Summary: Our missions committee asked me to write a sermon in response to the question "How is foreign missions relevant to our church?"...this is the result.
HOW IS FOREIGN MISSIONS RELEVANT TO Kemc?
This question has been asked lately as we reviewed the effectiveness of our annual missions conference. There is a feeling out there that missions has shifted so substantially in the last decade that we question the need for foreign involvement. But that is not the only factor that influences our attitude towards mission involvement.
Let’s be honest here: Isn’t it true that some of you can’t wait to get back to the normal church program? Let’s get back to the issues that affect my life here and now, you say. Isn’t it true that a small percentage of us actually stay away, visit other churches, or stay home during this conference? Some of you are keenly interested in missions; the stories inspire you and the challenges are briefly arousing. But by and large we will go on from here and not consider the relevancy of missions to our own lives as very pertinent.
So I ask the question: Why is foreign missions irrelevant to us? I came up with a sampling of possible reasons:
- It’s too out there; too National Geographic.
- Our involvement is weak and often disconnected.
- We don’t see ourselves as missionaries.
- We don’t know the lost of Burkina Faso and so we don’t really care about the lost.
- We don’t believe they are lost.
- It just doesn’t relate to what’s here and now.
None of these excuses or answers is at all biblical and certainly not obedient to the command of Christ to share the good news. It is the reality though, and to change our attitudes with one little sermon is not going to cut it. This is a matter for prayer and reflection as a church if we are going to revive our passion for the lost. It is a matter that begs us to look at the Bible and rediscover our calling.
I took a walk through the book of Acts to find some answers to our question, and I found 4 lessons for all of us.
LESSON # 1: It’s Relevant if we understand “Mission”
What is “mission”? Is this even a biblical word? I am not even sure where the use of this term began, but maybe we should stop using it. You can’t find it anywhere in the NT. All it does is seem to separate the “here” from the “there.” Mission is out there, it’s not here.
The popular missions passage in Acts 1:8 does not mention “mission.” We read “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This is part of the answer Jesus gives to his disciples when they ask what their focus should be. Jesus simply said not to worry about the Last Days but to concentrate on being witnesses of the truth that Jesus rose from the dead and all that this means.
The key is to be witnesses. Whether that means here in Jerusalem or out there on the Galapagos Islands is irrelevant. Be a witness of Jesus Christ. Or is it irrelevant?
All four gospels end with a command to spread this message across the earth. Matthew’s has Jesus saying, “…go and make disciples of all nations…”; Mark’s says “go into all the world and preach”; Luke’s “…repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations. You are witnesses of these things”; John’s “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Acts continues the story and shows how they did go. There is a definite challenge Jesus gives to anyone who knows the truth: wherever you are, be a witness.
How then, do we see “missions”? And how are we being obedient to Christ’s command?
LESSON # 2: It’s Relevant if we can look beyond Ourselves
As the story of Acts and the early Church proceeds, we know that the disciples waited in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. When he did descend and filled the disciples they spoke in tongues and Peter preached a powerful message where 3000 were added to their number. And then what happened? The Church enjoyed a time of growth and amazing breakthroughs…in Jerusalem. But just in Jerusalem. Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth were relatively untouched.
It is not until Acts 8:1-4 that the gospel spreads from Jerusalem, and that by default. (Read 8:1-4). You might say that the only reason the believers left the mega-Church of Jerusalem is because they were forced to by persecution. I remember a metaphor in Bible College that described this event as a blacksmith smashing a red hot iron and watching the sparks fly. God allowed persecution to get them out of Jerusalem. Then the Word spread to Judea and Samaria.