Friday, January 6, 2012

Common Myths that Hinder Global Evangelization
Pastoral and Missionary Work are Divergent Streams of Christian Ministry
As a Southern Baptist pastor and missionary, I have the unique opportunity to have one foot placed firmly in the pastoral camp and one in the missionary camp.  What I have noticed is somewhat alarming.  There is a subtle and subversive undercurrent of competition and maybe even resentment that exists between the two groups.  Maybe these attitudes stem from honest mutual misunderstanding, but are nonetheless a hindrance to global evangelization.
From my perspective, this is what I know:  My missionary work as a church-planter among the world’s unengaged people groups would not be as effective without my pastoral perspective.  Those who can carry pastoral vision and leadership principles to the cross-cultural church planting process have a great advantage.  Likewise, frontline missionaries who have never served as a pastor face challenges in which pastoral experience would be an invaluable asset.
The opposite is also true.  My pastoral ministry in the U.S. would not be nearly as effective if I did not bring my missionary perspective to my own community.  The basic skills of sizing up a mission field, contextualizing the gospel and then developing an effective strategy for reaching that community are common missionary tools that seem to challenge most pastors.
Therefore, it’s time for both streams to converge once again and flow mightily towards the delta of global evangelization.  It is not a question of “pastor” or “missionary”, but both.  Maybe a new ministerial animal should evolve.  This unique breed could be called a “passionary”.   This is someone whose passion to see the world reached is fueled from a pastoral perspective and energized by contagious missionary zeal.
Missions Cost Too Much
Believe me, no one knows the rigors of stretching a dollar like a faith missionary in the current global economy.   Money is a very real factor in our mission strategy, but not the decisive factor.
What I am about to say is not preaching rhetoric nor an untested hypothesis.  It is eternal truth that has been tried, trusted and confirmed by multitudes.  There is no way to explain our survival or ministry expansion in this down-turned economy without this principle.
Jesus taught his disciples to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33 NASB).  Part of seeking His kingdom certainly includes seeking to expand it around the world.  All these things must refer to the things necessary in the course of carrying out this kingdom-seeking mission. 
Missions cannot be viewed as a liability on our ministry spreadsheet.  It is rather an asset that streams resources to us.  If our mission investments are not a refreshing fountain of spiritual and financial growth, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our overall mission strategy.
Simply because the church budget funds a “missions” line item does not necessarily mean that those expenditures are actually advancing the kingdom.  We should ask questions like, “Are we taking the gospel to places where it has never been, or are we simply building on some else’s foundation in an area where the kingdom is already established?”  Similarly, “Is our mission investment creating an atmosphere of dependency among the nationals where we are working, or are we empowering them for kingdom advancement?”
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, then we could very well “price” ourselves out of Great Commission work.  There are many good mission strategies that foster kingdom advancement through methods that promote neither dependency upon our financial resources nor lead us to work in already evangelized areas.   These are the strategies that will survive the financial crunch because the Lord himself promises to provide for their needs.
My Primary Responsibility is to Reach “My” Jerusalem
Sometimes, we seem to take solace in the fact that our part of the Great Commission is to be faithful in our own hometown.  We must resist the tendency to turn the Great Commission inward.  Sure, our Jerusalem, as described in Acts 1:8 is a huge part of the overall plan, but it is only one part.  When Acts 1:8 is analyzed grammatically, we learn that we have equal responsibility to kingdom advancement in all four of the geographical regions highlighted in the verse.
Does God have expectations that every local church will have an influence in all four realms?  Does God expect individual believers to have fingerprints in each region described in Acts 1:8?  These are questions that we must each answer in light of the biblical command.  Maybe we should eliminate the word “my” from our theological vocabulary and replace it with the word “our”.  Then our view of, and responsibility for each part of the Great Commission would be more balanced.
These are the thoughts of only one “passionary” thinking out loud.  May God prosper you as you advance His kingdom! 

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