Top Ten Misconceptions about Missions
1) Missions requires manmade methods. Missions is not a method but a Person: Jesus Christ. Never let your method harden into a system.
2) Missions is an extra option for Christians who enjoy that sort of thing. Missions is the duty and privilege of every follower of Jesus. Three alternatives exist for the relationship of a Christian to missions: Either they are involved and passionate about missions in some manner; or they are not living out who God has made them in Christ Jesus; or they are not a Christian.
3) Missions is either proclamation or presence alone. The Gospel must be proclaimed and lived out or it will ring false and achieve nothing. Love is crucial.
4) Missions is a chore. Not so! When we are truly filled with the Spirit and on fire for Jesus, we will inevitably participate in what the Spirit is doing, namely, missions! If the Spirit of God indwells and controls the believer, and if the Spirit of God is associated with missions (see Ezek 36:24–2; Col 1:24–29), why would the believer not participate in God’s mission?
5) Missions is easy. The opposite may well be true. The earliest Christians faced persecution, danger, and death. The modern world hates the Gospel just as much.
6) Missions is evangelism only. This is like saying that all that matters is birth. Post-natal care is as vital as birth. Moreover, it is like saying that the goal of missions is salvation from hell rather than similarity to Christ, the King. A great deal of modern missions is pathetically weak in follow-up and growth into the likeness of the Son.
7) Missions requires that the missionary be supported. In fact, most missionaries today would never think of going to the mission field without first being supported. Of course, such support is not sinful. But why couldn’t this money be used to support foreign nationals who are better able to reach their nations for Christ? Why couldn’t this money be spent on helping the needy or providing health care for the poor in the name of Jesus? Something is wrong when our foreign missionaries do not even consider the possibility of becoming tentmakers. Paul knew it was wrong for him to become a financial burden on his fellow Christians when he could work for his own living. Until we accept self-denial, as Paul did, we will never see the Great Commission fulfilled in our generation.
8) Missions requires formal seminary training. A degree in missions is not required to be a missionary. No human book can teach us missions. We must look instead to the writings of the Old and New Testaments as authoritative in a way that no man-produced book is authoritative. We must learn from the future-oriented perspectives of Moses and the prophets and from Jesus, Paul, and the apostles not only why we should do missionary work but also how. The basis, the mandate, and the model for missions emanate from God and must be patterned after the example of Jesus Christ. In short, our desire should be to follow the Scriptures, which stress the power of the Holy Spirit in God’s plan to gather his people and in the life of the church – not organizations, methods, programs, or personalities.
9) Missions is a Western phenomenon. Wrong again! The shift of the majority of Christians from Europe and North America to the Majority World (Asia, Africa, Latin America) has more than numerical significance. As Western missionary forces are shrinking in numbers (and possibly also in influence), the role of Western missions will undergo a dramatic shift away from leadership to a more modest (and healthier) goal of assisting local churches in foreign countries.
10) Missions means going “over there.” From the perspective of churches in America, doing missions means traveling to another nation. To put it another way, the church in America thinks it is the center of God’s plan. However, this is obviously not the biblical perspective. In the Old Testament, God’s plan involved gathering his people from and among the nations. In other words, if there is a center, it is an idealized Jerusalem. Any individual among the nations (including Israel) is the goal of missions. Reaching Caucasians in Virginia is missions, reaching Hispanics in North Carolina is missions, reaching Italians in New Jersey is missions, reaching Jews in New York or Israel is missions. The list goes on almost endlessly, including those areas and nations often associated with missions. In other words, the mission field is anywhere in the world, including right where you live. The unnamed believers who took the Gospel to Antioch (Acts 11) were simply living out their Christianity in the midst of their daily existence. What better way to be a witness? What better way to be salt and light than to become enmeshed in the fabric of society by working alongside locals? We need to learn to view our employees, our co-workers, our fellow students as our mission field.
November 17, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.
Tracy J. McKenzie teaches Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is an elder at Restoration Church in Wake Forest, NC. He holds a Ph.D. from SEBTS and is pursuing a second doctorate in Old Testament at the University of Göttingen, Germany. His publications include Idolatry in the Pentateuch (Wipf & Stock, 2010) and “The Hebrew Bible and the Nations,” in Theology and Practice of Mission: God, the Church, and the Nations, ed. Bruce Riley Ashford, B&H Academic, 2011