Is Church Missions Biblical?

Does It Fit With Jesus’ Plan?

What does the Bible say about “missions”; and, how does it fit with Jesus’ plan for His Church? Let me say, at the start, that I don’t find the term “missions” to be very helpful! In fact, I don’t find it anywhere in Scripture & neither will you!

Confusion Over Missions

Unfortunately, it seems, in my 40 years of ministry involvement, that the term “missions” has created a kind of dichotomy in our thinking when it comes to sharing the Gospel—there’s “our church” evangelism effort at home here in America; and, then there’s “missions” or our evangelism effort outside our borders. But, let’s revisit Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church in Matthew 28:19,20.

One Verbal Imperative

Go, and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus said, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Now, there is only one verbal imperative; or, one single action word; and, it’s NOT the word “GO” as I’ve often heard preached! It’s “make disciples”; or, literally “disciple.” Just “disciple”— “…disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father…” Jesus’ plan was & always has been all-world encompassing! It’s not an either-or-proposition; that we have either a strong evangelism effort here at home; or, we have a reputation for being missions minded! Both are the unacceptable extremes of Jesus’ plan for His Church; rather, it’s “BOTH-AND”!

Jesus Died For The World

Jesus’ death on the cross was for the world! God loves the world! Someday, in the eternal state, there will be those from “…every tribe & every nation gathered ‘round the throne of God…” in worship & praise to the Lamb of God. I much prefer the term “making disciples” to “missions.” It’s Biblical! It’s what Jesus called it! So, do you want to be a “world changer”? If you really want to impact the world…be a disciple maker for God. Ultimately, it’s not a “missions program” we need; but, Holy Spirit power to disciple His Church!

The Power We Need

What is the single most important factor in our disciple making efforts? Some might say “love for God” or “love for others”; but, I would argue that that is our motivation to disciple! The most important factor is probably Holy Spirit “power”— “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Everywhere in the world—when there is “much” Holy Spirit power there’s effective disciple making happening! Where there is “little” Holy Spirit power there is very little disciple making going on. Holy Spirit power is essential to being an effective disciple maker! More important than knowledge! More important than choosing the right words! Holy Spirit power is critical to how effective we are at sharing the Gospel!

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Growing In Church Community:

Called To Be Rugged Individualists?

We live in a culture where “rugged individualism” is heralded as a good thing! The individual “self” is celebrated! The Apostle Peter—by divine inspiration—seems to offer an alternative view for the follower of Jesus: “Coming to Him (to Jesus) a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God—you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 2:4-5.

Who Are You?

He’s talking about our “identity”! This is “who” we are in Christ! First, we are “living stones.” By coming to Jesus, THE “living stone”, we become “living stones”, Peter says. Second, as “living stones” we are “being built into a spiritual house.” We were like dead rocks until Jesus saved us! But, now we’re “living stones”; and, becoming more like Jesus, THE “living stone.” And, He’s building a “spiritual house” with us! This is the coolest picture because it establishes our “identity” as “individuals” & as “community.” It confirms the prominence of “community” in our “individual” lives!

Conformed To His Image In Community

If you don’t “get” this, than you don’t “get” Jesus’ Church! This “building” process is how He sanctifies us; and, He uses the rest of the individual “living stones” who make up the Church—specifically, those in our individual “local” churches—to conform us to the image of Christ! He doesn’t build us, or sanctify us, in isolation! He uses the rest of the body, the “living stones”, to mature our faith! Practically, that means personal conflicts must not be viewed as a reason for leaving your local church; but, as God’s means to alter our own behavior for the unity of the body! Only then do we become a “holy priesthood”; and, a faith community that intercedes between Holy God & sinful man! Only then can we serve our nation; and, our cities as God’s mediators; and, faithful disciple makers! Only then do we become a city, set on a hill, that cannot be hid; a light that draws unbelievers away from the darkness of this broken world!

The Church Is Not Brick & Mortar

We are “living stones” that God is building into a living community of saints; a, spiritual house full of “priests.” We’re not a passive building, church! Don’t GO to Church; BE the Church! God indwells—not a building—but, a “people.” We will only find our true “identity” as Jesus builds us & adds us into His Church; this, spiritual house! When we know who we are, relationships will be birthed that will stand the test of time! We’ll take our ministry seriously—as a sacrifice of praise—with a sense of urgency! Our worship together will be sweet because Jesus is infinitely precious to us!

 

 

A Biblical Case For Social Media!

Social Media Is Here To Stay

Like it, or not, Social Media is hard-wired into our culture. Some social experts predict that in less than 10 years it will be nearly impossible to interact in the culture without being engaged in social media. In a practical sense, what does that mean for us as followers of Jesus?

The Gospel Requires Us To Interact With People

If we’re unable to interact with our culture, we’ll be unable to share the Gospel! If we can’t share the Gospel we’ll be incapable of fulfilling Jesus’ commission to His Church! That’s how serious it is!

Adapting To Our Culture!

When Hudson Taylor went to China, as a missionary, he was a pioneer when it came to cultural adaptation. At the time, the Church criticized him for adapting Chinese dress & for eating Chinese food with Chinese instruments & for living in Chinese housing & for observing the local customs and etiquette. Those methods seem only natural to us today, don’t they? We assume that a missionary will adapt to the culture; and, use every non-sinful method necessary to disciple people for Christ. But, what about our own context here in America? Should we respond any different to our own culture? Or, is that just for foreign missionaries? No! It’s not! We enter the “Mission Field” every time we leave our homes; and, every time we leave our churches! We have the same Biblical responsibility that Hudson Taylor had to embrace the non-sinful elements of our culture with the goal of winning as many as possible to Jesus.

Outdated & Irrelevant

When we’re “outdated” we become culturally irrelevant; and, an impediment to Gospel penetration in our society! The stakes are too high to reject the current culture just because it’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable to us! The “principle” from Scripture is quite clear—God values the sharing of the Gospel above cultural distinctives! If social media offers me a wider platform for sharing the Gospel, in the current culture, than I’m “enslaved” to do so! See the Apostle Paul!

Paul’s Heavy Words

Here’s what Paul says about cultural relevance: “I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel” -1 Corinthians 9:19-23

 

Best Investment Advice!

The Connection Between Our Faith & Our Finances

No one offers better “investment advice” than Jesus does in His “Parable Of The Unjust Steward” in Luke 16:1-13.  In v.11 He makes a significant connection between our faith and the way we handle our financial resources: “…if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine?” Seek after the “genuine” spiritual wealth & riches of a God-focused life; NOT, the temporal wealth of this world! If you cannot be trusted with the temporary wealth of this world, how can God trust you with the true riches of a deep relationship with Him? As long as your passion is the stuff of this world, you’ll never grow deep in your faith and your walk with the Lord!

The Problem With Earthly Treasures

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus put it like this:  “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” Jesus offers additional “investment advice” when He uses the unjust steward to remind us that one day we’ll be “…called in to give an account…” (v.2) Every year I hire the services of an accountant to prepare my taxes for the day I must “give an account”—April 15th.  In the parable, the Master—the real owner—calls in the steward to “give an account” of the way he had managed his Master’s resources. “If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?” Jesus asks (v.12)

Managing God’s Stuff

The Apostle Paul warned the believers in Corinth, “ We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may give an account for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless” (2 Cor 5:10) So, spend your Master’s resources as one who must “give an account”; not, as autonomous! If you see yourself as an owner you’ll live as though you’re autonomous; that, you have the freedom to do with your stuff as you please; like, you’re the Sovereign! The judgment seat of Christ will determine how faithful you were in the management of all the stuff God gave you to steward for Him!

Whose Slave Are You?

Jesus concludes the “Parable Of The Unjust Servant” like this: “…you can’t be slaves to both God and money.” v.13 You will choose one or the other! Everyone does! And, the judgment will reveal it— “good stewards” or “worthless stewards”? Enslaved to money & stuff? Be a worthless steward to God! Or, make God your Master & leverage the money & stuff for His kingdom purposes! We need to regularly, intentionally give everything back to God! Tell yourself, “I need to emotionally pry my fingers off everything I own…God, this is Your house…Your car…Your job…Your 401k; How do You want me to manage it for You?”

 

Actually, God Does Own Your Stuff!

How Much Do We Have To Give?

The “tithing” question almost always revolves around “how much do we have to give?” Do we still have to give 10%? Isn’t that just in the Old Testament? I’ve heard people argue that it’s their money and they’ll give to causes or projects that they believe in; while, others claim they don’t give because churches & pastors have misused church offerings and can’t be trusted! Some have told me that they can’t tithe because they can’t afford it— “There’s always too much month left at the end of our money,” they say. Others say that they’re afraid to tithe— “What happens if we fall on hard times & we’ve given all that money to the church?”

It’s All About Your Heart

In counseling people about their finances, I’ve found that it’s ultimately not a “tithing” question; but, a “heart” issue! Where is your heart? God addresses money matters so frequently—it’s estimated there are over 2000 verses speaking on money—because our financial interests have a way of stealing our heart more than anything else in life! I’ll just admit right now that I probably won’t satisfy your curiosity about tithing in this post. If we just focus on whether to tithe or not to tithe it can quickly turn into legalism and a fulfilling of the letter of the law. I’ll just say this much: I believe there is Scriptural support that if O.T. giving was a tenth under law, that nothing less than that would be the starting point under grace!

Are You A Steward Or An Owner?

In Luke 16, Jesus unpacks some financial principles in His parable about the unjust steward. I’ll only deal with one of those principles here—Jesus teaches us to think like a steward of our stuff; not an owner! God is like the rich man in the story & we’re the steward! The reason the steward was unjust? Because he handled his master’s money as though it were his own! The psalmist wrote:  “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him” Psalm 24:1. See also Psalm 50:10 & 1 Corinthians 4:7. This is bigger than a tithing question! God says it’s not 10% His and 90 % ours! It’s ALL HIS! ALL of it! We’re just managing God’s stuff? Are you acting like a steward over your stuff or an owner?

Faithful In Little; Faithful In Much

Take a look at v.10 in that Luke 16 passage—Jesus teaches us to also be content with the stuff He’s given us to manage, not covetous!Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful in much.” I’ve heard people say they can’t tithe because they don’t make enough money. That’s backward thinking! The tithe comes 1st— “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” Prov. 3:9. Jesus is ultimately saying here that if you don’t tithe with your current income you wouldn’t if you made twice as much— if you’re unrighteous in little you’ll be unrighteous in much! And, I’ve seen that played out way too often!

 

What Should We Value In Church Ministry?

The American Church Landscape

For most of the last 36 years of my life I have been on the staff of a local church; so, I like to think that gives me some “depth perception” — I’ve observed the landscape of the church for nearly 4 decades! That said, the health of the church in America has never been more alarming. According to the United States Census Bureau Records, 4000 churches close their doors each year while only 1000 new churches start up. Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity; or, put another way, people are leaving the church! Since 1992, church attendance has dropped around 13% while population growth as increased by 9%. If we all do the math we’ll all come up with the same conclusion — we’re losing ground! And, it’s snow balling! “Humanly” speaking it’s an irreversible trend!

Thankfully, we serve a God that is neither limited by nor impressed with human trends. He transcends human trends! He loves to step into our world supernaturally & overcome all human logic and wisdom by His eternal power; and, He does it for the glory of His name!

How Should We Respond?

I’m privileged to be part of an Elder team that really cares about the church to whom we minister. We begin each of our meetings in prayer — sometimes lengthy prayer — seeking God’s direction for our meeting and for His church.

One of our Biblical titles is “Overseer” — pretty straight forward, isn’t it? We’re responsible for the “oversight” of our local church ministry. It means we’re “stewards”! We’re not “bosses”; nor, are we “owners” of the church! It belongs to Jesus because He “bought” us; and, we’re not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)! As Elders, we “oversee” the work on His behalf.

We concluded that too much of our ministry effort, in the past, has been the pooling of human wisdom. We had bowed down to the “Idol of Pragmatism” which led us to “add this ministry” or “do it this way” because it worked at Mega Bible Church in Big City, USA. Which begs the question, if it’s Jesus’ church why don’t we ask Him how to run His church? And, so we did!

What Should We Value In Ministry?

What you’re reading, in this series of posts, is the result of months of prayer time & Scripture study in an all-out effort to discover what Jesus would have us “value” in our local church ministry — “Ministry Values”! And let me be clear about something from the start: these are NOT our Ministry Values because we say they are! As an Elder team, we’ve carefully studied God’s Word in an attempt to “confirm” what He wants us to value in ministry!

You may not come to the same conclusions as we have! And, I’m okay with that! Can you be okay with that? Every local church should be an individual expression of our Awesome God’s creative character! My son has his own little saying when we play games together as a family: “You be you,” he says. In other words, play the game the way you play it! You don’t have to play it like everyone else!

Let’s stop trying to be like every other church! You need to uncover who God made you to be through prayer, fasting, and a healthy diet of the God’s Word! Be still; and, know who God made you to be! When you discover “who” that is, it will set you free; and, provide passion & meaning to your local church ministry that trying to copy all the “big dogs” never will!

Right now we find ourselves on an exhilarating journey as a church. It’s a paradigm shift in the way we do church — rather than sitting around a table wringing our hands over “church business” we are learning to pray together and seek God’s help for the work He has given us to oversee!

We’ve Focused On All The Wrong Thing

I submit to you that the reason for decline in the church has been one of FOCUS — for decades we’ve focused on all the wrong things: politics, issues, music & worship styles, church attire, seekers, etc. We’ve made church about our agenda; our personal “hobby horses”! Not only have we been guilty of asking the wrong questions; we’ve asked the wrong person! We’ve sought answers from man instead of the All-Knowing One!

Let’s be gracious; and, assume that the church meant well! Her motives may have been right! But, in reality, too much church ministry has been done in the flesh for the last 50 years — when we work hard & pray little we’re telling the world that we have a weak God! When we pray hard we’re telling the world we need His presence in our ministry or nothing will happen!

If you’re like me, you long to see something happen! I long for a great moving of God’s Holy Spirit — one that brings the saints to their knees in repentant broken humility; and, one that brings the lost to an awareness of their lostness and their need for Jesus, the Savior!

I hunger for the presence of God to be manifested in our local church community of faith; to see the trail of His glory made known through the changed lives of our people. That’s the “Ministry Value” I plan to flesh out in my next post — Living each day in a way that brings God glory!

Thanks for blessing me with your time! Hope you’ll share some encouraging feedback! Like Jesus told Peter: “Feed My Sheep!”