Mission is a funny word that many churches have dismissed with a wave of the hand and a committee to make sure they are doing some things for other people. I want to reexamine this concept for a moment. The mission of anything is its purpose; its reason for existing. A space mission can be to get to the moon and everything that the people on the mission do, is to accomplish the task of landing on the moon. How silly would it be to form a moon committee to have a few people working on the moon issues while other people on the mission do other things? Yet that’s the trend in many churches.
The mission of God has always been external. God told Abraham that from his descendents he will bless all nations. We are part of that heritage. Jeremiah told the Israelites in exile that their fate was tied in to the fate of those pagans around them. If they are blessed you will be blessed, if they suffer you will suffer; was his message to them. Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations or some say it is better translated, “as you are going” make disciples of all nations. There is an assumption that we will be going out to others that are not part of the community. There are many other examples of this, but God’s mission always seems to be about going out and including new people. The only exception is when the Israelites were a small, fragile group of people and God kept them away from others to protect them. In order to find God doing this, however, you have to look before 600 BCE. We would be hard pressed to find an example of God telling people to keep to themselves anytime after that date.
We all fall into the tendency to want to take care of ourselves and the people like us, or the people in our church. We need to take care of one another, but we can’t forget that this isn’t our mission. We take care of one another so we, as a community of faith, can bless the world and make disciples. Churches are dying because they are internally focused and have lost sight of the mission of God. It is easy to fall into this trap because we live in a consumer culture where we are taught to ask, “What’s in it for me?” God calls us to be something greater and to do something greater. We have to be very intentional to stay in tune with God’s mission for the church instead of trying to make it what we like or what is comfortable for us. The church’s mission is not to serve us, it is to serve the world. These two ideas go hand in hand, because the more we know and love one other, the larger impact we can collectively have on the world. It is extremely important not to let the process of building a strong community be the end, but to use that strong community to transform the world with God.