In the first chapter of Introducing World Missions, Scott Moreau breaks down the work of Missions into two categories. The difference is broken into two categories which Moreau defines as Missions and Mission. Moreau takes the position from the International Missionary Council that “missions has been relegated to the specific work of the church and agencies in the task of reaching people for Christ by crossing cultural boundaries. By contrast mission is broader, referring to everything the church is doing that points toward the kingdom of God” (Moreau 17). While overall this definition does fit, there ought to be more specifics and to an extent, one can argue that mission is irrelevant. This can be seen when looking at the role of the church. Jesus gave the Great Commission, which imparts the necessary instructions and command to show the world the gospel. If we are obeying his basic instructions and the purpose he lays out for the church, mission will fall into just growing the body of Christ. This is important because it simply the role of the Church in the world, to strengthen believers and win more souls to the body of Christ. This can also be labeled under the role of discipleship. However, if one wants to use the term mission to describe the role of the church it can be done.
However, the importance should be on missions due to there being several types of missions which can be categorized into the length of time one spends where they are at. The most common type is the short term missions trip which as Moreau says typically lasts a week to a year or two. These are the most common and draw the Christian out of their comfort zone. When looking at the short term missionary, there ought to be two fundamental changes in our perception of what the purpose of these missions trips are. First, from my past experience with many people in American churches is the church looks at those who tend to go on the mission trips as either super spiritual people or else as a young person looking to get their feet wet with the rest of the world and as a great way to see how blessed we are in America. This should not be. These short term mission trips should be a way to support the local churches in the area we go to and should be something most Christians do at some point in their life. It ought to be a good way to fellowship with believers from other parts of the world, provide resources (such as supplies and experience for building a church) so that the local body of Christians has a place to meet. This relates directly to how in Acts the churches would take up collections to share with other believers (such as Paul’s collection for the church in Jerusalem). In our society though, the motivation for one to engage in short term missions trips needs to be weighed. David Livermore reminds us that often when we go on the short missions field the focus has become on the missionary. He reminds us “the top reason people participate in short-term missions is for the life-changing experience it promises them” (Livermore 53).
My personal experience with missions is here in America where Christians don’t take seriously the gospel. We send thousands of people on short term missions trips around the world and while America used to be a Christian nation, the reality is we no longer are. The God of America is the almighty dollar and while Christians in churches in America are happy to go to work, go to church and then go home most tend to neglect the call to minister where they are at. America is slowly drifting to where Christians aren’t even the majority of the population. We are following the same trend that Western Europe started before us and now the growth and spread of the gospels is happening in countries like China where the government opposes them and will even go as far as execution for Christians. Livermore also reminds us that “Persecution is especially prevalent for Christians living in the remnant Communist countries, including China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Laos…religious persecution is also prevalent in part of the Islamic World” (Livernmore 34). However, these countries which experience the most persecution have also tended to experience the most growth. But now, in America, missionaries are coming here. My question is why is the church in America not doing its job at home? K.P. Yohannan may have pin pointed the problem with the church in America when he writes, “Many North American Christian lives isolated from reality…even from the poor in their own cities…believers are ready to get involved in almost any activity that looks spiritual but allows them to escape their responsibility to the Gospel” (Yohannan 47). This is where we as Christians ought to see our challenge in this world of missions in the church. I will end with three questions for us to consider, to consider as a challenge for each of us, myself included to do better at these areas of missions and evangelism and discipleship. How are we doing missions in our own back yard? How are we reaching our Jerusalem, our Samaria, our Judea and lastly the ends of the earth? The gospel will go around the world, but what is our role in missions where we are as well as where we can go?
Livermore, David A, Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions With Cultural Intelligence, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006.
A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey,Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.
Yohannan, K.P. Revolution in World Missions, Carrolton: gfa books, 2004