(Today I’m featuring the first ever guest post on missionsmusings.com, written by Josh Heyward. You can also check out his blog or look him up on twitter. If you want to write a guest post for missionsmusings, here’s how.)
Missions. Many different things come to mind with this one word—a straw hut overseas, a spring break mission trip, inner city ministry, caring for the poor, etc. The fact of the matter is that the word “missions” means something different to each individual. Some relate very well to this term being that they are totally comfortable with being in an unfamiliar environment in order to serve other people, yet others run from the idea being that they fear being called to live in that straw hut overseas. Whatever the case, each individual’s understanding is different. I would, however like to discuss two key elements of missions to hopefully clear the muddy waters of such a diverse and crucial idea.
First, as followers of Jesus—as Christians, we are ALL called to be missionaries. This may sound somewhat difficult, but let me unpack this a bit more. When I think about missions—once I get past the whole straw hut idea, haha—I think about Jesus. He was the ultimate missionary. The gospels record more than 39 instances where Jesus says that something to the extent of “He was sent” or “The Father sent me”. When Jesus came to earth, He came as a missionary as He left His home in heaven to bring the good news of the Gospel, to serve His people, and to ultimately give His life for us. This amazing act of perfect love cannot go unnoticed. As followers of Jesus, we are called to this same purpose—to leave our homes—our places of comfort, to share the Gospel, and to serve others. Because of the gospel and the saving work of Jesus, we are called to go and tell. Jesus charges us, his disciples in the gospels—in particular Mark 16.15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” In other words we are called to go to the whole creation—everybody.
One may ask, “How can I be a missionary? I have a job and a family.” This is a good point, and yes not everyone is called to overseas missions; however, we are all called to be on mission in our individual contexts each day of our lives. The “whole creation” that Jesus talks about in Mark includes the people we interact with and do life with each day. Our neighbors, the folks we work with, the folks we play with—we must be on mission to these people. You see, God places us in our individual contexts and situations for a reason. That reason being to leverage His Gospel to the people we know best. When viewed through this lens, missions is no longer just overseas ministry or a specific trip for a defined amount of time but is our living out each day. In essence, wherever we go, we take Jesus with us. Oftentimes, we are called out of our comfort zones to serve the people that we encounter each day. Now there still is a specific call for vocational and foreign missions, but just because one has not been called to do this does not mean that they are excused from missions entirely. Jesus has extended grace to us—we must tell others. We must serve others, and we must share the love of Christ with others. All in all, because of what Christ has done, we are all called to be missionaries.
Second, the Gospel drives missions. This, I believe, is of utmost importance. I myself, have been a part of mission trips and other ministries where the Gospel did not drive the mission. When this happens, missions cease to be missions but are now social acts of service. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with acts of service; however, acts of service without the Gospel doesn’t meet the true needs of individuals. We can feed the hungry physically without feeding their soul spiritually with the good news of Jesus. Similarly, we can provide physical shelter for someone in need without leading them to the true shelter of Jesus Christ. In other words, the Gospel is what should lead us to serve others. Meeting physical and spiritual needs must go hand in hand. In fact, this is what Jesus did in His ministry. The physical needs that He met were coupled to spiritual needs and a presentation of the Good News as well.
To wrap up, the sum total of all of our life is to live on mission. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about how we are compelled to be on mission and to take Christ wherever we go because we are ambassadors for Him. So yes, some may still be called to live in a straw hut as a foreign missionary for the sake of the gospel, but regardless we are all called to be on mission for Jesus—a mission that is driven by the Gospel and what He has done for us.