“There’s just no opportunities.” That’s what my team said to me as we sat in a radio station break room in the Middle East. No opportunities?! Simply to prove a point, I told them I was heading out for 10 minutes and would return with a story. Well, it took 20 minutes, but in that time I bumped into multiple people I could start a good conversation with, offered a traveller some chips, was taken by said traveller to meet the leader of a human rights movement, and was told that he could introduce me to a leader of a key political party.
Why couldn’t my team see the opportunities in front of us? Maybe it’s because, though we’d travelled overseas we hadn’t yet truly learned the posture of ‘sentness.’
‘AS YOU GO’
Matthew 28 often comes up when we’re talking about the ‘GO’ of mission. Jesus tells his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations”. In mission circles we often lock on to that first word, stressing how God calls his people to “go” into all the world. But in the Greek, the emphasis is actually on “making disciples”. And the word for go might better be translated “as you go” – as you go about your life, focus on making disciples.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be going – it means we need to think of ‘going’ in broader terms. ‘Going’ doesn’t just mean traveling to an unfamiliar part of the world. It’s more an attitude of the heart, a posture of readiness. Some are called to travel, particularly to places where the Gospel has made little headway – think of Jesus’ challenge to the disciples in Acts 1:8. But going doesn’t just mean relocating; it means knowing we’re all equally sent.
Missional believers have a posture of ‘sentness’ – deep in their hearts they’re aware they’ve been and are always being sent by the God of mission. So regardless of whether that sentness involves a plane, learning a language, picking up a skateboard, visiting prisons or knocking on your neighbour’s door, God calls each of us to live from a posture of being sent.
ALL MISSION IS LOCAL
What’s more important: local mission or global mission? We all have our opinions, but the fact is, no matter where you are its local. In a real sense, there’s no such thing as ‘over there,’ because as soon as you arrive ‘over there’ it becomes ‘here.’
Why’s that an important observation? Because we often have an idea that, if only we could travel to some exciting place, engaging in mission will be easy. Somehow it can seem that a plane ride can transform us from ‘normal Christian’ to ‘missionary superstar.’ But who you are overseas is the same person you are back home – your habits, disciplines, strengths, gifts, weaknesses and fears don’t suddenly change. Like they say: ‘Wherever you go, there you are.”
Missional folk know it’s not about where you are, but who you are. For them, mission doesn’t have a start and end date; it’s an all-of-life thing. When they get on that plane, they’re ready for whatever God brings their way. But it’s just the same when they leave the house on a normal Monday morning for their workplace. In fact, time and again we find it’s people who know how to live missionally here who thrive when they relocate to a new part of the world. Why? Because they’re already living it out! They live from this posture of ‘sentness.’
HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
In many ways, I think the Church in New Zealand is a sleeping giant. Every day we cross paths with people who don’t know Jesus, who are hurting, who need someone to talk to. Lurking beneath the surface in our cities and suburbs are injustices, prejudices, addictions, needs, cycles of poverty. There’s enough opportunity in your own neighbourhood to keep you busy for a lifetime.
In fact, some argue that there’s so much need here that we can’t justify focusing on problems somewhere else. It’s a fair point actually, especially when there’s so much more we could be doing in our communities and when those engaged in local mission often feel alone in their efforts.
But that doesn’t mean global mission isn’t important. Coming back to Matthew 28, even though the emphasis is on making disciples, “all the nations” will never be discipled unless some of us get on a plane or boat or jeep or hiking trail and GO to them. There’s still an urgent need for people willing to go into all the world for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom – particularly to the ‘difficult places.’ For years the vast majority of global mission resources have been invested in areas where the Gospel has already taken root, whereas areas with little Gospel witness remain largely neglected. The harvest remains plentiful, but the number putting their hand up to serve overseas is actually decreasing. That means that though we’re all called to have a GO-ing attitude, some of us really are called to put our feet to the ground and GO somewhere new.
Having a GO posture means being ready to respond when God starts prompting you to a particular place, people group, neighbourhood, culture, street corner or club – whether that’s ‘here’ or ‘over there’! The question for us is, have we been seeking God about where and what and who he would call us to, or have we seen mission as something for someone else?
Regardless of where we do our going, we’re all called to GO.
For discussion What’s the difference between seeing sentness in terms of where you go and seeing it as an attitude of the heart? What difference does it make for you?
As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to going?
Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.