Volume 21 July 5, 2017
“I’m a missionary.” In the last few years I have grappled with this title. It has become, to some, a derogatory word because of the association with historical movements and defamation of colon-ialism and western civilization. But as I read the accounts of the first missionaries in the Bible, I am encouraged to stand true to my profession, not shrink from it, but humbly seek to fulfill the calling. For being a mis-sionary is a calling. It is a life commitment. It is a choice to step outside the norms of society and be a voice, often like John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness.”
As we do mission we are often challenged by the costs of living over-seas, international travel, education and health. As we follow our calling we share our vision with others and they assist us, or share with us or take up their own mission.
Lately we have been concerned by what seems as a mis-understanding within the local churches in Canada of the pur-pose and value of missions and this brings into question our work.
How do we serve as representatives or, as we see ourselves, as the hands and feet of the local churches in Canada, if they don’t understand the what and why of missions? And how do we help the church in Canada to engage and participate in being on “mission” or being a missionary?
Another concern with doing mission is the load we carry for admin-istration costs. Not only does the missionary need to find funding for their work overseas, they must also be able to cover the administration costs in Canada. Could this cost be better shared if the local churches in Canada had a stronger vision and understanding of purpose? It is a hard task to have a calling to serve as a missionary but then to spend your time as a “salesman,” sharing your vision with the Canadian church, so you can get back to work.
Presently every dollar raised by EFCC missionaries, goes to the Evangelical Free Church of Canada office. From that dollar, fourteen cents is taken to support local administration. The balance money is used to pay a fair and consistent salary to the missionary and reimburse expenses incurred by missionaries. Canada Revenue has made funding of overseas mission work more complex as they seek to diminish fraudulent use of charitable funds and this is one of the burdens on the missionary and the local church in Canada.
The missionary carries an extra-ordinary amount of complex responsibilities and has an intricate network of relationships. If their purpose and role is not well understood by the local or sending church it can cause great anxiety and even failure of the mission.
This is the first in a three part look at the missionary, mission and the church. Our first look is to try to better understand the purpose of mission. This is written mainly for our mission director with the EFCCM, about mission, missionaries and the work of the sending or supporting church, but we would like to share it with others as well.
Purpose of Mission:
Sometimes, in writing newsletters and prayer requests, there is a disconnect that happens. Assumptions and hopes of the missionary are over-shadowed by cares and concerns of the church, or vice versa. Perhaps the church has made an investment and wants some return. Or the missionary is looking for more interaction and feeling abandoned. Reminding our selves of the basic purpose of mission can help us find our way to reconnect.
Jesus gives us the Purpose of Mission
We will never understand the purpose of missions unless we take the first step, and follow the instructions of Christ: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…” Matt. 28:18 – 20
It is rather simple, we need to GO! Somehow we want to know everything before, but as with life, we won’t really understand the things we are asked to do, or the reasons why, until we begin to engage in the task.
When you engage in missions you understand the purpose better, the purpose of being an instrument of God’s grace, the purpose of being a vessel to carry the Spirit of God, the purpose of being the message of salvation, the purpose of sharing the Good News.
To be able to do know the purpose of mission we need to first of all accept the instructions: Go. Go Ye! You, Go!
Understanding Christ’s call and purpose of the call of mission is discovered in the doing. We are called to be witnesses. Not because we have the capacity, or because we know the plan, but because we have the Holy Spirit that guides and empowers us.
“He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7,8
Once we get past the first instruction and begin our walk of faith, we see other things we can do:
-make disciples of all nations,
-baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
-and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded us
We are followers.
As Christians we are followers of Christ. And he was on mission when he came to the world. So we need to go as well.
“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49
Going on mission, or being a missionary is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He came to bring life, to bring light, to bring hope. He came to die so “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” would be preached. The purpose of our walk, our work, is to continue to spread this message Christ gave his disciples. This message has reached us through the disciples and their teaching to the church, passed on from generation to generation.
Without Christ, going on mission is missing the message.
If we go on mission because we think we are going to bring justice, save dying children, save the world, or bring peace, we are heading for a crisis of faith and purpose.
Before any fruit can be harvested, the seed must be planted and watered, and it needs to grow. Justice, health and peace are all fruit of redemption from the curse of sin. The price of redemption of a sinful person is impossible to pay on our own for we are all faulted. We give Glory to God, for his Son, paying the price for our redemption.
To be able to truly enjoy the benefits of justice, we must know the one who has paid the price so justice could be served. For without the blood of Christ there is no forgiveness of our sin, and we remain guilty. He became sin so we could become righteous. This is God’s justice.
Before we start the endless process of feeding the hungry, and clothing the poor, we must share the living bread and help them understand what it means to be robed in righteousness, because our sins have been washed away. The hungry and poor will always be with us, Jesus taught this. How we treat them reflects how we love their Creator, not how we are able to help them or save them.
Before we save the world, we must remember that the world is not ours to save, it is God’s world. And He has already paid the price for it’s redemption. That is what John 3:16 is all about.
Missions is Serving
In review, our purpose of mission we can read the EFCCM’s which, “exist to serve in the birth and growth of healthy churches, internationally.”
Serving summarizes obedience, following Christ’s example and sharing His message. We know that “Unless the Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain.” This is the underlying principle of service, it is someone else’s work we are doing. Unless the Lord brings together a new church through the work of the Holy Spirit, what ever we bring together will not be the Church the EFCCM is talking about.
So, what is the purpose of missions, and why do we have missionaries? The purpose of missions is first to be obedient to Christ and go. We are then to follow Christ’s example and continue sharing his message. Finally we see mission focussed on sharing the work and love of Christ for the world.
As churches we have missionaries simply because they are the feet and hands of that service. The church is described by Paul as the body of Christ. Therefore, the church is on mission, to carry the Good News to the world. We have missionaries, because we can’t all be the part that sits in the pew, but some of us have to get up and go…