Cancel the Missions Program!
Note: This is article (1 of 7) is from a larger article published in The Voice (IFCA). It is segmented in this blog to make it easier to digest and reflect upon–Editor.
The title–Cancel The Missions Program–is a strange suggestion coming from a director of a mission agency. I grew up on the mission field and served as a missionary in Africa. My entire life has been dedicated to missions, and yet I am advocating the end to the missions program.
So why this article? It, is not a moratorium on the Great Commission but rather a call to look closely at our ecclesiology and the terminology we use which may be communicating something different from what we intend.
- We need to stop calling missions a “program.” Using that term sends the signal that Acts 1:8 is just one more option for the church. We have music programs, youth programs, Christmas programs, children’s programs, benevolence programs, ladies programs and of course… we have a missions program. The not-so-subtle message is that a church does a lot of things; and, oh yes, we should also add missions. This article will argue that the Great Commission should be THE mission of the church and all the rest of the programs should support it. The mission is not one of the programs of the church, it is THE primary purpose of the church.
- In addition to taking issue with the use of the word “program” we might also discard the “s” on the end of the word “mission. Making it plural implies that there is more than one mission. Did Jesus really intend for us to have several missions? Does the church exist for multiple purposes? Is it really possible to head in two directions at the same time (James 1:8)? The “s” on the end of mission may not be intended to suggest multiple missions but it does.
This issue is important on several different levels, but the focus of this article is to argue that the way you view the two points just posited will impact whether your church will be a missionary sending church. The term “sending church” will be used in distinction to a “supporting church.” Most churches support missionaries financially but many of them would have to look back several decades to point to a person they sent to the mission field from their membership. A “sending church” launches people from their congregation in addition to supporting missionaries from other churches.
I recently wrote a book titled “SENDERS.” The subtitle is: “how your church can identify, train and deploy missionaries.” I naively assumed that most churches would want to do that, therefore it is a “how to” book. In hindsight, a different book should have been written first… something like “Why your church should be passionate about sending missionaries from your congregation.” Not as snappy as the title “Senders” but you get the idea. My book is a practical manual with accompanying study guide but has little value if a church is not highly motivated to send.
At the core of this discussion is the doctrine of ecclesiology. Since that is a huge topic, it is the intent of this article to address only the issue of the purpose of the church. This article will use “purpose” and “mission” as synonyms which will be fully developed in the next two installments of this series.