Meeting Without Mission

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If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

If the church had no mission, would it still meet?

On July 22, 2012, David Goeser went missing. He was a 22-year-old UCLA student. His car was found in Pacific Palsades, near Los Angeles. Within 48 hours search efforts included the entire western coast.

David’s dad, Mark Goeser, said in the midst of the search, “One of the things that I’ve observed since my son has been lost is how these groups that search for the lost (like Search and Rescue teams) have nothing in common except for the commitment to the mission: to find the lost. Without that mission they’d never be drawn together. Yet with this mission to find the lost they have a deep sense of community. They all share a common experience of tremendous loss — or the joy of finding someone! And yet it seems that in many churches today, if you took away their mission to find the lost, they would keep on meeting together for the sake of community.”

The effort to find Mark’s son had brought together hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. That is the power of a mission. Unfortunately the team’s efforts did not end the way they had hoped. Two months later, on September 22, David’s body was found.

When you read the rebuke of the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel 34, the rebuke was not because they failed to foster community. Ezekiel 34:6 says, “My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.” The leaders were called to task for failing to seek the lost, in the way a shepherd would his sheep.

Jesus said his mission was search and rescue. He said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus had a mission and formed a community around that mission.

With a mission to seek the lost, a deep sense of community will be found. With a mission to seek community, a commitment to seek the lost is rarely found.

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What Is the State of the Mission?

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State of the Mission

You are privileged. You have been granted access to information not everyone has. You have heard the story of the creator God coming into his creation and giving himself to those he created. That’s the gospel of Jesus reconciling the world to himself. You have been granted access to that story.

Privileged

Not everyone is so privileged. There are over 4,000 peoples, with unique languages, ethnicities, and cultures, (over 1/4 of world population) who have no access to the gospel. Through the hundreds of missionaries of The Alliance, we have access to around 100 of those peoples. So there’s a lot of work do be done.

Access

There is an access divide. There are those who have access to the gospel message and those who have no access. The mission is to make disciples of each and every unique people group on the earth. Compared to all the resources available (both people and money,) for this mission, from those who have the privilege of having the gospel, only a sliver goes to those who have no access (3% of all missionaries and 1% of all the money).

Response

I am proud that The Alliance family has allocated over 80% of our international workers to those who have no or low access to the gospel. Jesus said, “Everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). We have been given much. I trust the emphasis of our mission strategy to go to the least reached is the right response to the demands of the need. May we never take for granted the privilege of what we have been given.

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Stop Trying to Reach the World

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Deep Impact

Making an impact

There was a time when I thought God’s desire for my life was to make the biggest impact in the world I possibly could. I remember preaching a sermon about that idea, where I used the scene in the movie Deep Impact when the asteroid hits the earth to illustrate making an impact in the world. I now see how stupid that illustration was, since the impact of the asteroid only created destruction and devastation. But I digress.

Making disciples

I am beginning to receive the Great Commission as a great relief. God has not called me (or you) to save the world. Jesus did not say, “Go and make disciples of the whole world.” He said, “Go and make disciples of every people [ethne or people group].” (Matt 28:19) I am not denying God loves the whole world. We all know John 3:16. But we are not God. His mandate is more personal and specific. Let me try to explain.

Mission as project

It is easy for me to approach the mission as a project. Jesus was clear that the mission was to real people, in real places (Acts 1:8). Andy Crouch recently wrote how mission gets put in faceless, impersonal terms of “engaging culture”. He says, “Our mission is not primarily to ‘engage the culture’ but to ‘love our neighbor.’” (CT July/August 2016 page 34). Mission as a project to engage the culture becomes so murky. How do we really know if we are making a difference?

Let God make a difference

We are not called to make a difference. We are called to make disciples. Real, flesh-and-blood people, in real places, at this particular time in history. That is why I am glad the mission of The Alliance says nothing about reaching the world. We have agreed to work at the mission Jesus gave us: to make disciples. As Stephen Freeman wrote, “Let God make all the difference in the world.” The part of the mission God has invited us into is with people. He will work out the cosmic redemption himself.

Fostering inaction

This is where we as mission mobilizers have to be so careful. If we communicate mission as a global project, I believe they can become overwhelmed and paralyzed about what to do. Presenting a vision of reaching the world can actually foster inaction. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words about global, impersonal worry becoming an escape from personal charity. This is why partnerships with the international workers who are present in the places we are not, become so important. We are to do the work we can and support those (real people) doing what we can’t.

Fulfilled together

Be encouraged that God does not expect you to impact the world. You are fulfilling his mandate as you are faithful in making disciples of real people in real places. None of us can accomplish the mission alone. By God’s design, it can only be fulfilled together.

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God is at work in the world… it’s a fact!

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Pull Shot

My mission

My personal mission statement is to join God’s mission in the world through the gifts he’s given me. I am presupposing a couple of things in that statement.

Jump in

First, God is already at work in the world. I simply get to jump in on the action. He has invited me to join his mission.

In your hand

Second, he has placed in my hands the way he wants me to participate. He has given me the talents, abilities, and interests for his mission. “What is in your hand?” God asked Moses. He asks the same question today.

It is all grace

That means it’s all grace, not me. And it means I will participate in a particular way. I don’t have to do it all. I simply get to do my part.

God is at work

I trust you are convinced God is at work in the world. Last week I shared three things about the global church that are reminders of how God is at work in the world. I want to share three more.

He want you to join him

If you are convinced that God is at work, on mission, in the world, I trust you also know he wants you to join him. It’s actually his only strategy for accomplishing his mission – people joining him in his work.

What is your part?

If you are convinced he has invited you to join him, what part has he asked you to play? He has put something particular in your hands. It’s in your hands, because he wants you to join him.

3 [more] reminders

Below are 3 things we need to constantly remind ourselves, and those we lead, about the global Church. These come from Max Wilkins, CEO of The Mission Society. Feel free to print these out and distribute them to your missions team or, even, copy and paste them in your own newsletter, email, or bulletin.

 1. The world is joining the missionary movement

Largely comprised of workers from European and North American countries, today the global missionary force is made up increasingly of people from emerging Christian nations. South Korea, Nigeria, Ghana, the Philippines, and even China are just a few of the nations in the global south and east who are actively sending out missionaries. Many of these missionaries are serving in Europe and North America. Indeed, a church of 30,000 in Kiev, four of the largest churches in London, and one of the largest in New York City are all pastored by Nigerian missionary pastors!

2. Pentecostalism is becoming the majority expression of the Christian faith

In 1900 there were virtually no Pentecostal Christians in the world. By 1980, six percent of the world’s Christians were a part of the movement. Today it is estimated that more than one in four believers worldwide identify as Pentecostals, and they are adding 35,000 believers a day!

3. Movements to Jesus are growing among Muslims and other faiths

Large numbers of Muslims are reporting visions and dreams in which Jesus speaks to them. Many are seeking (and finding) a relationship with Jesus as Savior among their own people and within their own culture. Jesus movements are also growing among Hindu and Buddhist communities. The church is growing as these Christ followers are discovering faith expressions that are Jesus centered, yet culturally relevant to their own context. Beautiful new expressions of the church are growing up in these “insider” movements.

Remember the right question

The bottom line is, God is at work in the world! The question is not Will his mission get done? The question is How will we join him in his mission?God is at work and his mission will be accomplished. What part has he asked you to play in his mission?

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3 Things to Remember about the Global Church

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Alliance Espresso is your weekly shot of mission perspective from the Midwest District office.

Alliance Espresso is your weekly shot of mission perspective from the Midwest District office.

The mandate

Jesus’ final mandate was to makes disciples of all the nations baptizing them (identifying with God’s character and authority) and teaching them to observe (not just to know) everything he commanded. There is nothing in this mandate about what to believe. This mandate defines who Jesus’ followers are to be and what they are to do.

Will be accomplished

We do not have to wonder or worry about whether this mandate will be accomplished. The future was graciously unveiled to the last of the original disciples this mandate was spoken to. In Revelation 7:9, John was given a glimpse of a “great multitude” that was “from every nation”. Disciples from all the nations will follow Jesus!

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3 Reminders

Below are 3 things we need to constantly remind ourselves, and those we lead, about the global Church. These come from Max Wilkins, CEO of The Mission Society. Feel free to print these out and distribute them to your missions team or, even, copy and paste them in your own newsletter, email, or bulletin.

 1. The church is growing

The reports of the imminent death of the church are greatly exaggerated. While it is true that a few places in the world are experiencing an increasingly secular society, globally the Church is not only the largest faith expression (representing 2.2 billion people or 31.5 percent of the world’s population), it also continues to grow. Most experts believe the church will approach three billion adherents by the year 2050.

2. The center is moving south and east

For most of its history, the center of Christianity has moved west and north. The church saw great expansion in Europe and later in the Americas. Increasingly Christianity became associated with the western world. But over the last century a massive shift has taken place. The center of Christianity has moved to the global south and back towards the east, and lies today somewhere around the equator in West Africa.

3. Sub-Saharan Africa now has 60 times as many Christians as 100 years ago

In 1910 there were less than nine million believers in sub-Saharan Africa. Today there are well over a half BILLION! This figure represents the most explosive growth of the church in its 2,000-year history. Today, three of the nations with the highest number of Christians (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia) are in Africa.

Remember the right question

The bottom line is, God is at work in the world! The question is not Will his mission get done? The question is How will we join him in his mission?God is at work and his mission will be accomplished. What part has he asked you to play in his mission?

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So Big You Can’t Miss!

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Domino Effect

No use trying

When the giants of global missions are considered, they can seem so big that it is easy to conclude there is no use trying. Perhaps we aren’t tempted to totally give up, but at times wonder what difference our tiny part can make.

Vision to match the problem

I have been reading between Psalm 65-68 the past couple of weeks. The global vision of the Psalmist has stood out to me from these Psalms. All the earth and all the nations are spoken of. Global giants require a vision of a global God.

It’s so big

Nicky Gumbel says, “There are two possible attitudes when facing a giant. One is to say, ‘It’s so big, there’s nothing I can do.’ The other is to say, ‘It’s so big, I can’t miss!’” I love that perspective!

Domino effect

That kind of perspective reminds me of an experiment by physicist, Lorne Whitehead. He figured out a single domino can topple another domino 50 percent bigger. Apparently it’s physics, that’s why it took a physicist to figure this out! I’ve seen the schematic and I still don’t understand how it works.

To the moon

Starting with a single, two-inch domino, the 10th domino would be as tall as Peyton Manning. The 18th would be as tall as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The 23rd would be taller than the Eiffel Tower. The 31st would be over Mt. Everest. The 57th would get you to the moon.

Knock down giants

Never think your tiny prayer has no effect. Never think the amount you give to the Great Commission Fund makes no difference. Never think the work you are doing isn’t doing anything. The Lord can take our little dominos and knock down giants that we never could have imagined!

Sure to hit

There is no denying how huge the mission is, but that just means when you come up against it and lean your domino into it, you are sure to hit it!

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Maybe We Are Praying All Wrong

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Fields White Harvest

Jesus Prayer Request

Jesus made a prayer request to his followers. He said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) People get this request for more sending all wrong. Jesus did not request prayer for the harvest. The crop is ready. Nor did Jesus say there is a problem with the workers. The problem, in his mind, was that the workers were not in the right place. His request was for workers to be launched into the harvest.

Plenty of Ripe People

There is not a problem with the number of people ready to welcome the good news. People want to hear the gospel. They are harassed and helpless and want leadership. The most successful person you know, has problems. The person you think has it all, is harassed by something and feels helpless about something. There is no lack of people ripe for the help and hope of the gospel.

Plenty of Ready Workers

There is not a problem with the number of workers to help. The workers are few in the harvest field, not that too few exist. They aren’t in the right place. The workers are there, they need to be sent out. The problem is the workers have not been released and launched. Jesus said to, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” The issue is there are not enough workers sent out.

Compassion Is the Place to Start

For Jesus, it started with compassion. The story is, two verses earlier, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Praying that more people come to our services or more people share their faith is not most important. I am not suggesting it is wrong to do that. However, it may not be the place to start. Praying that more people are filled with compassion is the place to start. Could the reason be we are not seeing more workers in the harvest is a lack of love?

No Compassion, No Crop

The Father is in charge of the harvest, according to Jesus. He emphasized the Father is “the Lord of the harvest” and that it is “his harvest field”. So God brings in a crop where he pleases and as he pleases. Perhaps it doesn’t please him to bring the harvest to our ministries because he knows we will not love them well. If our schedules are full of the right programs and our teaching is full of the right doctrine, but our hearts are not full of compassion, why would God direct people our way?

Maybe We’re Praying All Wrong

Maybe we are praying Matthew 9 all wrong. We don’t need to pray for a good crop or more workers. We should be praying that the workers we have are launched.

I thought of 3 ways that can launch more workers into the harvest:

  1. Stir up compassion.
  2. Tell people your vision.
  3. Take more risks with people.

Stir up Compassion

Tell people about the needs around them. We can’t create compassion in people, but we can stir up compassion. I think this is what was meant in the passage, “Let us consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) We are trying to do this in the year-end campaign. We can highlight the reality people are living in. We get shielded from the hurt and pain many face. But, compassion can be stirred as we remind people of the common problems we all face.

Tell People Your Vision

Tell people of the opportunities you see. Four years ago, my pastor, David, mentioned a vacuum he saw in our church. A lot of people between the twenty-somethings and the senior saints were falling through the cracks. He asked if I’d be interested in organizing something for the thirty-somethings. I had no idea this was a need, even though I am a thirty-something. Jamie and I have plenty of friends and are spiritual self-feeders, so we didn’t see the need. That conversation launched a new ministry and for the past four years we’ve organized classes and dinners for this group. I would have never been sent if David had not mentioned the problem that he saw. Don’t assume people see what you see.

Take More Risks

Give people a chance. This is what Jesus did. Jesus had a process of people development. The record we have of his ministry, doesn’t reflect three years of busy meandering, without purpose. He was on a mission and part of that was to develop people to continue that mission in his stead. The only way to do that was to give people a chance. The next passage after this statement of Jesus to send workers, is about the twelve disciples being sent (Mt 10). Were they ready? No way! But Jesus gave them a chance.

The Request Is about Launching

Ask the Lord of the harvest to show you ways to send out more workers into the harvest field. Ask him to show you creative ways to stir up the compassion within people. Ask him to show you specifically whom to talk with about the opportunities you already see. Ask the Lord of the harvest whom you should give a chance, even if you don’t think they are ready.

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