Wednesday I put out a post seeking to define our mission as Christians. You can read it by clicking here. In it I determined that our mission is God’s mission, and I gave this succinct definition of God’s mission and how I believe we fit into His mission:
God is on mission to redeem all of creation, we are apart of that mission as His elect peoples, and our purpose in that mission is to present the gospel through our actions and words, by which God will redeem all of creation in Christ for His glory.
Today, I want to discuss where our mission takes place and determine who is involved in this mission by asking and answering these questions:
Is our mission strictly relegated to overseas, or does it happen in our backyard? Is mission relegated to a special group of people sent out by a church, or is it taken up by everyone in the church?
Both Overseas and Our Backyard
I believe our mission takes place both overseas and in our backyard by all those in the church. Granted a special group of people will travel overseas, but everyone should participate in mission in their city.
Throughout the New Testament we have examples of mission happening overseas by a select group of people and in our backyard by everyone.
Jesus commissions his apostles to go to all the nations with the gospel message, but first He commissions them to go to their city (Matt. 28:16-20).
In Acts, the apostles are seen going to all the nations to proclaim the gospel to unreached people groups.
During Paul’s mission, he visits a number of places some of which are: Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus (Acts 16,17,18,19). In these areas, churches are established. Even though Paul continues to keep in touch with them, the church itself becomes responsible for evangelizing the area. This is evidenced by the apostle constantly calling these churches to holy living, so their conduct among their neighbors would be honorable, allowing them to proclaim the gospel unhindered (Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:14-15; 1 Peter 2:12).
We see a prime example of a church who is living correctly and proclaiming the gospel to their neighbors in 1 Thessalonians. The church at Thessalonica was known in their region of Macedonia and Achaia because of their witness and example (1 Thessalonians 1). In fact, the Word of God had gone forth so faithfully from them in that region that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy did not feel they needed to say anything.
How to Proclaim the Gospel in Your Backyard
If all the church is to proclaim the gospel in their own backyard, then we need to know how this works out. Does it work out by simply going door to door, or can it happen in other ways? In an effort to be succinct, but still answer the question, we will look at the church at Ephesus.
In Ephesians, we learn Paul expected their speech, sexual conduct, interaction with their neighbors, family life, and master slave interactions to be radically different than the culture in which they lived (Eph. 4-6). The purpose was so that they would shine as lights in a dark place and be witnesses to those around them.
From the example of the Ephesians, we learn how we can interact with those around us.
We are to live lives that are radically different than those who live next door. As we live lives that are different than those surrounding us, we put forth a model of what a redeemed community looks like and we hopefully earn the right to proclaim the gospel. Or when we proclaim the gospel to our neighbors, they are able to see how it has changed our lives, and hopefully they too will desire the same change.
Following the example of the Ephesians also means our everyday life is apart of our mission. As we go to work, play with our kids, date our wives, attend a movie, and interact with our neighbors, we are on mission. If we are on mission in our everyday lives, then we cannot fragment our lives into missional segments like so many in the church do.
Redefinition of Missionary
In order to be on mission all the time, we have to radically alter our current definition of a missionary. No longer can missionaries be thought of as a select group of people who go out to an area to proclaim the gospel and return home at a given time.
Rather, being on mission, and being a missionary, happens in every aspect of our lives, and is accomplished by everyone in the church.
Pastors, deacons, staff members, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, small business owners, blue collar workers, teachers, grandparents, stay at home moms, kids, etc are all on mission together. Meaning no one in our church is not on mission all the time, and there is no one in our church who are not missionaries.
From our limited examples, we can see that mission is not only reserved for a select group of people who go into other countries to proclaim the gospel, but it is reserved for the entire church, and it plays out in their own backyard.
If being on mission is to be taken up by everyone everywhere they live, work, and play, then we must redefine what we mean by the term missionary. Everyone in our church is a missionary, and their mission field is where they live, work, and play. Every aspect of their lives has to be included in their mission. The stores they visit, the places they live, the people they choose to hang out with, the restaurants they frequent, the places they take their kids to play, and the sports teams they play on are all apart of a strategic plan designed to meet and engage non-believers with the gospel.