Thursday, October 22, 2009

"WE'RE A MISSIONARY CHURCH"

In a comment on my previous article, Brother Mike said "There seems to be a lack of "go do" in our churches today. At least there is on the local front.

Now if you call for a 'mission trip' to some country whose name is difficult to pronounce everyone seems to jump on board. Why? Because it's the trendy and popular thing to do."

This is an excellent example of the mind-set I am at war with. We have church members allowed to "fall through the cracks" right in front of our eyes because we can not or will not expend the effort because it's laborious, mundane, and (publicly) unrewarding. Fact is: our hearts simply are not in it.

But let come the announcement of that "mission trip" to Mexico, Costa Rica, Alaska, etc, and it's "Sign me up, brother! I want to reach people for the Lord!" (I know in advance that this is a real "rant arena" for me and I'm trying to stifle myself....a bit) Maybe some good comes of these things; I'll allow that I am probably not 100% right on this.......however, I am probably never going to be convinced that in most cases these things are not simply glorified vacations which serve further to assuage the consciences of church members who have never lifted a finger on the home front. Their neighbors are untold; their family is untold; their work associates are untold.....but they want to spend $6000. to go to Timbuktu for a week and "win souls"

And this can be extrapolated (with some loss of accuracy, I'm sure) to entire congregations which "Go For The Glory" They have elaborate, well-promoted, well-funded foreign missions programs. Most all this involves supporting financially men and women already on the field, around the world. The maps are up in the hallway and reports are received regularly. Missionaries on leave come by the "supporting church" and do the slide show....."We're a Missionary Church!"

This same church, it might be noted, has no prison or jail ministry; they have no nursing home ministry; they have no food pantry, kitchen, clothing supply, disaster work crews, homeless care ministry, etc, etc, and ETC. None! Fact is, they have no local outreach at all. This "Missionary Church" says to the community where it lives: "We don't have time or patience to deal with you; we're involved in the Lord's work all over the world."

Please correct me here.....but it looks to me like it boils down to this: "We're a Missionary Church" ain't hittin' a lick except to write the check once a month to fund someone else to do the dirty work....and that does not translate into anything local. I mean, it's hard to send out a missionary to your own town, right? So, we can have this big budget, big annual meeting, and big map on the wall, and we can look really good! The idea of actually gettin' off the pew and out into the streets and talking to real people, even dirty, uneducated, uncouth, people not of "our kind"......now that's a bit much. Don't even talk about going into a nursing home to those smelly, pathetic, mindless old people....or a jail or prison and associating with those people!

"We're a Missionary Church" all right.....just so we can keep it convenient, clean, with lots of acclaim, and maybe even get some time on the beach, huh?

4 comments:

Edwin said...

I tell everyone that works for me that its great that you can see a problem but don't bring me problems just to point them out. Bring me a problem and your proposed solution. We may not use your solution but at least I know that you have taken the problem serious enough to think of a solution. So, I'll ask you the same thing - What are the "real world" solutions to this problem? How do we engage people in the work of real missions? How do we retain and recover membership (not merely for numbers sake)?
Dr. Lee Robertson always said "Everything rises and falls on leadership" and I agree with that. So, how do church leaders address the problem?

Ed Franklin said...

Fair question, brother, but my answer may not be too satisfying.

Obviously, this is an issue of the heart. In a sense, nothing leadership can do will, in and of itself, effect a change.

We're dealing with an unregenerate church. So the first efforts ought to be along the lines of 1) making an effort to accept as members those who have good evidence of conversion. 2) Preach the Gospel. This "heart change" is a work of the Holy Spirit, Who works by applying the Word to hearts of hearers.

When individual congregations find themselves dominated by Spirit-filled believers rather than members of the present social club atmosphere, the results will be "automatic" It would do little good merely to treat the symptoms rather than the disease.

Edwin said...

Unfortunately, my answer is the same as yours. I was hoping I was wrong.

mefrye said...

Acts 11:17 (ESV) "If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

Bro. Ed... You describe Cornelius when you speak to those who are seen by the church as "those people". I fear that the mentality found in the church of today (largely) can be likened to Peter and those of "circumcision party" who thought that Gentiles were somehow prevented from conversion by the Holy Spirit. The church might say, "Look! We have built a building in deepest darkest part of Africa." The church might say, "Look! We clothed and fed a multitude in a village in South America." But what the church should say is, "Look! We cannot stand in the way of God! He is working there and we must go there." Whether that "there" is in the house next door, the prison cell across town, the place where you are employed, or the park at the center of town. The Holy Spirit demands that we see and know the Cornelius'. Peter demonstrates that fully.

I don't understand where this concept of church "mission trips" came from. Missionaries serve in the role of those sent, so why are churches trying to fill that role? Yes, we should support 100%, but leave the missionary to do the work that God has called him or her to do, domestic or foreign.

When the church sent Paul and Barnabas out, did the whole of the church go with them? No. When messages were sent from Jerusalem to the church in Antioch, did the whole of the council go with them? No. The LOCAL church should serve as the LOCAL church and support where possible those who have been called and sent elsewhere to serve.

Church "mission trips" have no model Biblically that I can find. Acts 1:8, often used as the foundational verse for mission trips, does speak to the Holy Spirit's work throughout the world and that we will be witnesses IN, not SENT TO, but IN "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the earth". To me, and I'm certainly no scholar, this means you declare it and bare witness to it right where you are standing no matter where you're standing.

One needs no special mission trip to fulfill what Christ has commanded us to do. Unless of course one is embarrassed of He who saves and one doesn't want to be known locally as that "Jesus freak". Too me, the whole concept of a "mission trip" smacks of self-aggrandizement, where the weak seek to feel self-actualized.

(Note: The "self-actualization concept and argument" of the church member is a whole other discussion :-) for another time maybe.)