Why do we serve? How does Christ-centered outreach differ from today’s pay-it-forward, random-act-of-kindness culture? What is Christian mission?
The global church willingly gives millions of hours and dollars every year in the name of missions and outreach. We serve in the far corners of the planet and in local schools. We teach English as a second language. We proclaim the gospel message. We build schools. We disciple. Sometimes the message and the methods become confused. When making daily decisions about resources for kingdom purposes, are we making the best choices?
Our search for effective missional engagement begins with Scripture. Although the words “missions” and “missionary” do not appear in the pages of the Bible, the human part in the story of God emerges throughout the narrative. He works through the zealous and reluctant alike, calling them to their part. The responses of the men and women to His call provide insights for us as we too seek to discern God’s will. Through their interactions with the Lord, three principles emerge as a common starting ground for today’s missional engagement. They enable us to navigate the mission field with intention by orienting our journey toward true north, Jesus Christ.
First goal for missions: We serve to glorify God.
By His very nature, God is worthy of our praise. We join the heavens (Psalm 19:1), the angels (Hebrews 1:14), and even the trees of the field (Isaiah 55:12) in worship of the Lord of Lords. When the prophets and kings of old directed their praise and worship to Yahweh, their lives and their kingdoms flourished with His blessings.
We seek to honor and praise God today in His full Triune expression. We glorify God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe and our own existence. We live and move and have our being in Him alone (Romans 11:36). We glorify the Son as the willing sacrifice for atonement of our sin. His incarnate journey made flesh the commands and expectations of kingdom life. We glorify the Holy Spirit as His presence within us. Divine Counselor, Comforter, and Gift-giver, we praise His worthiness and acknowledge our daily dependence on Him.
John Piper opened his book, Let The Nations Be Glad, with the profound statement, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Until all peoples and nations worship the Lord, we continue in the mandate to make His name known. Our actions become God’s grace to those who do not yet know Him. Humble though they may be, our efforts glorify the Lord.
As we proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, our faith reflects God’s glory. Therefore, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Neither the size nor design of the lamp matter. It is the mere spark of light through the radiance of selfless deeds and words that draws attention to our relationship with the Lord.
Glorifying God through Word and Deed
As representatives of God’s kingdom, we share in the privilege of telling about His love and reconciliation through Jesus. “This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). When we desire to glorify God, selfish desires fade. Instead of personal agendas, our goals focus on fulfilling His plans. Ministry happens in this cosmic shift. Expectations for higher salaries or grander homes, for example, become secondary to pursuing his call. Our days acquire new meaning as we live into this divinely-appointed role. We serve to direct attention to His presence and purposes.
Our polite tendencies to avoid religion in casual conversation, however, create an awkwardness when opportunities arise to glorify God. It has taken me years to overcome the cautious hesitation. Some people are eloquent in articulating their faith. With ease, they integrate their testimony of God’s presence into everyday conversation.
Not so for me.
Years ago when working as a government analyst, my manager asked me why I appeared happy all the time. My first thought was of Jesus. Instead of proclaiming his name, however, my tongue-tied mouth mumbled something about having a glass-half-full personality. Epic fail. Twenty years later, I am getting better in giving God the glory for my joy. More on that later!
Next in the series: The second of three biblical principles for missions.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover
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