Missions has taken on a different priority in our post-modern western culture. Like so much of politics, we are filled with good intentions and miss the root/primary issue. The real purpose of Missions as defined in the Great Commission is The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The buzz words are many, but one phrase rings loudly. That is, doing missions is “building the Kingdom of God.” But the Kingdom of God becomes something we are building in our own image and according to our vain imaginations. And we are doing it with “good intentions.” But bottom line we are to be getting people ready to enter the Kingdom of God. They must be born again (John 3:3) and they must be holy (Ephesians 5:5; Galatians 5:19-21; etc.). They must be disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:22).
This could and probably should be a long discussion on “what is the Kingdom of God?” and “what is our part as disciples of Christ in the Kingdom of God?” But right now I want to touch on the “shift in Missions” seen in the last few decades.
To put it bluntly, Our mission is the sharing of the Gospel to the salvation of souls bound for an endless eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire.
Christian Missions is about Soul Salvation. Today we have syncretized the message of eternal life in Jesus the Christ with many social programs. Now I know I will/am wading into a muddy pool here, but follow me for a bit. We have syncretized our Christian Mission with social development. The very thing we fought about in the Christian culture wars of the early 20th century with liberal denominational churches we have instituted into our own vision of missions in the missional church today.
Fellow missionary Michael Pfuam serving in Zambia says it this way talking about “Syncretism in World Missions”
In “modern” mission work we come across the intentional “change of the bad circumstances” e.g. the fight
against poverty, fight for democracy, freedom from abuse … These are all good and noble attempts. In focusing on these, missionaries become developmental workers, diplomats and politicians. Home churches collect vast amounts of money for developmental projects and the “eternal soul of the lost” is no longer the central focus of their investment and mission-work.
Values of our secular society take over, leaving the focus of the great commission on the sidelines.
Quoting Hugh Thomas Kerr, “Missions is not about sociology but salvation;
not economics but evangelism;
not reform but redemption;
not culture but conversion;
not progress but pardon;
not the new social order but the new birth;
not revolution but regeneration;
not renovation but revival;
not resuscitation but resurrection;
not a new organization but a new creation;
not democracy but the gospel;
not civilization but Christ.
We are ambassadors, not diplomats.
(Wesley L. Duewel, Ablaze For God, Francis Asbury Press, Grand Rapids Michigan USA, 1989, page104-105.)
Today the church seems not to believe that the Gospel is able to save people from their sin on its own. It needs help and so we use social causes to win the hearts of people so that they can then “hear” the Gospel. Two observations is that the Scriptures are clear that the Gospel is powerful to save in and of itself. Christ and the Apostles did not establish social justice and social reforms to introduce the Gospel to people so that they could “hear it” or “see it” to be saved. Any relief Paul raised was for the starving Church in Jerusalem and not the whole world. Secondly, my observation is that very little real Gospel ministry gets done with the establishment of social relief. I would contend the church has gotten the cart before the horse. Social change takes many years but begins with heart change, a change of mind and only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can accomplish this.
In short Christian Missions is about getting out the message of Jesus Christ, not creating a better world, “the Kingdom of God.” And I would contend that the best way to continue to spread the Gospel is through home missions, i.e. indigenous missions.
We should be evangelizing here at home and incorporating the converts into the local church and teaching them the Word of God so that they in turn do the same thing. That is we should be making disciples who are making disciples…
The Western Church should be helping churches around the world to do this NOT by being the great white savior and going ourselves but instead supporting the equipping of the church in Africa, Asia, South America etc to do the work of making disciples in their cultures. They need sound teaching. They need Bibles. They need help with infrastructure like transportation etc. We need to partner with them to help them do the work that we will never be able to do effectively because of culture and language.
That is the mission of Hope Builders Ministries and why I (HIMAfrica/HIMIndia) have partnered with this ministry. We are a conduit of blessings from the Lord to the church in Africa, India and around the world helping to supply the needed training and Bibles and bicycles and material support they need to do the work in their culture and economy.