It’s been quite a while since I’ve last blogged, and I think it’s time to resurrect my writing life. Subsequent posts will have more details about what I’ve learned in the year away from this blog. But for now, this is one the forefront of my mind. So here we are, back at it.
I love the holiday season, but it usually becomes an uncomfortably busy time of the year, especially if you’re involved in Christian ministry, so it wasn’t an easy commitment to devote the short span of time between Christmas and New Years to a conference in Louisville, Kentucky. But I, along with a small group of college students and staff, forfeited our comfortable 75-degrees-and-sunny existence in Southern California and flew to the frigid 20-degree climate in Louisville. The weather there is frightening enough that the city had built enclosed bridges to help people travel from building to building without having to face the biting cold (If a city needs to build heated bridges for people to get around, it’s too cold to live there in my opinion).
However the week-long conference was worth braving the cold. Through the preaching of the word and the testimonies of the saints abroad, my mind was transformed and opened to the call of missions. I was humbled and convicted that my view of missions and the church was underdeveloped and inadequate for the glorious things that God had intended it to be. It was a paradigm-shifting, God-glorifying, Christ-preaching conference, and I’ve boiled my takeaway thoughts into three major headings:
*Note: I use the term “missions” to refer to the act of moving to another culture and/or geographical location for the purpose of making the Gospel known among people who have not heard the Gospel.
1. Missions: Exporting the Local Church
As Christians we often hear about mission apart from the local church: if a person decides that they’re called overseas the church is perceived to be the financial investors and spiritual oversight, but nothing more. I always pictured a rather cold relationship between missions and the local church, but I quickly saw that this isn’t the way God designed missions. When a person goes on missions, they are exporting the local church: they are building a church, a community of believers who operate to love and encourage one another. But if we know not and understand not the local church, how can be build a community of believers in an unfamiliar place?
At the Cross Conference the intimate connection between missions and the local church became clear to me. There should be no “lone ranger” missionaries (something I firmly believed in before), but even more than this, missionaries need to love the local church, serve in local church, and understand deeply the purpose of the local church. These are not suggestions, but they are essentials. In this way, if you don’t love, serve, and understand the local church, you are ill-suited for the mission field. On the other hand, if you love, serve, and understand the local church, you are more ready for the mission field (even if you’ve never considered it). As one speaker aptly put it, “There is no sanctification through aviation.” The person you are here will be the person you are on the mission field, so learn to love the church well.
Recommended: “The Call of Christ: Inspired, Informed, Confirmed” – Mack Stiles
2. Risk: And the Sovereignty of God
Another unique topic for a missions conference was about the sovereignty of God. If you’re like me, when you think of missions you imagine a scruffy man snaking through thick jungle with a canteen and bible strapped to his torn shirt. Each day, he wakes in a hut unsure whether he will live to see the next. Each day is lived on the brink of death and risk is all around. This is what you might imagine, or maybe I just have a rather drab outlook of missions.
Yes, there is risk in missions. There is risk in uprooting your entire family and moving to a country where you don’t know the culture or how to ask where the bathroom is. There is risk in missions just like there is risk in living in the US. However, as Christians, we must understand that God’s work is much more strategic than that. We must take into account the sovereignty of God––the utter control, provision, and allowance of God. This truth must reign clear in our minds as we consider missions: nothing happens to the children of God apart from what He allows. If persecution and suffering come on the mission field, God has sovereignly allowed it. If we are blessed abundantly on the mission field, God has sovereignly allowed it. No risk associated with preaching the Gospel and fulfilling the Christian purpose is greater than the sovereignty of God.
Recommended: “Five Surprising Motivations for Mission” – Kevin DeYoung
3. Christ: And the Call to Missions
We’ve all heard of the distinction between “senders” and “goers”. I’ve sat for many years in my comfortable chair as the self-proclaimed leader of the “senders”. I always thought that I could pick a “goer” out in a crowd: the outspoken, boisterous, sometimes shocking personality with lowered standards of living and a live-or-die mentality. They’re surely called by God to go, I would think. They’ve hit the missionary genetic jackpot. God will surely use them, but that’s not me. Then I’d return to my chair, bow my head, pray for them once, and get back to playing Candy Crush.
The requirements for missions somehow got lost in translation: missions is not a personality thing, it’s a purpose thing. Having an extroverted personality has as much to do with missions as the color of my bible has to do with my standing in the church. The greater goal in the work of missions, preaching Christ, is the purpose for which we have been saved and each Christian is called to have the same conviction and heart to this end. No one is excluded but everyone is to be intimately involved with the spreading of the Gospel to the unreached and unengaged. Yes, that means some of us are to stay where we are and fund the work of God around the world, but we should have no less heart for missions than those on the field. Many of us who are here are likely better suited for the mission field but have yet to consider it.
Recommended: “Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission” – David Platt
With one heart, the church of Christ is called to complete the work of evangelism to the end of the earth (Matt. 28:19-20). Until Christ returns, our mission stands and we need all hands on deck.