A lot of times you and I hear that word “missions” and we think, “No, missions isn’t for me.” Or we think, “No, not this time, but maybe in a different season.” If you’re familiar with our FCC community, you’ve likely noticed you don’t really hear us use the word missionary/missions a whole lot. That’s often because that word can come with a lot of baggage. While some of you who are reading this might have a good connotation with the word missions, it’s important to recognize that a lot of people have seen really bad things done in the name of Christian “missions.” Missions isn’t unique only to Christianity, though. In fact, other religions also have their own form of missions. Sometimes you have seen missions done with poor or wrong intentions. When you and I start wading through this muddled mess of the ups and downs of the history of missions, current “mission” strategies churches use, or even sometimes the complete lack or void of missions in some churches, it can become a really discouraging and confusing thing. This can be especially discouraging and confusing if you’re reading this and you’re new to this whole Jesus thing. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of intentional and alternative language used at FCC when it comes to what we’d typically call “missions.” Again, don’t hear this wrong, the word missions is not a bad word. However, it’s important to have a common ground and unified understanding for what that word means and how it is used. What is missions really all about? Who is it for? Why do people do it?
At it’s core, a mission is a goal or a pursuit of something. When applied in the Christian church context, what is God’s mission and how do those of us who follow Jesus live that out? Let’s go back to the beginning.
We all know that we’ve got things in our life that we’ve caused to bring hurt and pain on ourselves and others. This is called sin. Sin separates us from God because it gets in the way of our pursuit of the things God wants for us. God wants things for us like peace, joy, healthy relationships, freedom from addictions or unhealthy cycles, mutual respect for others, love, compassion, etc. The list could go on and on. We often make decisions that feel good in the moment, that we know will ultimately bring hurt to others and ourselves. These are decisions that are based out of pride, lust, the temptation to be liked or popular at the cost of someone else. Our separation from God ultimately results in death: death in relationships, death in finances, death in the ability to find joy, etc. The climax of all this death is a physical death, but this isn’t the end.
God’s love was so great for you and I, that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on behalf of us. Jesus created a bridge back to a restored relationship with God. He paid the price of death and then rose to life so that you and I can now claim victory over death and freedom in Jesus. This wasn’t just for you and I though, it’s for all people.
That’s the greatest mission of God. His number one goal and pursuit is for all people to know of the freedom and hope He offers. How does God get the word out you ask? He does it through His people who are committed to following Jesus. We can read all throughout different written accounts of the Old and New Testament how God continued to lead people in this mission. In the Old Testament, God made Himself known to a group of people called Israel. Because the Old Testament predates Jesus’ defeat and victory over death, God gave Israel a bunch of laws and offered a way for people to still experience relationship with God despite their sin. He called all of Israel to share this message with all the nations of the world. 1 Chronicles 16:24 says, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” Regarding God’s call to follow His laws, Deuteronomy 4:5-6 says “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” God even told Abraham, who was essentially the founding father of the nation of Israel, “..all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)
Without trying to oversimplify the Old Testament, it really comes down to a collection of accounts that tell the story of how Israel responded to God’s invitation to live in His freedom and the invitation to extend that freedom to all the nations of the world. His call on Israel was to share the blessing that He had given them, starting with Abraham. That call is the same today for all who follow Jesus.
Jesus came on the scene 2,000 years ago to ultimately defeat death once and for all, making the law of the Old Testament null. It no longer was needed to create a bridge back to God. Jesus’ death and resurrection are now the bridge. In fact, Jesus completely does away with religion and sets a new standard, a new law and a mission:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).” Another account of Jesus’ life in the New Testament records Jesus responding to the question, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).”
If you follow Jesus, you have the opportunity to share God’s love and freedom with others. Sometimes this is best done through actions and sometimes it’s best done through words. It’s not something we can only do on a “missions” trip or a church outreach program. While those can be great ways to live out God’s mission, if it’s the only way we live out God’s mission then we’ve really missed the mark. Rick Warren, a Pastor in Southern California, says,
“Many people have the misconception that being ‘called’ by God is something only missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other church leaders experience. But Jesus teaches that everyone is called to serve God by serving others.”
What God wants is that we exercise our newfound freedom He’s offered us by helping extend that freedom into the lives of others. When you decide to treat people better, you do better. When you decide to help others thrive, you thrive. Living freely is extending freedom into others’ lives by serving and living “mission minded” in every aspect of our lives every single day. As followers of Jesus, we should be asking, “Who has God put in my path today that I need to communicate God’s message of hope to through word and deed?” And, “How does my prayer life reflect God’s heart for all the nations of the world to know Him?” Regarding our work life, “How am I using my job and pursuit of success to edify God’s Kingdom and bring His message to more and more people?” Regarding our financial life, “Does the way I handle my finances reflect God’s heart for all nations to experience His love and freedom? How am I financially invested in pursuing God’s mission?” What it all boils down to is when we ask “is missions for me?,” we really should be asking, “how can I live out God’s mission?”