Updated: May 30, 2019
If we take "Mission" out of the Bible, we're just left with the covers. God has always had a mission and He has called a people to Himself to be co-partners with Him for his mission. In fact, not only has He called us, but commanded us to be on mission!
All of life as a disciple of Jesus is mission. Everything we do as disciple of Jesus should be with our mission in mind. Some social and cultural analysts predict Christian Entrepreneurs will dramatically impact the Gospel cause in the marketplace. It's not a mission any church leader has commanded. The mission comes from a King with a Kingdom. He's seated at the right hand of the Father. His name is Jesus.
On our plane rides and visits through Africa, we've had many encounters with "the nations." From the time I left our neighborhood, within 12 hours, we had encountered people comprising of several nations. The nations are everywhere, and in most cities, the nations are moving into our neighborhoods.
Yet in the economy of God, nations and neighborhoods are not disconnected. If you think about it, we’re really just one people group among thousands on Earth, created by God for His distinct glory. We’re those “ends of the earth” people Jesus told the Apostles to reach (Acts 1:8). Jesus never gave a stopping time or a boundary.
Our Jerusalem is the Tri-Cities region. So we must live on mission there. Everyday that we wake up, we have the honor to declare the Gospel, display the Gospel, and demonstrate the Gospel. What a privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus and extend the message of the Gospel where we live, work, and play. In fact, if we can't live as a missionary in our own city, why should we fly somewhere else to do it? There's no transformation by aviation.
Unfortunately, many churches today have decided to pass off their role in the Great Commission to mission organizations and various ministries and just let them do it. Engaging unreached people groups, training missionaries, and sending them out is something many churches allow "organizations to do" or "professional ministries." And as helpful as those organizations can be in serving the church toward the mission, my fear is that we have decided that the responsibility is not ours and have passed it off to organizations. I am convinced that this strategy is not good enough for the church of Jesus Christ.
All churches have been given one mission, “Make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28). Notice, it doesn't say, "in your own nation only." The word “nations” is best understood as "people groups", not political nations. People groups with their own language and culture. The church has one central mission and that is to make disciples among all people groups. We are not commanded to build buildings, start choirs, or have the most dynamic children’s ministry. We are called, commissioned, and commanded to make disciples and that command is global in scope (“all nations”).
We have one mission, but we strive to accomplish that one mission in two contexts. First, we strive to make disciples in “reached” contexts. Reached contexts are areas around the world where the church already exists. Our primary role in reached contexts is to help strengthen the existing church. In the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas are described as returning to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch and “strengthening” the souls of the disciples (Acts 14:22). Based on that text and others in Acts (15:32, 41; 18:23) the role of the church in reached contexts is primarily to help strengthen the existing churches.
Second, we also strive to make disciples in “unreached” contexts. Unreached contexts are areas around the world where the church does not yet exist. Our primary role in unreached contexts is to help establish and plant the church. In the book of Acts and Romans, the apostle Paul is regularly taking the gospel into uncharted territory and laboring to help establish the church (Acts 13-22 and Romans 15:20-24). Currently, in our world, there are many areas where the church does not yet exist. There is much work to be done in the unreached contexts. Being in a country with resources, we have the opportunity to think globally! Coca-Cola has done a better job than the church getting it's product to the nations than we have getting the Gospel to the nations.
God is fully aware that most of us will put down roots in our homeland. He also knows everyone’s not called to be a missionary overseas. In fact, we believe, along with church history, that missionaries are uniquely sent out by God, common people with a special calling. But what does that mean for the rest of us?
If you’re not an overseas missionary, that’s okay. Be a faithful gospel witness wherever you call home. But let's not be so nearsighted that we fail to see ourselves uniquely invested in the global mission of God. Perhaps you’re paralyzed by the comforts of your neighborhood. Maybe you haven’t looked at a map in a long time. Maybe you’ve simply forgotten the great cost upon which Jesus our King left His neighborhood to pursue us personally in ours.
A couple of years ago, we had a family that visited our church several times. When they found out that we had taken some teams out of the country for a mission trip and had given to overseas missions, they never came back. Although I wish this were not the case, I praise God that we have a church that doesn't neglect our mandate. And I praise God in advance that we will continue to work and reach people in our backyard.
The Great Commission is not either/or, but BOTH/AND!
I love each of you and it's my honor to serve with you!