I have to admit that I have never really been much of a fan of missionary work. I have no doubt that there are organizations that are doing good and genuinely helping others, but for some reason they do not excite me. Organizations that bring medicine and health care to impoverished nations are definitely ok in my book, but they do not necessarily have to be missionary oriented or even religion-based to do good. Imagine a missionary knocking on a door in Iran (as if this would be tolerated) and Ahmed comes to the door to hear how he must be saved by the blood of Jesus. Do we honestly think that Ahmed would believe this person whom they have never met and declare that his parents and grandparents are liars for telling him that Allah is the way?
I think a lot of my cynicism stems from an experience that I had in college. Our social psychology professor introduced us to a non-profit that would arrange sponsorships for children in third world countries so that they could be fed and clothed. This sounds all fine and good on the surface and I thought it was too until I heard the catch – the children had to profess a belief in Christ. I asked the professor to clarify that these children had to decide to believe in Jesus and that even if there were starving children living in the same tent they could not receive any help without professing faith in Christ. The professor confirmed that this was true AND thought that it was quite alright to have such a system. I was livid to say the least.
The primary goal of a missionary is a decision. Much like the organization that I described above, there is an agenda in place to convince the person being served that he or she should profess a belief in Jesus for the salvation of their immortal soul. This stems from a view of the Gospel as an individual necessity to believe in and be saved by Jesus or else face the consequences. As I have mentioned before, I have a hard time seeing the gospel in this light. For me, the Gospel is what Jesus said it was in Luke 4: good news for the poor, freedom for the captives and the oppressed, and sight for the blind. These are all acts of compassion done without an agenda merely for the sake of showing love. This is being missional.
As our church moves toward becoming a missional church, many may have visions of droves of homeless people wondering our halls or even members of IUCC knocking on doors with tracts trying to convert the community to Christianity so that we can fill our pews on Sundays. Let me assure you, this is not the vision. Rather than having an agenda, we want to go in to the community with a purpose – to show love to the community and help those who are in need. That’s it. No strings attached. No starving children going hungry because they do not submit to our teachings. Rather, we want to live by the example of Jesus and bring hope to the hopeless as we do our part in continuing to write and act out the story that God put in to action so long ago. We need only to look out our front door to see what God is already doing in our community. All we have to do is get on board. Now being missional doesn’t sound so bad, does it?