Mission Myths 5 & 6: What is Missions Really About?

I’ve been commenting on an article by Shane Bennett that appeared several years ago in Missions Catalyst.

In his two-part post on Top Ten Myths about Missions , Bennett explained:

I want to understand how the average Lou and Sue, sitting in the pew, think about missions stuff. … From what I’ve seen there are some serious misconceptions floating around in our churches, at least some of our churches. We could call these collective assumptions, beliefs that simply don’t reflect reality, “myths.”

If you want to read all ten myths now, check out the article online. You can see my other articles on this topic by choosing God:World under “Categories” on the right-hand column of my blog page.

Myth #5: It’s All about Meeting Needs

Because few things stir compassion and stir action like stories and photos of hurting children, much mission mobilization has been accomplished by inviting people to meet needs. The logical result? An assumption that this is what missions is mostly about.

Now God makes it quite clear that He is fond of widows and orphans. Jesus speaks eloquently about cross-cultural compassion in one of his best stories. And working to meet the needs of others is a good and godly response to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But mission efforts motivated by needs have this shortfall: More needs are always just around the corner. In order to keep compassion going, we may also feel like we have to describe more and more extreme needs. … [T]his can create a paralyzing sense of powerlessness in the very people we want to enlist in our cause.

I appreciate the framework Steve Hawthorne and John Piper (among others) have laid out for us: God is unfolding a wonderful plan to draw some from all peoples to himself. He is undertaking a great effort to restore all things and extend his blessing to all nations. Our mission? It’s about joining God in his great purposes for our planet. Meeting our needs and the needs of others is a part of it, but the main thing is bringing honor to God: He is central.

This is something many ministries seem to have lost sight of. We’re so busy meeting the physical needs of people (which is not a bad thing), we forget that the eternal need to know Jesus is far more important. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” (Mark 8:36) Evangelism and disciple-making needs to be our number one priority.

Myth #6: It’s Just One More Thing

Perhaps arising from the previous myth, this idea places missions on the same level as the rest of the ongoing duties of a church. What do you think? I live for the least-reached peoples, so let me admit, I could be a little biased in calling this a myth. I’m with twentieth-century theologian Emil Brunner on this one, “The church exists for mission as a fire exists for burning.”

… What is the Church and what is its purpose? This is a huge discussion. But I think it’s about more than simply making sure we obey Hebrews 10:25; it’s about being and extending the Kingdom of God. Missions is somehow key to the very purpose of the Church.

What do you think? Is the Great Commission central to our faith? How are you involved?

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