Going Forth as Missionaries

In Luke 24:47-48, Jesus tells his disciples, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” These words have been given to each one of us as well. We are to be about GOING – going to people, going with the Good News, going across the street, going around the corner. We are called to be a sent people, following the example of our Savior who was sent by God to us.

How might we recapture that sense of being sent out? Of going into our community instead of expecting those far from Jesus to do the work of coming to us? As those who follow Jesus, we are the missionaries who are sent out. If we were sent abroad as missionaries, we would learn the language, culture, customs and ways of our new place. We would make the extraordinary effort to connect with and build relationships with those we want to introduce to Jesus. We wouldn’t expect them to come to us, learn our language, and act like us.

While we haven’t been sent abroad as global missionaries, we are still missionaries in our communities and neighborhoods. And we have our own learning to do – languages, cultures, customs and ways. We still need to make the extraordinary effort to meet people where they are, and to build relationships with them. And that most likely won’t happen in our worship space. It will happen in the grocery stores, soccer fields, after-school programs, front porches, sidewalks, and around dinner tables.

Fifty years ago, our current form of church would connect with and reach probably 75-80% of the population. Today, our current form of church will only connect with 30-35% of the population. That leaves 65-70% of the population who will never be reached by church as we currently practice it. So we must make a decision…continue doing what we know for a dwindling population who might come (but who are being “competed” for by every other church) and ignore the 65-70%…. or consider how we might reach those 65-70% who need Jesus, but will never come to a traditional church service.

This is a unique time for the church in America. Our grandparents never faced these questions or challenges. And our grandchildren won’t either – it will be figured out by the time they’re serving in the church. Every 500 years the church undergoes a major transformation – you can trace it through church history. We find ourselves today in one of these major transformation periods. While that can be frightening and disorienting, it can also be incredibly exciting!

If you’re reading this, you most likely already know, love and follow Jesus. So now it’s our turn to think about those who don’t. In fact, that’s Jesus’ command to us. And just like the innumerable ways the Reformation or the development of the Gutenberg Bible completely changed the practices of the Church, they also led to incredible rebirth and revitalization. So many of you have been praying for revival. The opportunity for revival is here – the question is though – are we willing? Are we willing to follow Jesus in the ways he leads, especially down new and unpaved paths?

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue exploring the ideas of being sent, operating as cross-cultural missionaries in our contexts, following Jesus in prioritizing those who are lost and sick (Lk 15:1-7 and Lk 5:31-32), and considering new ways we can think about church to reach the 65-70%. We will wrestle together, ask hard questions, pray a lot, depend on Jesus, and commit to fully following him – no matter where and how he leads. Jesus is trustworthy and good!