What is the mission of the church? What are God’s people supposed to be doing until He returns? These are questions that are worth asking if you are a disciple of Christ. After all, if we don’t understand what our mission is then we are all but destined to fail in accomplishing it.
I just recently returned from spending two weeks in the mountains of Peru. Several others from the church accompanied me and we went to South America with the goal of being on mission for God. Now I realize that many of us may have grown up being taught the meaning of being on mission for God. However, I believe that the general consensus among many churches today may be a bit off track when it comes to the mission of God.
Many times we are misled into thinking that the primary purpose of going on a mission trip is to find people that are poorer than we are so we can go and give them some stuff that they don’t have. We often confuse social work and community projects for gospel proclamation. Unfortunately, it took me traveling to the mountains of Peru to figure this out for myself.
The people with whom we were working have very little in the way of material possessions. They have running water, but it is not clean nor is it warm. They have buildings and homes, but they are primitive at best. They have electricity, but it is often unreliable. Aside from that, they just don’t have very much stuff. But here’s the interesting thing. They don’t appear to want stuff. They appear to be, for all practical purposes, content with what they have. They have not been tainted with this spirit of materialism and entitlement that courses through the veins of the American culture. Their children very rarely cry or pitch a fit. They don’t scream because they don’t have the latest game for their XBox or Wii. The people in this village did not rush up to us the moment we arrived because they figured the “Americans” had just come to offer them a hand out. They are content with what they have.
So here’s the epiphany. How many times have church groups traveled all over the world only to give people “stuff” instead of giving them Jesus? How many mission fields have been forever jaded because of an American presence that has been equated with nothing more than free stuff? Thankfully, this was not the case among the people with whom we worked. No one had ever reached them before and there was no expectation that we had come just to give them stuff. This is when I realized what the true mission of the church is.
Jesus is not an add-on. Jesus is not something that we include if we have time. We don’t go halfway around the world so we can do an American VBS for people who don’t have the slightest idea what we’re doing. We don’t travel long distances just so we can give people some trinkets from Oriental Trading (no offense). Brothers and sisters: THE MESSAGE IS JESUS. Just give them Jesus. That is the mission of God. His name is Jesus.
There’s nothing wrong with meeting physical needs for people that have them, but there is a lot more to it than that. The only reason that we go to meet peoples’ physical needs is so we might earn the opportunity to show them who can meet their greatest spiritual need. The best mission trip in the world is one where you can share the love and the message of Jesus. If meeting physical needs is the pathway for that to happen, then so be it. But the trip is not about the physical needs. The trip is about the mission and the mission is all about Jesus Christ.
We don’t have time to waste with a lack of intentionality. We’re in a war and we have a job to do. The mission is clear. “If people all over the world are under condemnation for sin and cut off from eternal life, and if calling on Jesus is their only hope for eternal, joyful fellowship with God, then love demands missions.” (Let the Nations be glad by John Piper) It’s time to stop asking people to come to us. It’s time to start declaring, “Send me, I’ll go.” Let’s get to it, folks. Everyday. Everywhere. To everyone. Let’s get to it.