And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
This call to carry the good news of the salvation through Jesus Christ has been passed down through every generation as a torch in the darkness. Whether it was Roman idolatry, the barbarians of northern Europe, or the discovery of the New World, each generation of Christ followers have encountered their own unique challenges and more importantly, they also derived relevant solutions in their methodology to carry the gospel forward.
Our generation is no different. The church of the 21st century faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles from the growing cost of doing missions, to the rapidly growing economic disparity between the extreme poor and the rich of our world, to the threat of radical Islam. However, our generation will not be defined by the challenges but how we combat these “giants of our time” and our ability to implement solutions to overcome!
In order to equip the church with the proper tools to reach a 21st century world and pass the torch to the next generation, we must be reminded of five truths of God’s mission.
Truth #1: The gospel is redemptive and when authentically lived produces a redemptive lift.
A 21st century missions thrust must reflect this. Over much of the past 150 years, the gospel has been carried from a prosperous western church to the impoverished pagan masses. This era was characterized by unprecedented Christian growth, but also by paternalism created by the colonial era with which it coexisted. This paternalism brought resources and materials to build churches, and establish hospitals and orphanages to name a few, but is also created an unhealthy dependency and a structure of manipulation and control. Consequently, the western missionaries supplied the funds, made the decisions, and controlled the evangelism efforts.
However, that day of the western church has passed. Not only does the western church no longer possess the ability and appetite to fund the Great Commission but it also lacks the missional fervor and fortitude to inspire the coming generation. But not all is lost. The strength of the church now lies within the formerly impoverished masses that paternalism once controlled. The same gospel, which redeems the lost from death in sin to victorious life, is also lifting the nonwestern global church from its economic despair to a place of adequacy and blessing.
As a result, the old structures of colonial paternalism are now being replaced with structures of renewed partnership and empowerment. As we train, resource, and empower the global church, we allow and assist in the redemptive lift of the gospel. Only then will it be prepared and resourced to propagate the message of salvation to the ends of the earth as well as pass the missional torch to the next generation.
Kevin and Summer Sneed, Jamie and Jessica Dunning and Michael and Tammy McRae, IPHC missionaries in Kenya are doing just that! By training leaders, building greenhouses, helping to establish fish, rabbit, and poultry farms, and digging wells to provide water for drinking and irrigation, the IPHC in East Africa is being empowered to break dependency and take responsibility for building the church locally, regionally and even globally.
Truth #2: Missions is not a profession, but a call to the whole body of Christ!
It has been said that some are called to “go” and some are called to “send.” The truth is that the body has been called to make disciples! As we work collaboratively, we GO with synergy! The greatest resource of the church is us, the body of Christ!
Over the past couple of years, I had the privilege of traveling with Owen Thomason an agricultural specialist and teacher. While in East Africa, He conducted an agricultural seminar speaking on:
a) soil management
b) grazing practices
c) aquaculture(fish farming)
d) rabbit, poultry farming
and much much more! Owen visited various projects and gave invaluable advice to our leaders to be successful as they work to create wealth and alleviate poverty!
Truth #3: God is calling a new generation of non-professional missionaries!
This generation is not typified by age or nationality but by passion and commitment to completing the task! These skilled and educated individuals are willing to not only give up their profession for missions, but to give their profession to missions!
The agricultural seminar at the East Africa Bible College drew a different group from the community and opened conversations and relationships that did not previously exist. The participants were not merely church leaders by profession but Christian farmers, social workers, teachers and agricultural novices who understood the important role they play in building a successful missional church.
Truth #4: Training in missions is essential!
Not necessarily in the typical sense but in cultural awareness, intercultural communication, and applying our knowledge and success in a different context. Missionaries must be able to identify available resources and work with local people to take ownership of their problems. Only then will real, sustainable solutions be created!
For example, building greenhouses out of local raw materials instead of purchasing a manufactured house empowers locals to take ownership and reduplicate the model exponentially. This makes an investment into local economies and spurs community development.
Truth #5: If Christ’s love for us compelled Him to a cross, then Christ’s love in us should compel us to sacrificially serve those that have never heard.
“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” – I Thessalonians 3:12-13 NKJV
If we are called to change a world that hates and even despises Christianity, we must radiate God’s holiness and be compelled with Christ’s unreserved love. We must be people running hard after Him! People that strive to live lives pleasing to God! Lives that not only proclaim the good news but lives that are the good news!
When Jesus was questioned whether he was the Messiah, Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5 ESV).
The task of missions is vast and complex but the opportunities for our generation are limitless! Let us follow the countless generations that have gone before us and respond to the call to proclaim Jesus Christ to our generation. And in the midst of a dark and troubled world, let us not flee from the darkness but rather let us be a light exposing the evils of our time. Let us be a torch in the darkness!