I’ve been around a lot of people who are into missions. They talk about people groups, missiology, ethnography, and mobilizing After listening to them talk about reaching the unreached, I sometimes come away wondering if it can be done. All of the social science and methodology which make up modern missions objectify the ones we’re trying to reach and somehow almost puts them out of reach. Missions has become a sadly ironic academic persuit in many cases.
I believe there is a necessary distinction to be made between missions and mission. To follow Christ is to be on mission and vice versa. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus told us to make disciples. Observe that he gave no missiology. His command was as large as the world and yet for some reason he seemed to believe that simple proclamation, baptism, and teaching would be enough to complete the task.
Not only does Jesus fail to give us a strategy, he depicts his method of proclamation as being haphazard. Consider the “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13. The sower flings his seed on any and every type of soil. Most of his seeds fail to produce. However, his approach is vindicated at the end of the story since the good soil produces 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown.
Could it be that Jesus is saying that it matters little how we sow or where we sow but rather that we sow? What would happen if every believer imitated his Lord’s indiscriminate broad-casting of the gospel of the kingdom right now, right where he lives with faith that seed, soil, and Spirit will bring the result? Would there be a result? What sort of result might it be? Would it be inferior to a more strategic approach? What if sowing like this became the normal Christian experience? Would the world ultimately be reached?
Perhaps missions has a place. I’m just concerned that missions supplants mission. It bothers me that many of my friends who are involved in missions do little if anything to actually make disciples where they live. If we fail to make disciples here who assume that following Christ means to be on mission for him, then who will we send over there? On the other hand, if we simply get on mission in our neighborhoods, offices, and schools, and make disciples who are like us, we will find that the gospel will spread from person to person and cover the globe.
So what about all the difficulties of crossing cultural barriers? I believe that Jesus covered that bit with his promise to be with us until the end of the age.