to the Nations. Goheen makes the distinction that a shift did happen with the coming of Jesus, the mission went from centripetal force (that is inwards towards Israel) to a centrifugal force (that is out to the World). (131) So we can see that the mission of Israel began with God’s promise the the patriarch Abraham, that through his seed the nations would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3), which was fulfilled in Jesus and carried out through the church.
Myth #3: A True Commitment to Missions Means Going Overseas
Mark Driscoll, among others, has said for us today, missions is walking across the street. If we truly are the church then we are on mission wherever it is we find ourselves. Christianity is in decline in North America and it is showing. A hundred years ago everybody would have said they were Christian, but post modernism and the Information Age has caused many to discount the Bible as meaningful or relevant. The result being that Churches die and large regions become secularized. The challenge for the Church is to apply God’s timeless truth to our times. This is part of the mission of God and in modern America this challenge is around every street corner.
Myth #4: A Radical Commitment to Missions Will Cost You More Than it Will Benefit you.
The truth is when we give our lives for the cause of Jesus we gain immeasurably more than we could ever lose (Matt 19:29). There is a great lie that when we give up earthly things to serve God and seek the Kingdom that we somehow lose out. But the truth is that when we are aligned with God’s purposes and walking out his purposes by the obedience that comes from faith, we are more fulfilled and more joyful than we could ever be with worldly things. I think the great missionary Jim Elliot, who gave his life for God’s mission, says it best, “He is no fool who gives up what he can’t keep to gain what he can’t lose.”
(This is in response to Steve Childer’s Missions Class Week 1, RTS)