Today was the first time I really got to see the passion of Steve Childers for missions. Today’s terminology of being missional, or being on mission, or missio dei, or missions has become so convoluted that we are not sure what we are even talking about. Modern missional reformed movements have hijacked the traditional term missions and it has taken on a new meaning.
Essentially being missional is living on mission wherever God has you. That is, you are living in such as way as to bring people to Christ. You are intentional about seeking and saving the lost. You are involved in culture, creating, caring for, showing mercy and making the world a better place. But the end goal is always that people would come to know Jesus. That they would see our works and glorify God (Matt 5:16).
This is all good and right and should be the way we live as Christians. The problem is being missional is really just another word to basically mean be a Christian. In America, we have gotten to the point that being Christian means you go to church once a week. But this is not the biblical picture of being a Christian. Being a Christian is an entire new nature (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15) and an entire new way of thinking (Rom 12:1-2). In an attempt to reclaim what it means to be Christian we have had to adopt new terminology. But is something being missed in our use of the word missional?
Steve Chliders says yes and it could be tragic. “Missions” has historically referred to the sending of missionaries to the unreached people of the earth. (Unreached being defined as “A people group among which there are no churches with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without requiring outside (cross-cultural) assistance.”)1 What has been an important move against nominal Christianity may actually eclipse part of the Great Commission. In our attempt to reach our cities and neighborhoods we are neglecting the needs of the lost where there are no resources to aid them.
This isn’t a rebuke to stop being ‘missional’ in your context, that is necessary and right and true. It is a rebuke to not forget the nations. 90% of our resources going to missionary work is going to areas that already have sufficient resources. Where are the missionaries that are going into the unreached people? Have we forgotten that Christianity has spread through persecution? Are we afraid as Christians to leave the comforts of the Western World and give our lives for Christ?
These are penetrating and scary words. Let us consider anew the calling of God, to be a light to the nations, both reached and unreached.
1From class notes.
(This post is in response to week 3 of Steve Childers’ Missions class at RTS)