Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mission, Missions, and Missional

I got a call the other day from a well known national ministry. They found the number for Adventures in Life in the telephone book and assumed we were a church.

As such, they were calling to ask me, as a supposed youth pastor, if I was interested in my students participating in a mission trip in Las Vegas.

A few years back I was working with a denominational group that was putting together a missions conference for their local congregations. One of their goals was to celebrate what God was doing as the members of these local churches served God in their neighborhoods.

As I talk with pastors and leaders about missions, I constantly hear about a renewed focus on local mission opportunities.

These experiences have got me to thinking. Is it possible that the church, in our rush to embrace the term missional, has defined all of what we do as mission so that we feel better about ourselves?

Think about it like this. If youth pastors are missionaries, if sharing Jesus with the barista at Starbucks is mission, if giving socks to homeless people is missions work, then what isn’t mission?

It is as if we have decided to define all that the church does as mission, so that we can look at ourselves and conclude we are doing a good job missionally. We have changed the descriptions enough so that no matter how little, or how much, the church does, we look heroic.

So here is what I am wondering. How much does this new thinking impact the church and her involvement in cross-cultural international mission? Is it possible that we are raising an entire generation of people who see no need to leave our shores and involve themselves in the work of God “over there?”

Could it be that with these new definitions of mission and being missional locally, we are robbing the church of some of the very people who 50 years ago might have gone “to the ends of the earth?”

I am not sure what the answers are to all of this, but I just can’t stop thinking about it.

What are your thoughts?


btc said...

Evil Empire Erector!! Don't you know that going unto the ends of the Earth was merely a ploy of the CIA!! Peddling American influence across the globe is inexcusable!!

Okay, seriously now. Good questions. I tend to be inclined to chalk this shift up to a combination of America's traditional insularity and our contemporary trend toward self-absorption. The former needs no explanation. Our self-absorption, on the other hand, is quite complex and many might debate it. Personally, I look at the post-WWII generation and I see a remarkably self-serving and hedonistic bunch of folks with second homes and thirty-years of retirement who raised an even less self-sacrificing generation which begat my own narcissistic generation. We don't go camping in a tent because sleeping on the ground is uncomfortable, we don't permit competition in youth sports because losing is uncomfortable, and we generally go about shielding ourselves from discomfort of any sort.

If the Church is to rise to the occasion, it might be well-served to encourage its congregations to get a little more uncomfortable every now and again.

Unknown said...

Great assessment of our most honorable culture S and F. The question is to continue to ask how much this has infected the body of Christ.

Dave, I distinctly remember you saying to our students every year (this is my paraphrase), "now if this was just a mission trip and you aren't on mission all year long than this was a meaningless experience". Has your perspective been changing or are these two entirely different thoughts?

Dave Miller said...

Great question Michael. I hope I am not changing as I believe that to be true, and I think my upcoming CTI article will affirm that.

But here is where I am struggling. How can we challenge people to live missional lives 24/7, yet not devalue the "ends of the earth" experiences?

Maybe it is like this. Is the church, in calling everything missional, forgetting that there is something very special in being called overseas, and slacking off calling the very best local missional people to go "over there?"

Z-man said...

Great blog Dave, armchair missionaries you could call them and yet there is value in everything imo.