I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what we, meaning the church, call missions. It has seized my spirit because I’ve been made aware that Christianity throughout most of the world is on a decline, but especially in parts of Northern Europe where at one time the church was thriving. The church and its influence has become so apostate that for the first time in modern history we are witnessing the loss of faith in entire generations. Considering these facts and trends leads me to ponder the question: why? Where has the church gone wrong and what must happen to reverse this effect?
I will state that I believe the stage has been set for an authentic apostolic reformation. I’ll explain this in greater detail throughout the article. In order to clearly identify what missions are and how they are defined by God we must revisit the book of Acts. This book is devoted to the recording of the church’s birth, formation, identity, purpose, function, and expansion. The book of Acts gives us a clear view of God’s system, structure, and strategy concerning the church as it reflects His nature. These things must be rediscovered by the church and restored in the church for her to become the viable entity in the earth God created her to be.
Over the centuries missions have evolved from being a method of gospel ministry to benevolent ministry. This means that the focus of missions has turned from a priority of preaching the gospel in unreached communities, cities, regions, and nations to pitying services that meet many natural needs but does little to meet the spiritual need. I don’t want to be misunderstood as saying that I think benevolent ministry is wrong because I believe the scripture is clear that the church has an obligation to serve the needs of others but not at the expense of the gospel. One of the worst quotes that circulates in modern Christendom is, “Preach the gospel and use words when necessary.” This statement has been misconstrued as an excuse not to openly speak or share one’s faith in Christ but just do good deeds and let those deeds speak for themselves. The common believer today does not share the gospel with others for many different reasons. They may not know how. They may not even know what the gospel is. They may not want to offend someone who doesn’t believe the way they do. They don’t want to be perceived as intolerant. And though I believe one or most of these may be contributing factors as to why the modern believer doesn’t share their faith, I am convinced that the fundamental reason is they are intimidated by the secular beliefs that challenge the scripture today.
Many believers lack knowledge and understanding of scripture such that they do not know how to rightly defend the faith. The faith of the church for a millennium has rested on the rituals, traditions, deluded teachings of religion, and not on the demonstration of power through the life of every believer. The power of the Spirit follows the preaching of the gospel to validate the gospel as truth from God rather than the persuasion of man.
So, in effect, what has the church done? It has abandoned its mission according to the commission of Christ and has exchanged it for a pseudo-expression of His love void of any substance of truth in preaching and power. For the most part we have reclined ourselves to being a charitable organization within communities rather than a life-producing organism. So what happens when affluent societies where needs are now met by other entities and individuals see themselves as self-sufficient having no use for the charitable services of the church? It becomes irrelevant to the community that once needed it. A church with no message has no meaning.
When the church has lost its voice it has lost its influence, and once the church has lost its influence it has lost the people it was commissioned to reach, teach, and empower to prosper. What’s the message of the church? The good news! What’s the good news? That relationship with God has been restored through Jesus Christ. Why is this necessary for every person in every place?
Because the basic need of every man is love and the very purpose for man’s existence is relationship, first with God then with each other. What is the basis of any real relationship? Love! So for us to fulfill our created purpose we must first rightly be loved and then we can rightly love.
If this message is restored in its simplicity to the church and we teach those who receive it to live according to it then the natural production of this new nature is by demonstration show charity not out of pity, but love. The local church’s structure and system was designed to enable it to serve the benevolent needs of the community it is sanctioned to serve. According to the recording of Acts the apostle’s role was one of being sent to establish the church first by the introduction of the gospel through preaching and power, then initiate the system of discipleship and build the governmental structure with the teaching, equipping, and commissioning of elders. And, finally, empower the church to activate the strategy of duplicating itself elsewhere because reproduction is the natural occurrence of life produced by love. This is why God created the church to be an organism not an organization.