Finding a fresh perspective for modern missions.
Paul exhorts believers, as they offer their bodies as living sacrifices, not to be conformed to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewal of their minds. This way, they will discern the will of God.
Much can be said about, not to mention application to be had from, the truth contained in Romans 12:1–2. One of the interesting takeaways from Romans 12 is that it precedes a section of Paul’s letter where he notes his burning desire for Israel to know Christ. The salvation of God should naturally lead to the transformation of his people through a new and renewed understanding or way of thinking.
I often tell churches we do well by speaking of individual sanctification, but just as there is individual sanctification, a need for corporate sanctification also exists. Individuals need to continually be transformed, and so do the corporate bodies called local churches.
The 21st century is being defined as a post-everything world—postmodern, post-Christian and [eventually] post-COVID-19. It is challenging the church to be transformed with a fresh perspective of mission, a new way of thinking with methods and a renewed attitude of joy.
A FRESH PERSPECTIVE OF MISSION
The church in the West has enjoyed home-field advantage for roughly 1,700 years. In that time, mission has been somewhat easy. However, we have now lost that advantage, which means that mission and advancement of the gospel will be harder.
What was easy about the mission when the church enjoyed home-field advantage? For starters, if you think of it in terms of the progression of the great commission (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and uttermost parts of the earth) or James Engel’s Scale of Evangelism, it meant reaching a culture that is similar to a Christian worldview. That is no longer the case. Our culture has become more comprised of Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world, or to put it in Engel’s language, they have “no effective (or defective) knowledge of Christianity.”
Now that we are the visiting team, we must understand that mission will not be easy as it once was. Mission will not be as microwavable—simple. Mission will not be as marketable—enticing through slick sermon series. Mission will not be as meteoric—rapid multiplication.
Churches will need to receive a fresh perspective of mission by seeing it as a long-term investment rather than a short-term turnaround.
A NEW WAY OF THINKING WITH METHODS
From the Industrial Revolution to now, our culture has adapted to the various tools or technologies that facilitate a company, machine or person’s purpose. From combines to computers, from working on the assembly line to working remotely, different methods have been created to facilitate one’s mission.
When it comes to the mission of God being carried and advanced by the vehicle of his church, a variety of ways are available to share and show the gospel of King Jesus. I know some people may disagree with this, and that might be because of a difference in defining what God’s mission is. I see God’s mission as redeeming a people for himself from all peoples on planet Earth through faith in Christ Jesus. And the way God accomplishes his mission is through the church as people share and show the gospel in the power of the Spirit. As the fall affected every sphere of life, so, too, will the gospel.
Therefore, a new way of thinking, which is not so new to many, will be spheric. In addition to seeing the church building or the corporate worship gathering as the primary place of fulfilling God’s mission, churches will be thinking how they can equip and release individuals, offer corporate opportunities and partner with or create institutions to engage all spheres within in the community.
By engaging the spiritual, social and cultural spheres of the community in individual, corporate and institutional ways, the church over time offers a vision of the kingdom Jesus inaugurated and will one day consummate.
A RENEWED ATTITUDE OF JOY
When ministry and mission get tough, they tend to suck the life and joy out of leaders. Like many of you, I’ve enjoyed those seasons in ministry when everything is going well. Mission seemed fruitful, ministry was flourishing and the church was in sound fellowship. Such an environment naturally breeds joy. But disrupt any of those things, and it is easy to succumb to frustration and discouragement.
The further we move into the 21st century, the more we will learn that the soil is not as fertile. We will have to work even harder to tend to and cultivate it. We will also continue to see the shrinking of cultural Christianity (or nominalism)—and will, in many cases, experience a more sporadic attendance of the faithful. We will continue to experience the waning of honor bestowed on church leaders—and at the same time will continue to receive contentious displeasures from people in our fold.
Neither ministry nor mission will be for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, in the difficulty we must have a renewed attitude of joy—a joy that is experienced and expressed in all things. To do so, we must see mission and ministry the way Jesus saw the cross—“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2).
We will need renewed thinking in a post-everything society. May we not be conformed to the patterns of this world or the old patterns of Christendom, but through the power of the Spirit may we be transformed through a mind that receives a fresh perspective of mission, revises our methods to accomplish it and renews an attitude of joy.