Local Church and Christian Mission
By Eugene Kim
David Bosch, a prominent missiologist from South Africa, presents a perspective of mission as “being involved in the ongoing dialogue between God, who offers his salvation, and the world, which craves that salvation” (David Bosch, Transforming Mission, 400). His viewpoint of mission highlights the role of the church as a link between God’s kingdom and the world. The world and God’s kingdom coexist in the church. Thus, the church is a place of the Christian mission, and the Christian mission is accomplished in the church. I would like to present five suggestions and challenges to prepare, enhance, and continue the mission in the church.
Mission is a united and collaborative calling.
1. Start a mission study in your church.
The mission is not a choice for Christians. The mission is God’s invitation to join the moment and the place of God’s salvation, so the response to God’s invitation is a glorious duty for us. For this reason, mission is not the mission of man, but it is the mission of God (Missio Dei). Missional education is to respond to God’s invitation in a proper way. Missional education requires the preparation of an educational program for a mission study in the local church. The proper knowledge of the mission is vitally necessary for all types of missions: short-term mission, long-term mission, vision trip, or online mission via the internet. We know that passion without knowledge can be dangerous. An eight-week program for mission study is the ideal, but depending on your church, you might want to prepare a six-week or four-week program as an intensive study. The following three categories are suitable topics for mission study programs: the purpose of mission, the biblical foundation of mission, and the cross-cultural understanding for mission.
2. Be ready for a united and collaborative mission.
While doing the mission study in your church, you also need to prepare to participate in the mission. To participate in the mission, it is important to be ready for a united and collaborative mission with other churches. If your church has any mission fields, your church needs to be ready to open the area for other churches to join. If your church does not have a specific field of mission, your church can join a church that does have a mission field. There is no concept of “my” mission. Mission must be united and collaborative with other churches to proclaim the message of the gospel. For a mission, everyone needs to assist one another. The main actor of the mission is God, not any one church or missional organization. We are participating in God’s mission as assisting actors. For a practical collaborative mission, pastors and missionaries need to have time to share their missional passion and vision in dialogue. The mission is not individualistic, but collaborative.
3. Start a peripheral mission.
We can find a regional concept of mission in Acts 1:8, “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This regional concept presented by Jesus does not mean just the expansion of the missional region; it also means the cultural and linguistic extensibility of the Christian mission. If a church overemphasizes “the ends of the earth” as the mission field, that church visualizes the mission as an overseas mission only. Then that church tends to show its missional capacity through showing the numbers of missionaries it has sent and the overseas areas where it is doing mission. This tendency may weaken the peripheral mission around the church. The mission should not be an overseas mission in a local church. The commission of Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8 begins with “Jerusalem.” But it extends beyond the regional limitations.
Peripheral mission does not mean the same thing as cultural mission. Now that local has become global and global has become local, so called “glocal,” a peripheral mission has become the mission for Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Therefore, a peripheral mission has become important. Through a mission study in the church, a peripheral mission needs to be emphasized for today’s mission. John Wesley did an overseas mission in Georgia, but his missional fruits were abundant in a domestic mission in England.
4. Tithe from the annual church budget for missions.
To be a missional church, the DNA of churches should consist of missional interests and endeavors. Missional interests and endeavors need to be approved through the ministry of finance in the church. To be a missional church, consider tithing from the annual church budget. We encourage church members to tithe to God from their income, but the church itself hasn’t tithed for God’s mission from its annual budget. Tithing from the budget sounds new, and it could be a challenge to the church. However, it is a way to be a missional church that sets apart ten percent of its budget for doing mission. Missional churches and inner-ministry churches are different. The big difference is where the church faces. Missional churches face outward toward the world, while inner-ministry churches face inward toward the church. An inner-ministry church focuses on administrative items such as budget, revenue, expenses, and so on. Instead of taking care of neighbors, a ministry church is busy with membership management. When a church turns its face from outward to inward, the church begins to focus on maintenance instead of focusing on the missional purpose for its neighbors and the world. On the other hand, a missional church focuses on outer missions, and it entrusts the Holy Spirit with the inner ministries and administration. One of the obvious differences between a missional church and a ministry church is the tithe of the church’s budget for mission. Even without designated offerings from church members for missions, ten percent of the budget should be used for missions.
5. Continue communicating with missionaries.
Online communication has become the new communication culture since the global pandemic started. This online communication culture won’t disappear even after the pandemic, although many people will return to previous ways of communication. This online communication culture is a good way to communicate with missionaries in foreign countries. Missionaries don’t need to leave their mission fields for meetings, missional reports, or conferences. Instead, they can be connected anywhere in the world where the internet is available. A local church should be able to set up meetings with missionaries on a regular basis. Furthermore, missionaries could serve as online lecturers for a mission study in local churches. Congregants would be able to hear stories from missionaries about the mission field. Listening to missionaries is an excellent opportunity to enhance the understanding of mission in order to prepare and participate in it.
Missions cannot not be done in a day. There should be a divine invitation to the mission and discernment with affirmation to God’s calling. In addition, there must be thorough training and preparation for a mission. Divine invitation, discernment with affirmation through prayer, and training with the mission study are like basic military training. Just as soldiers must be prepared for battle, missions must be practiced with divine calling, affirmation of God’s calling with prayer, and missional education.
Again, passion without knowledge is dangerous. I hope that these suggestions and challenges can stimulate local churches to prepare and participate in God’s mission.
David J. Bosch. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Orbis Books, 1991).
Rev. Eugene Kim eugenekim[email protected]
Pleasant Valley UMC, VA