Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Becoming a mission-focussed church

I can still remember the day when I realised that a church which is not mission-focussed is not doing what God intended for that church to do. It was in 1983. I was somewhere in the northern part of, what was then South West Africa (now Namibia – probably best known today as the country where Angelina Jolie and Bard Pitt’s daughter was born!) I was there for nothing as romantic as the birth of a “love-child”. South West Africa was at war at that stage and I was there for a fourteen week period as chaplain to a group of soldiers. Before leaving home, I packed a number of books I had wanted to read. In one of the books I read the author mentioned that the church exists for many reasons: to praise God, to help people in their spiritual growth, to help the poor and the needy, etc. He then asked the (hypothetical) question whether all these things that the church does could not be done much more efficiently in heaven. Of course there will not be poor and needy people in heaven, and we will have come to the full understanding of God, but the question remains: what is the purpose of the church on earth? And the answer was clear: The church exists first and foremost for the benefit of the unbelievers! The unbelievers will not be in heaven and therefore this is the only time that the church will ever be able to do anything for them.
One of my lecturers in philosophy at university used to speak of an “A-ha” experience. This, for me, was probably one of my greatest “A-ha” experiences ever. At that moment, everything that I had learnt about the church seemed to fall in place. From that time forward I started to evaluate everything happening in the church from a missions perspective. Not to say that things not directly linked to missions are unimportant. But the question that was raised was where the focus of the church falls. A church not focussed on missions does not understand God’s intention with the church. Professor David Bosch, considered by many to be one of the greatest missiologists of the previous century and whom I had the privilege of knowing personally, wrote in one of his books that not everything that the church does should have a missionary intention, but everything the church does should have a missionary dimension. As I understand it, the focus of the church should always be on missions. This is the reason why the church exists. Therefore, whether we worship or pray or preach or have courses on spiritual growth, we always keep in mind that we are busy with these things because God cares about the world and He expects us to care about the world as well. Once we lose that focus, we tend to shift the focus to ourselves and then we are more concerned about ourselves and our own well-being instead of being concerned about the world, so loved by God that He gave His Son for it.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - Posted by | Mission, Swaziland

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