Wednesday, May 31, 2006

On Mission by Darrin Patrick

Darrin Patrick is a founding elder at The Journey in St. Louis, MO. He has this great essay on their site at

On Mission
Jesus of Nazareth came on a mission. He was not looking for the well, the found, or the righteous. His mission was not about starting a ministry that would produce programs to be consumed by nice, attractive, middle-class, white, suburban, couples with 2.5 kids. It wasn't a country club with nice, painted, iron gates that Jesus inaugurated. It was a church that Jesus founded with its calling to storm the gates of hell. The church he founded was not a place for people to get fed and fat, but a place to be equipped and sent. Church is not a building or destination, but a people who are on mission: to join the Savior in seeking and saving those who are lost.

Evangelism, or mission, is not just another program that the church carries out. It is not some peripheral activity. The church is mission. Yes, the church gathers as people being called out (ekklesia) of the world. But the church is at the same time being sent out (apostolos) into the world. The church certainly must be called out from the world, but it also must certainly go back into the world. We are to be holy, set apart and different in our character than those who do not know God. But, we should also refuse to believe the lies the "churched" culture tells us: avoid hanging out with the people in the world because you will be corrupted. We also need to reject the lie that we have to create our own Christian sub-culture and insulate ourselves from the big, bad world. Mission demands that we follow Jesus, friend of sinners, by being immersed in relationships with those far from God, and thus, bring light to lost people in dark cultures. We are called out, but we are sent. It is only in the context of being sent do the metaphors "salt of the earth," "city on a hill," and "light of the world" make sense in describing the church. We are to be people who have been encountered by God through the gospel, and then we are to enter the world with the gospel.

Mission is intrinsically connected to community. In the gospel of John, it is said that the unity of the church is vital if the world at large is to believe and experience the Christ sent from God the Father (John 17:21-23). Further, he said that we, the church, would be identified as followers of Christ only when we are sacrificially loving one another, which is another way of true Biblical community (John 13:34-35). It seems that the gospel of John points us to a reality that is both awesome and frightening: The believability of the gospel which the church proclaims is directly linked to the "realness" of its community. Could it be that many times, the gospel cannot be fully comprehended outside of this kind of real community?

Living the gospel, ie - being on mission, can take many forms: explaining the gospel to a friend or stranger, carrying out acts of compassion, or by being faithful to sacrificially love those in your church. The challenge is for all of us to stay in "mission-mode" and not to default to "maintenance-mode." When it comes to being missional, it is easy for Christians and local churches to be content in our bible studies, worship services and small groups and to forget the world. We do not drift toward mission, we drift away from it. It is not easy to be missional, it is hard work, it takes intentionality. It is much less stressful to hang out with people who look the same, smell the same and believe the same things we do. It is uncomfortable and challenging to intentionally spend time with people who hold differing world-views. But we must push through this discomfort because we are the church. We are the church, the called-out ones. We are the church, the sent-out ones. We are the church, on mission for the sake of the world.

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