Prepost Notice: I apologize for the longer post (not really) but I think (I hope) that it will be worth your time to read…I really do think it will be worth your time…or at least give you something to think about…
So the other day I was having a long-awaited lunch with a friend and pastor buddy of mine…during our lunch he asked me a great question:
“What would you want to tell churches as you leave for the mission field? If you could only say one thing what would it be?”
Wow…this was a great question and my response was something about needing missionaries that acted like bees. Following is a much better articulation of what I mean from a great book I’m currently reading called Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf
Here’s a beginning quote from Volf:
“In order to keep our allegiance to Jesus Christ pure, we need to nurture commitment to the multicultural community of Christian churches. We need to see ourselves and our own understanding of God’s future with the eyes of Christians from other cultures, listen to the voices of Christians from other cultures so as to make sure that the voice of our own culture has not drowned out the voice of Jesus Christ, ‘the one Word of God.'”
Here’s the bottom line question that goes through my mind and I know many other people because they’ve asked…”Why missions? I mean aren’t there enough needs in your own neighborhood to give your life to? Can’t you just send money? Why do you need to move out of the country? Can’t you do that all from right here?”
My immediate response to that (or at least what I’m going to say from now on) is of, “Of course I could! There are needs here to devote my life to but missions isn’t about needs. Missions is bigger…much, much bigger. We need to have a bigger view of the Church and the kingdom of God.”
There are certainly needs here in our own country and my own neighborhood that are worthy of attention and I don’t want to diminish these. We need followers of Christ and churches to stop passing the buck and reach out to the needs in our own communities. We should never turn a blind eye to our literal neighbor in pursuit of our worldly neighbors. (Hypocrisy abounds here…but we won’t go there.) However, this doesn’t negate the need for cross-cultural work.
Cross cultural missions is not ultimately about meeting people’s needs…It’s ultimately about the Kingdom of God and praying “on earth as it is in heaven,” “where people from every tribe, language, and nation” will worship before God.”
The Church is called to be unified and not just on an individual and local level, but ultimately on an ecumenical and global level. The Church needs workers to be bridge builders, to be cross-cultural kingdom workers to build unity in the broader Church. It’s not that the Mexican church needs us…no…the Mexican church needs us AND we need them. Christ calls us (ALL those who believe in him) to be unified. Here is what Christ himself prays for all believers in John 17:
“22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
This unity is not some ethereal, liberal, fundamentalist, neo, postmodern, romantic, idealistic, hocus-pocus, or whatever else you may want to call it…idea. No it is a real and pragmatic unity that Christ calls us toward and it is something that one of my former professors calls the Great Communion. Mainly that we, the Church, are called to be unified as the triune God is unified. And Christ says if we are unified THEN the “world will know that you sent me and have loved them EVEN as you have loved me.” This unity is both for the individual, local, and global church. (The implications here are numerous but I want to mainly think about global unity.)
So to answer the question, “Why Missions?” My simple (and perhaps shorter response would be, “Because the Church needs it.” As flowers, vegetables, and fruits need bees to be cross-pollinators to bear fruit so the Church needs workers to be cross-cultural bridge builders for the kingdom of God. This can’t be by churches staying in their own culture or by churches simply giving monetary donations overseas. No it takes an incarnational presence of actual people to help build these bridges and I would humbly suggest that this is one task of the cross-cultural missionary. (A task that I’m passionate about…if you couldn’t tell.) This “cross-pollination” between churches builds unity and health within the kingdom of God and helps increase the witness of God to the world.
So here you go…the punch line….the Church needs people to “bee” missionaries. It is not solely about needs it is ultimately about the kingdom of God.