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Who's this really about, anyway?

Posted by NandCard , 28 July 2012 · 1539 views

Two images illustrate how life on mission draws our attention toward two groups of people.

Image #1: a moving Sunday morning service at a local US Alliance church. Adults and teens lined up across the platform step up to the microphone to share the ways God moved deeply in their hearts on their recent missions trip. One cries as she shares about a family in the overseas church that recently lost their bread-winning father. Another reflects on the startling contrast between our American lives of relative ease and the poverty they witnessed on the trip. A young man tells of how God stirred his heart to pursue a ministry career. Lives of the team members have been changed. Members of the congregation are visibly moved. During the closing worship song, the air is filled with an excitement and sense of fulfillment at being part of this vibrant body, on mission with God.

Image #2: an apartment balcony in a neighborhood one of the Middle East’s largest cities. Through the haze of humidity, the view is a jumble of terra cotta rooftops and concrete apartment buildings, punctuated periodically by the slender minarets of mosques, stretching to the horizon. An Alliance worker takes several minutes to do the math in his head. If each apartment houses five people, and the average building is eight stories….it is likely this scene is home to half a million people….and at 0.0003%....this scene might include 100 or so people who know Jesus….among so many who don’t….most of whom never will. As sunset reds stretch across this scene, the air is filled with a heaviness and sense of the hopelessness of masses without Christ.

These images illustrate how life on mission draws our attention toward two groups of people. One group is the billions-large majority of the world’s people that still have no meaningful chance of hearing about Jesus in a way that would change their lives. The other is fellowship of changed lives in which we find courage, determination and faith to make a difference in this world. Often the gulf between these two images, and these two groups, is gaping. Leaders- on-Mission are people trying to meaningfully bridge the two.

The task of leaders like you is daunting. And pitfalls are many. But many of the pitfalls can be divided into two types. One is to become flat-out overwhelmed with the need of the world’s lost. Alliance workers on balconies like the one described above can easily slip into this state. So can folks in our churches who honestly come up short trying to wrap their head around why we’d pour dollars and lives down such intangible black holes overseas when our own neighborhood seems needy enough.

On the other hand, let’s admit that missions promotion and mobilization can get lost inside itself, more focused on congregations feeling good about being on mission than to actually, and sacrificially, go where the need is greatest on mission. We’ve all probably tossed and turned a few sleepless nights wondering if the programs and perspectives that generate warmth and excitement in our congregation’s missions heart are really in touch with the world’s great needs of our day.

It can make you ask, “who’s this really about, anyway?” Is missions emphasis about the church? Or is it about the lost?

I have to confess that I’m tempted to scold the sheep when the church loses sight of the fact that missions isn’t about us. I’ve worried that our churches can sometimes delude themselves into thinking that we’re doing well in missions when we really are just investing in those mission activities that can most easily or efficiently generate excitement and involvement. We’ got to ask ourselves, “who is this really about, anyway?”

At the same time, we do have to find creative ways to engage people in what it’s like beyond borders. Younger people in our congregations will less and less be moved by information in books, sermons, slides and videos. Active involvement is a key to meaningful engagement. Mission mobilizers have got it right when they invest in hearts being moved in our churches as eyes see for themselves and hands get calloused themselves in the work. Alliance missionaries are getting it that people need to come participate alongside them, and that their attention to our own home congregations is an important part of mission work, alongside their dedicated service among the world’s unreached.

So are missions, and missions promotion, about the lost or about the church? Well, the reality is that they are about both. I think we are learning this, and learning in new ways we haven’t before. So what about the tensions between the two emphases? What about the pitfalls to be found in both directions? Is there a path to healthy balance?

Well, let’s take one more, deeper look at the question. Who’s this really about, anyway? You’ve already got the answer, right? It’s Him. It’s all about Him! He’s the one who gave His life for the peoples of the world! He’s the one working out His plan to save! He’s the one Who’s calling us into that plan!

He is not intending for us to despair in the face of the task, nor to kid ourselves about what it means to give of ourselves sacrificially and strategically. He’s got a vision for both the lost world and of the mission-hearted church he wants us to be! He’s the Lord of the Harvest. It’s really all about Him.

Leader-on-Mission, be encouraged today that we can keep it balanced when we keep it about Him.


Gut-check questions:

1. Do I get stuck in one of the two pitfalls in my missions leadership?
2. Do I have a negative attitude toward those whose “favorite pitfall” is the opposite of my own?
3. Are key strategic considerations about the world’s needs fueling our church’s motivation to be involved more than just cool and easy points of connection?
4. Am I as an International Worker serving our sending churches well, helping them connect and contribute in ways that motivate and matter?
4. How does the fact that missions is really about the Lord of the Harvest help our find His kind of balance of motivational emphases that engage the church and sacrificial commitments to the world’s greatest challenges of lostness?

  • Thomas Froehlich, Ruthie Hankins and Cindyduff like this



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