THE NEW PARADIGM OF MISSIONS
What was initially created as a nerve tonic, stimulant and a headache remedy in 1886 became a world renowned brand today; Coke. Most of us enjoyed a can of Coke at one time or the other in life! Right? But how many of us know what the vision and the mission of the Coca-Cola Company is? Here is how they look at the future and their mission statement:
Changing Context: The world is changing all around us. To continue to thrive as a business over the next ten years and beyond, we must look ahead, understand the trends and forces that will shape our business in the future and move swiftly to prepare for what's to come. We must get ready for tomorrow today. That's what our 2020 Vision is all about. It creates a long-term destination for our business and provides us with a "Roadmap" for winning together with our bottler partners.
Their Mission: To refresh the world: To Inspire moments of optimism and happiness: To create value and make a difference :
In order to stay in business the Coke Company is studying and understanding the changing trends and swiftly preparing to face every business challenge in the next 20 years. They motivate their staff, employees, partners to be committed to the vision and the mission of their company. This is a secular company understanding the power of vision and mission.
Having a vision and mission is very Biblical. “The Men of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12; 33). The men of Issachar lived during (1010-970 B.C) changing times. They have just lost their fearless leader and King, Saul. They understood what was going on in Israel at that time and came up with a plan of action for Israel. We too are living in changing times. Things are not the same as they used to be sixty years ago. The message and the mission have not changed but how we do missions in the postmodern context must be given some thought. We can not do things the same old way.
For the past five years my wife and I have been pondering how to witness to people who seemed to have every thing yet are poor without Christ. Since I became the pastor of this church I have been wrestling with questions such as, how can our church remain relevant and impactful in the changing community? What is the New Paradigm of Missions? In order to grasp the new paradigm of missions let’s look at how missions have been done in the past.
I. THE TADITIONAL CONCEPT OF MISSIONS:
A typical individual believer gets a call from God and decides to go to oversees to preach the gospel to the heathen living in the jungles of Africa or dusty villages of Asia. We call these mission fields. The mission’s board adopts that missionary, raises support and sends him out, in some cases the individuals have to raise their own support. The traditional way of doing Missions meant traveling to foreign countries for many centuries. But now the times have changed we don’t have to go to other countries, people from all over the world are coming to USA, and moreover the Air travel is costly and not so safe these days. It doesn’t mean that God won’t call people to go to other countries as missionaries, but he is calling us to open our eyes to see the tremendous need to share the gospel right here in our own cities and communities.
David Brainerd (1718-1747) was a missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. He was born in Connecticut in 1718. By almost every standard known to modern missionary boards, David Brainerd would have been considered a real risk and rejected as a missionary candidate. He was tubercular -- from his youth was frail and sickly. He never finished college, being expelled from Yale, prone to be melancholy and despondent. Yet this young man became a missionary to the American Indians and, in the most real sense pioneered Modern missions. He died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine.
In traditional Missions the focus has been oversees, the heathen in foreign lands. While that focus still continues let’s not forget the millions who do not know Christ right here in our communities. We need to develop new strategies to reach them with the gospel.
II. THE NEW PARADIGM OF MISSIONS:
If you have to describe the mission of Jesus in one word what would you say? A wealthy philanthropist once offered to telegraph one of the founder of the Salvation Army William Booth’s sermon worldwide. Booth excitedly accepted the offer. There’s one stipulation. The philanthropist cautioned “Your sermon can only be one word long” General booth was quick to comply. Here is the master piece one word sermon of Booth “Others” What a fantastic message. William Booth took Paul’s words to Philippians seriously.
Let me read. Philippians 2:4-11 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In this scripture we see a model for missions. We are called to step out of our comfort zones. Some times it is lot easier to do missions in poorer nations than to do missions in the cities of America or to just give money to missions; but actually going out to share the gospel with our friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbors calls for more courage and boldness.
William Booth, David Brainerd D.L Moody, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham and many other American believers over the centuries have understood the mission of Jesus. They followed in his foot steps they cared for others, travelled far and wide to bring the good news. Because of those efforts the gospel has reached to the four corners of the globe. However in the recent decades that tide has turned other way around. England, the once great Christian missionary-sending nation for centuries, before America, now has more mosques than churches, and must itself be reached all over again with the Gospel! We are on this same path. The picture of the so called Christian nations is not that pretty. Consider the following shocking statistics:
According to Leighthon Ford, evangelist and Christian leader, "North America is now the largest mission field in the English-speaking world"
According to George Barna: "With its, 195 million unchurched people, America has become the new mission field.
According to one study, "In 2000, the United States sent out 118,200 missionaries, but it also received 33,200. Ironically, the world's largest missionary-sending country now needs missionaries. The number of churches in Chicago has decreased by 900 in the last 10 years! In many cases what were once churches are now condominiums. While Christianity is drastically decreasing other faiths are showing explosive growth in the USA. The world's largest Buddhist temple is located in Boulder, CO,! The world's largest Muslim training center is in New York City, The world's largest training center for transcendental meditation is in Fairfield, Iowa,”
What’s happening? What has brought this lethargy in the Church in America? How have we drifted so far off from the “Primary Purpose”? We have no one else to blame except ourselves. How do we understand Missions in this depressing, and overwhelming context? How can we over come lethargy and regain our lost passion for souls?
David Shibley, writes in his book “The mission’s Addiction” “The Antidote for lethargy is to get outside of ourselves and embrace a greater vision of God and His unflinching determination to receive glory from every people and nation.” Look at the hundreds and thousands of Immigrants pouring in to the USA and many of them are from closed countries to the gospel. Who will reach them with the gospel? I firmly believe this is the time for the Church of Jesus Christ to rise up from its slumber and get involved in local missions. If we as a Church want to be relevant and make a difference in our communities we need to have a new paradigm of Missions. The new paradigm of Missions is to become Missional in our thinking and living. Let me explain:
II. WHAT IS MISSIONAL?
In the past decade or so I have started hearing the term Missional more and more. Recently I attended a pastor’s network meeting where pastors and new church planters were working on a book called “Think Missional”: Becoming the people God intended by Les Welk. Let me share a few thoughts from this book: “The word missional is a relatively new term but has been used by mission strategists since 1950. It is important that individual Christ-followers and faith communities seek to grasp the meaning of missional living and pursue such a lifestyle.
A missional life is where “the way of Jesus’ informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture.” Being Missional is to participate in the Mission of God which is to participate in what Christ is doing in the world. Therefore the church is not to determine its own agenda but rather participate in God’s agenda according to His call and guidance. Missional church is more concerned being God centered than program centered.” Missional churches do not see themselves as a “vendor of Christian marketing” but rather view the Church as the “sent people of God sent on the Mission of Jesus.”
Some times we have a wrong nation of missions, Darrel Gudder in his book “Missional Church” stated, “The mission is not merely an activity of the church. Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purpose to restore and heal creation.” We think missionaries are special people with a special calling to deliver a special message to a specific group of people. We esteem these people in high honor. Which is well and good; but do you know that in one way we all are missionaries? We have received the call to go? And we all have the same sender sending us with a same message on a mission. John 20:21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." To do what? To share the good news with the lost. What was and is the Mission of Jesus?
III. THE MISSION OF JESUS:
Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus always was mindful of the needs of others. He never lost sight of his mission. He did not hold anything back for himself including his life in order to accomplish his mission. What did Jesus say about his mission on earth?
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” He illustrated his mission through parables and demonstrated it through his miracles. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin illustrate the fact that lost souls are on God’s top priority list.
He reminded his disciples of his primary purpose time and again. On one occasion he said to them; Mark 1:38-45 "Let us go somewhere else-- to the nearby villages-- so I can preach there also. That is why I have come. So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”
If we claim to be his followers then we have an obligation to fulfill. Let’s ask ourselves as individuals and corporately as a church how are we fulfilling the great commission? How is Evangelical Congregational Church of Atlantic fulfilling the great commission? In efforts to become a relevant church in the community the leadership of this church met together last year and came up with a vision statement and mission statement.
When the world around us is changing rapidly, we can not afford to do the same old things in the same old way year after year. Each of us needs to rise up and ask, Lord how do you want me to be involved in building this church? How can I use my gifting and skills to serve you better? When the world out there is dying without Christ how can we the followers of Christ keep this wonderful gift of salvation to ourselves? May the Lord help each of us and our Church to be fully committed and engaged in the Mission of God. Amen