Imagine you want to throw a birthday party for your friend Joe. Would you:
A) Spend 8 years in school studying party planning theory. Organize a party planning committee. Raise funds to throw the party. Send Joe a mailer about his party.
B) Spend some time with Joe. Find out what where he likes to go, what he likes to do and who his friends are. Ask what his favorite type of cake is.
Why is the question ridiculous? Because situation B is about throwing a party for Joe. Situation A is something else.
Maybe even self-indulgent?
Missional endeavors get bogged down and lose course when they forget who have been sent after. Sometimes there’s denominational pressure to reach certain metrics. Sometimes there’s a fixation on certain finer points of theology. Sometimes the missionary just doesn’t know how to make friends with non-Christians.
Results can vary. A church or ministry can grow quickly by offering a cool worship experience that appeals to people already attending other churches. It can get driven into the ground by toxic, unfocused religious people, or loose itself in someone’s pet cause.
Compare this to the model Jesus offers as a missionary:
Sent by God, Jesus grows up in Palestine. He wears the clothes, eats the food and speaks the language of those he is sent to. He teaches them using their traditions and analogies they understand. He provides for felt needs such as sickness and hunger. He teaches and empowers a small group of people to do the same.
The missional misstep we’re describing can be described in one sentence:
Forgetting who you were sent for.
Here are some simple question any missionary can ask to help them find their course again:
- Who was the last non-Christian you shared a meal with?
- Does your Sunday gathering use enough colloquial that anyone from your neighborhood would know what is going on, or does it need to be translated?
- What percentage of your visitors on a Sunday come from other churches?
- What percentage of the churches budget is spent to take care of internal needs? External?