Monday, May 23, 2011

Ministry is a task for all of us

Dave Black has penned an excellent essay on Ordinary Missionaries and he is right on the money, as usual:
For several years now I've been studying the missionary movement in North America. I believe we are on the cusp of an era when insourcing missions will become the strategy for achieving global evangelization. A strategy that depends on outsourcing the work to paid professionals is not going to get the job done. Outsourcing will be around for a while longer because it is what everyone is used to. But insourcing will require a wholly different mindset. It's not just about producing more missionaries. It's about creating a completely different kind of environment -- a collaborative environment in which everyday people like you and me are constantly thinking about how to generate towel and basin ministries both at home and around the globe.
The future of ministry, missions, evangelism, the church itself, will rely on ordinary Christians. That is as it should be because that is how Christ designed it. We are not changing our methods because the way that Christ set it up failed, we are changing our methods to reflect what Christ intended in the first place!

I think this statement is the key:
Moreover, the more you are seen as insourcing, the more people will want to get involved as they begin to realize that they too can play a part in global missions.
What a simple and obvious statement but one that is both overlooked and in fact tacitly discouraged in the church! The key to missions in the future will be lots and lots of “regular” people getting involved and getting involved more than making a contribution to the Lottie Moon offering. The mission field is not “out there”, the mission field often is “right here” but the church has done a pretty poor job of equipping itself to respond to the ministry opportunities that are all around us. The task is too big for 1% or 5% of Christians, it requires every single one of us. That might mean going overseas. It might be ministering locally. It might be as simple as rearing and instructing our own children but however it looks it requires 100% participation. There isn't a sideline or a bench in ministry, we are all called to be on the field.

The day of “Stand back sir, we are professionals!” ministry is over in the West. As Dr. Black wrote, it will linger for a while because we by and large don’t know anything else but as Europe is demonstrating this change is inevitable. I can only hope that we can avoid exporting our mistakes of the last millennium to China and Africa and Haiti and Ecuador. There is no need for them to go through a professional ministry stage and repeat our mistakes. The church in developing countries, in the mission field, doesn’t need to “grow up” and adopt Western practices. Their practices are just fine. In fact it is the Western church that can learn a lot from the mission field in this respect.

Dave concludes with this paragraph:
How can the church in North America get to the place where we will launch out into action instead of merely talking about the millions of lost people all around us? The answer is very simple. There will be no change until we change our attitude from that of a hireling to that of a bondservant. We must turn our backs on all of our excuses and voluntarily live a life that is totally separated unto the Gospel. As the great British athlete C. T. Studd once put it, "Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." It was because of His great love for people that Jesus deliberately reached out to the lost, sick, and dying people of His day. If we are truly born-again Christians, if we have truly come to grips with the terms of "costly discipleship" (Bonhoeffer), how can we possibly do anything less?
I love that. Being part of the church means more than hanging around with the church in the church doing church stuff. Someone this weekend described crisis pregnancy centers as “frontline” missions. The same is true in food pantries, rescue missions, prison ministry, orphanages, etc. That is where ministry happens because that is where those who need to be ministered to and hear about Jesus are. Christians sitting in Sunday school learning about being Christians is not ministry. Christians sitting in a pew week after week listening to sermons is not ministry nor is it equipping them for the work of ministry. Ministry requires standing up, getting out and getting dirty and most of it is "on the job" training.

Face it, most of those who most need to hear about Jesus and see His love lived out by His people are also the least likely to come to church. Our response cannot be “tough luck sinners, you gotta come to church. We are here every Sunday from 11 top 12!”. Our response must be to go to them. Jesus didn’t wait for sinners to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If He had, He would still be waiting in vain. He came to us while we were yet sinners, dead in our sins and by nature His enemies. How can we as His redeemed people do anything less? How can we hide in our churches and send a handful of professionals out to do this task and still say we are being faithful to what He has called us to?

We cannot and we must not.

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