Like many churches across the country, we're planning our involvement with the Passion for Life mission initiative taking place in Easter 2010. Here are ten thoughts on these kinds of missions in no particular order.
- 'A mission' should be part of a church's ongoing life of mission. The one-off sports event with gospel talk at half time is one thing. Having a bunch of Christians join a local sports team season by season - befriending and gospelling non-Christians there - now that's an ongoing life of mission. Its effects will be so much more hidden and ambiguous than the grand week of events. But the impact will be so much greater for the kingdom.
- 'A mission' should be owned by the whole congregation. The priesthood of all believers applies especially here. It takes a body working together with speaking and serving gifts working in harmony. Too often we impose a mission on an unprepared church from the top down. The events will be unbalanced, few will bring friends and the strong impression will be given that mission is something compartmentalized - done only at special times and only by special people.
- The greatest problem with our 'missions' is that typically our Christians don't know any non-Christians. Not very well anyway. Now by all means door-knock your locality. By all means lift high the name of Jesus in your community at large. But our priority must be our neighbours, friends, colleagues and families with whom we are already involved. Or if we're not already involved, we ought to be. Ideally 'a mission' should be a dew point collecting together the scores of gospel conversations that Christians are already having with the people they're involved with.
- Our perceived need for apologetic events is inversely related to our willingness to love our neighbours. In other words - if we actually loved our neighbours we'd probably find that we didn't 'need' apologetics events after all. The real trouble is that we're not actually involved with non-Christians, we don't really love them. And so the only bridge into Christian things that we can think of is an 'apologetic' bridge. I use the term 'apologetics' advisedly (click my 'apologetics' tag for more). Because 1 Peter 3:15 (where the word 'apologetics' comes from) is not describing the 'apologetics' that people tend to do today. 1 Peter 3:15 is about giving the gospel reasons for the hope that is so obviously in you as evidenced by your many and deep interactions with unbelievers. Now if we lived in 1 Peter 3:15-world then our friends and neighbours would see this hope and would ask us about it. We could give some kind of witness, but - joy of joys - we could also bring them along to a mission event where this gospel hope would be proclaimed by a gifted evangelist. And if this were the case we'd be praying to God that the evangelist would stop trying to be culturally relevant and would please just sock it to our friend with Christ. The reality is that a) our hope aint that evident and b) we don't get close enough for non-Christians to see it anyway. Therefore the only way we can think to get non-Christians in the door is to put on talks about "What Jesus would say to the G20 summit" or whatever.
- Conversion is not a process. Conversion is a miracle. How much of our evangelistic strategy belies the evangel we say we believe.
- Non-Christians are nowhere near as excited by 'A Christian view of the Credit Crunch' as Christians are.
- If it's credibility you're after, non-Christians figure that the thing (really the only thing) that Christians can speak on credibly is Christianity. There might be a clue there.
- The bible must be front and centre if people are to truly trust the living God and not simply the oratory powers of a visiting speaker.
- Often we greatly underestimate the amount of Christian input a non-Christian is expecting / willing to bear once they've accepted an invitation by a trusted Christian friend. It's a huge deal for a non-Christian to come to an event in the first place. They're basically expecting to be proselytised. But once they get there, guess who's afraid of proselytising? Not them. Us.
- Evangelism is summons to Christ not the presentation of interesting information. Calling people to repent and believe the gospel at our mission events sets our evangelism in its proper context. Just by itself a call for people to trust Christ on the night is a powerful demonstration of the nature of the gospel. We ought to call people to Christ and not simply a follow up course