The word missions is a word often used within the church to describe a variety of things. In many churches, anything done outside of the church building takes on the label, “missions.” In one sense I understand why, after all, much of what we do has some sort of missional component implicitly connected to it but in another sense, I see this as a big problem. I think it is imperative for us, as the Church, to not lose sight of the difference between outreach and missions, especially as it relates to the call of the church.
Traditionally, when we speak of missionaries and mission work, we are speaking of people who have given up the comforts of home to serve God elsewhere, specifically to bring the good news of the gospel to those who have not heard. William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, Lottie Moon, Jim Elliot, Eric Liddell and many other men and women are examples of those who gave their lives so that others may know the truth of the gospel and be saved. These men and women inspire us and give weight to the words of Jesus when He called us to pick up our cross and follow Him. To study the lives of these people reminds us of the true work of the gospel and the cost associated with it.
However, with this in mind, if we are honest, much of what we do is not really mission work, at least not like that of those mentioned. Much of what we do in the church today is about doing good deeds for people and serving them. This is not to discount the importance of meeting the needs of people, it is what we see modeled by Jesus at various times throughout His ministry, but while it is good and important it is also incomplete.
You see, to just help people and be kind to them, doesn’t mean they have been given the gospel. Maybe they have experienced the outworking of the gospel seen in your life as you served them, but they still have not experienced the gospel. If we are to be a missional people we need be a people who are concerned with more than just doing good things. We need to be a people who are concerned with more than just serving others. Both of these things are important, but neither of these things are in themselves missional.
Let’s face it, many people in our world are very kind toward others without ever loving God. There are relief agencies and generous people who give of their time and resources to help others and to do good things in this world but yet have nothing to do with the things of God. Some of the most ungodly celebrities, athletes, and wealthy people give much to help others and make a difference in this world. So, with that being said, we can’t just think that doing good is the same things as sharing the gospel.
As a pastor, I desire for the people of God to serve, not just every once and awhile, but all the time. If you live in the world then you are constantly confronted with opportunities to serve those around you. You are constantly offered opportunities to make a difference and you should take advantage of those opportunities. I hope that we would seek to cultivate an environment that was marked by people serving others not just because of a workday or because someone is watching but rather out of a sincere desire to serve as though serving Christ. (Eph. 6:7)
While we should be a people who serve, I would hope for us to be a people who are burdened for the lost and desire to share the gospel. We should not only be a people who are defined by service but a people who are defined by missions. As we serve and as we partner with people who are serving, my heart’s desire is that we would be a people who are always looking for ways to share the truth of the gospel, for only the gospel has the power to save. Only the gospel has the power to ultimately help those who are in need.
It is this desire that leads me, along with our leadership team, to evaluate what we do missionally as a church. We often ask ourselves the question, how does this enable us to share the gospel with those who are lost? As a church, we should be about the work of the Kingdom of God first and foremost. Therefore, we should be a people who are always seeking to be missional as we live our lives together in Christ. This means that the organizations we partner with missionally need be organizations that have a burden for the gospel as well and have the gospel at the center of their ministry.
We are always open to how the Lord might lead us to partner with organizations who have a burden for the gospel as we do. Over the last year, the Lord has placed two such organizations in our lives, both of which are doing the work of the gospel in Africa. The first organization is ‘Empower One’. It is a ministry that seeks to bring the gospel to the estimated 20 million Sudanese people who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus. About two years ago a representative from ‘Empower One’ spoke to our church on a Wednesday Night and then this past November six of us from the church had the opportunity to attend their annual banquet in Dallas. Our church has already helped them in building a kitchen in South Sudan at their school facilities where they are teaching children and training pastors for the work of the gospel.
The second organization is the Central Africa Baptist College in Zambia. Many of you met the Ilunga family while they were here on furlough. Allan Ilunga is the head of the chaplaincy department at the college and teaches and trains chaplains there in Zambia. Along with his chaplaincy training in Zambia, Allan goes into the Congo to preach the gospel and distribute the Word of God. The college and the various ministries connected to it are focused on spreading the true gospel in an area where the prosperity gospel and African spiritualism, dressed up like Christianity, have run rampant. Many people speak of Christianity in Africa but understand something very different from the truth found in the Word of God.
This year we have been given the opportunity to visit both of these ministries so that we may see first-hand the work of the gospel being done there. This will also enable us to pray more effectively about how the Lord may be leading us to partner with these organizations. I would ask that you pray for me and the small groups going on these two trips. I will be headed to Uganda in October to come alongside ‘Empower One’ as we visit the refugee camps which are housing many Sudanese people who have been displaced because of civil war. Then in November I have been invited to speak at a leadership conference being hosted at Central Africa Baptist College in Kitwe, Zambia. I will have the opportunity to share with pastors who are doing the work of the gospel in various parts of Africa. At the same time, we will have the opportunity to see the ministry of the college and the impact they are having not only in Zambia but all throughout Africa. I would ask that you pray for these trips. Pray specifically that The Lord would provide the resources needed to go, for safety as the teams travel, (especially during the Uganda trip), that The Lord would give clarity regarding our level of involvement as a result of the trips, and most of all, pray that God may be glorified and that people would be saved as a result of the mission efforts of these two organizations.
Grace and Peace,