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Friday, July 27, 2012

Redefine Missions

Unfortunately a blog can be used to make statements are gripes. I am not sure how to categorize this one.

Missions has been exclusively defined as what is done overseas in many churches. In fact, many people forget those people who are sent to do missions in the US. The lack of an exotic nature seems to eliminate anything we can directly relate to as a mission.

So, we bring in missionaries who tell romantic stories of difficult times. They tell the stories of those to whom they have shared Christ who were persecuted. They tell us of their stories of peril. They tell these stories so that people will reach into their pockets and give to "missions." It is very effective.

Don't get me wrong. What they are doing is missions. We should support them. Yet I have a question which seems almost blasphemous to ask: What makes the souls who come to Christ in a foreign country any more important that those who are a block from the church buildings? Why is money sent to the "mission field" any more sacred than that given to the local church?

I believe that  many people have forgotten that the first mission of any church is local. If the local mission isn't supported, then there will be no foreign missions supported by the church. The local mission must grow. The local church must reach people as if it is on a mission field. In fact, the whole activity of a church is missions.

I would like to send more money and support to those in foreign missions. I would like for them to have everything they need. I would like to see more people come to know Christ in all places in the world. I, however, do not want to do so with such a one-sided view of missions that I neglect the local church.

I wonder how much more foreign missions could be supported if the local church understood that it was on a mission field. Understanding members would understand that the church does not exist to make them happy or comfortable. They would see that their responsibility is to be missionaries in their own neighborhoods, jobs, civic clubs, places of recreation, in fact, everywhere they were. They would rejoice in the salvation of souls and wouldn't miss baptisms at the church. They would pray to see people come to know Christ right before their eyes. They would have their own testimonies of those whom they had seen come to Christ.

And they would give to the mission of the local church. That culture would create an urgency to share the gospel so that members would stop giving only 2% of their income. They would understand that the first mission is here.

And you know what? They would support the foreign missions more than ever. They would truly understand what it means to see people come to know Christ and join in with the foreign missionaries rather than simply give their money.

Maybe we don't need to redefine missions. Maybe we need to find the real meaning of missions.

Acts 1:8 (ESV)

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.


high-expressions said...

Well said.

Indeed, an Asian is NOT more precious than an "Ang Mo". And so, it is also NOT an Ang Mo is more, than a black skin or a yellow skin. Nothing of this sort. Jesus loves all; although God or Jesus can only, ultimately, love any man unto righteousness. And so, a soul saved is a soul saved, regardless of race, dialect or nationality or color of skin.

When we understand the desire of God is that, all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4), then, that includes our family members, our immediate neighbors, our fellow countrymen, and then, also includes the wider definition of neighbors, including all those people in other lands, relative to you. So, indeed when it comes to the works of the Great Commission, the field includes all people, the ones nearby, and the ones far away. This is to be absolutely clear to every one of us, believers.

Of course, it is possible for one to be called to save souls in a far away country, like for an American, peoples of Africa, for example; or peoples in Indo-China; or for a Singaporean, peoples or tribes in Tibet, even those in America. This is what we called as, specific calling. For example, the original Disciple-Apostles, like John and Peter, they were more to impact the Jews, to convert them; whereas, the God appointed Apostle, Paul, his calling was more to impact the Gentiles, and into the places further away from Jerusalem. But if we read the Scripture, Peter, for example, saved Gentiles too; and Paul, Jew; but they did more, in their specific callings. The point is that we go where God sent us, and we reach out to the people God assigned to us, specifically. But if you have had NOT, such people-specific calling, or location-specific calling, you are still to save souls, to evangelize, to share the gospel, to show God to people, by your life and by your ministry.

But who and where, is your target? Where you are; the people around you, that how you are to start with; it is as simple as that, if you will just use your common sense! If you run out of people around you, or the places in your immediate vicinity, venture out further; if you have NOT been called to go somewhere, then that is what you should do!

Saving souls (salvation) is NOT about being interesting, or reaching to lovable people, or rescuing less superior or more superior men! If you just look at the many servants of God whom God used, they are used regardless of these things. What was the initial reaction of Moses? What about Gideon? What about Jonah? Even David? Even Jesus? Get moving-lo, just do what God wants done, share the gospel, and the knowledge of the glory of God, where you are; and elsewhere, if God places you at the "elsewhere".

I like this term coined some years back by my Senior Pastor (now retired) who said, we are all missionaries, only that some of us, are Inland missionaries, whereas, some others are Outbound missionaries. In the prescription of God, there are always both. An Asian can save some souls in Asia, and he can save some souls in America, or he can get to save some American souls in Singapore.

Some months back, I believe as an encouragement to me, in part, the Lord granted me the privilege, on 2 weekends, back to back, to lead 2 foreigners to Christ (brought them through the Sinner's Prayer) right in Singapore, right inside the church I attended, when there was NOT even an altar call! One, a huge Ang Mo man, and another, an Indo-China lady.


high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

Today, peoples are all over the places, missionary work has taken a new twist even; you can reach out to the people of the Philippines or Bangladesh, right in Singapore; and I am sure, there are various foreign communities in your country; foreigners had come into your country to work or to study, for example. You don't even need to travel overseas to reach out to the peoples of other lands! The question is more of "Are you willing to give of your time, energy and love for what is dear in God's heart?"

What could possibly be some of the rationales for having overseas missions? Or why would God bless such efforts? First, let me be clear again, that God does want to bless efforts of sharing the gospel, be it at home or overseas.

We do see, “a lot of happenings” with overseas missions, relative to home-bound efforts. First issue is that of expectation or more correctly corporate expectation or atmosphere. In Scripture, the example is that of the case of Jesus going back into his own town and did NOT accomplish much there, in terms of spreading the knowledge of the glory of God; Jesus did NOT get to do much acts attesting to His mission and God’s purposes, then. Well, there was the corporate atmosphere of disbelief, for the people in His town was stuck with idea that Jesus was just a carpenter’s son who lived there, in that town. This is a case of a prophet is without honors in his own town or place!

Some of my friends here in Singapore, they were “nobody”, they were NOT pastors or staff of churches, but when they went overseas on missions, signs and wonders and miracles followed them, and many people were set free and embraced the faith, in the lands, these friends of mine went. When these same people spoke in Singapore, and even wanted to try to minister to the local people, Singaporeans, nothing much could be accomplished, or whatever witnessed, pale compared with what they could bring about, through the help of God, overseas. Why? One of the reasons, they were treated as a nobody, the “that chap who worked at the company around the corner”, kind of attitude. Church leaders have a part to play to correct corporate atmosphere, and if they don’t, it is such a shame, as opportunities for God’s moves are often missed.

When they (friends of mine) were overseas, people looked up to them like they were anointed pastors or preachers from an anointed place. People there, have faith that God would move through such friends of mine. So, this is at least one good reason for all such cross-overs, the “I coming over to your country to speak, and you come over to my church to preach”. In addition, there is fostering of the spirit of unity, of fellowship of cooperation and interdependency, and the oneness of the Body of Christ, and NOT, “this is mine, and that is yours; and you swim or sink, is your problem, nothing to do with me”. The world’s way, in case you have NOT noted, is, “This is my country, I take care of my country, you, yours; don’t expect anything from me or from my people”. If you replace country with church, God does NOT want to see such yours and mine, but it is all part and parcel of His church.

Then, of course, there is the obvious reason, if that land or place has had NOT yet, the gospel brought to it, somebody from another place has to do it. That was how Christianity was brought to Europe, to India, and to Singapore and to so many countries. We can even picture it, in terms of people groups, and so, if particular people groups have had NOT yet, the gospel brought to them, someone from somewhere (making them missionaries) got to go these unreached people groups.


high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Once the gospel is brought in, there is need of local works; a local church needs to be set up, locals need to be taught and discipled, and the locals have to do their part to reach to other locals, for the Lord. The local church, which initially relied on overseas support, would need to grow, and be able to be self-supporting; including, joining the Great Commission to reach her own people, and the world at large. There is an important reason, why I and pastors like Ps Prentis, are exhorting churches to promote inland missions or neighborhood or local community missions.

Now, it has nothing to do with trying to grow a mega-church so that the church could have lots of money, and the church leaders and staff can then decide they are deserving of such and such fat salaries and fringe benefits, drawing salaries that are more than 10 times that of the local church’s average member’s pay, like living in villas, driving Porsche or flying in private jets, and staying in hotels that cost $3,000 per night per room! It is just that the church needs to be sustained, so that, it has the critical mass, at least. This is so that the work of Lord will NOT be discontinued.

A local church exists to teach and equip the saints for godly living and services unto the Lord, including inland and outbound missions. If the congregation keeps reducing in size, the local church will one day close. When it closes, it can no longer serve the saints, and it can no longer send out overseas missions. Remember, we have looked it, overseas missions, and we have understood there is a role for overseas missions. But where does the congregation of a local church come from? They come from the locals in the community. So, you see, there is a need to reach out to the communities around the church; they are the church’s primary mission fields.

Back in Singapore, and I am sure, similarly in many countries, like in the UK and the States, many smallish churches have aged a lot, meaning the members of the congregation have grown old (physically-lah!), and the church has neglected the renewal of the church congregation for too long. The young of the communities around the church are NOT coming into the church; they are NOT saved. When the grey-heads pass on, the critical mass of local church is lost, and it has to close. Go out there, into the communities, and gather the souls, and save your local church. Your mission field is right before you; and you wonder why God has NOT whispered into your ears, which and which countries, you are supposed to go, for mission! When there is NOT, the local church, where will there, be, the sending church! Be an inland missionary, today. Or support your pastor’s effort to reach out to the local communities.

May God bless the reading of this comment.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Anne said...

Just came across this. I agree with you. My husband and I are missionaries with an international organization. We thought we were headed to Mexico to serve, when God opened our eyes to the internationals living among us. We've been "sent to stay" - and have been serving in the USA as missionaries since 2009. It's been an interesting, divine journey - often coming up against the former mentalities on missions, as you mention. We believe our main focus is to unite and ignite the Church here to see the mission field at its doorstep, and to engage practically here for the kingdom. God's done amazing things here, to His glory. More info here, if interested:
God bless you!