Throughout history, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth have held different views regarding world evangelism. Some groups have focused solely on the spiritual nature of humanity, while others have striven to create a world of peace and equality. Unfortunately, most views on world evangelism, or world missions as it is commonly called, are a reduced version of the Scriptural mandate to “preach the kingdom of God” to all nations (Mt 10:7, 28:18-20, Mk 16:15, Lk 9:2, Acts 1:3, 8). The hope of this article (and associated paper) is to enlarge the current views of world missions, while staying true to the central message of Jesus, namely that the Kingdom of God has come, is coming, is drawing near, and yet is delayed.
As you are likely aware by now, churches worshiping on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, in six locations across Sri Lanka in the cities of Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa, were interrupted as coordinated bomb attacks ripped through the churches and top-end hotels where they were meeting on this special day, killing more than 250 Christians (and perhaps visitors).
Does anybody actually feel excitement when the term “fundraising” is thrown around at a staff meeting and then featured in Sunday’s announcements? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just pay for everybody to go do the stuff God’s planted in the hearts of our short-term teams to do in our missions partnerships?
A common challenge for Christians looking to engage in global missions is, quite frankly, the cost! When you add up the price of flights, housing, food, and other expenses, the financial aspect of doing missions can feel like a huge obstacle for some, not to mention if a church is looking to send a team of people! In fact, I’ve found that one of the first things people worry about as they are wrestling with whether or not they should go on a mission trip is whether or not they will be able to afford going! And this says nothing about churches simply raising financial support for full-time missionaries or missional work in other countries!
Occasionally I read an article or hear talk about how ineffective it is to send people on mission trips from the United States to other countries. The typical argument of these well-meaning folks is that the money spent on travel could be better used by people in-country. Furthermore, they claim that sending funds instead of people would help reduce the poverty tourism that has sadly spread across American Christianity under the banner of short-term missions. In listening to these arguments, I must admit there is a kernel of truth in them that appeals to me. In purely logical terms, it would be far more efficient and cost-effective to simply wire money to Christian leaders in-country rather than trying to coordinate a short-term trip from the United States.
In Bill Jackson’s Vineyard history, The Quest for the Radical Middle, there’s a fascinating chapter on how the Vineyard became a church planting movement (chapter 5). John Wimber had a lot of previous experience in the world of “church growth” and it was clear that God had sovereignly prepared him for that work. Wimber had a vision of thousands of churches on a map of the United States, which led him to write, “I am now convinced that God has called me to encourage the planting of these 10,000 fellowships.”
Discernment is challenging work. Or is discernment an art? I tend to think Gordon T. Smith is correct when he states that “discernment is a learned exercise,” which means that there are principles and biblical guidelines to help followers of Jesus along the way of knowing God’s will.