Recently, a group of young people and adults from our church returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica where they came alongside a missionary family, painting, and doing whatever they could physically. The amazing thing about the report they gave was how often they remarked that the most important thing they did was simply visit! You know what I mean – just spend time with them. How often the missionaries felt alone there. And what surprised the team was when Mark, our missionary, remarked that our church has supported his family, his parents and now him, for 50 years!
Scripture tells us that when we give financially, we reap the harvest as much as those who are physically present doing the work. Friends, that makes us family!
Nationwide, church budgets allot about 2% for missions. I am blessed to be a member of a church which gives 35% of budget to missions. I am excited about that, but the point here is this: because we are involved as a church family with so many missionaries, and because we are an independent church who personally selects and gets involved in the lives of those people, we are a world-wide community located in a small town in western Pennsylvania.
When I say that a missional life is one in which we are to be “the hands and feet of Jesus” in the world, like I did in my last post, I assume everyone knows what I mean.
Feet go places, and so we should go. Across the street to our elderly neighbor’s home, maybe, or across the hall to a mourning coworker’s office, or across town to the park that has a chronic litter problem.
Hands do things, and so we should do things. Extend our hands to touch those who have been deemed unclean, maybe, or get our hands dirty and make some mud to heal blindness.
I’m pretty sure that’s right, but I think it’s more than that, too.
If you hang out with people who’ve gone to or taught at a seminary during the last ten years, or maybe if you just hang out with a certain kind of church folk, you’re probably aware of the trendiness of certain Christian words. Usually there are churches built around them, church conferences planned around them, and lots of books written with them in their titles. Recently words like community, emerging or emergent, koinonia, intentional, or relevant might make it on such a list.
Another one of those words is “missional,” as in, the missional church or missional living. (If you aren’t one of those people mentioned above, you might be thinking, “What the heck does ‘missional’ mean?” And that’s okay. You’re in good company. Back in 2008, after “missional” had started popping up “everywhere,” Christianity Today featured an article about what the heck it means. For more information, you can also check in with the all-knowing Wikipedia.)
I’m sure there are quite a few long, well-thought-out books written about why the contemporary church has shifted away from thinking solely of “missions” as sending money or people overseas or “missionary” as only a full-time sharer of the Gospel in a foreign land.
I haven’t read them, but I, for one, am glad we’re in this new place, a broader understanding of “missions.” Now, I’m not saying I don’t support overseas mission work: of course I do. The hubster was even in Honduras over spring break working in an afterschool program. We support people we know–friends in Haiti and other far flung places–and people and work we don’t know.
But I am not called to move my family overseas, and I’m not called to only–only–give money to support the mission work of others. I’m called to do mission myself. In my everyday life. Here in the middle of America. With my neighbors.