Missions are a given, not an option
As with the raising of children, being involved in missions requires a great amount of flexibility, patience and commitment. And, as is true with fulfilling the role of a parent, there is much more to missions than just wearing the title of missionary — or that of a missionary-sending church.
Missions are an extension of what should be taking place wherever Christians find themselves, be it in their home countries or abroad. Perhaps for that reason the term “missionary” is not literally found in Scripture. However, the ideas of missions, the missionary and the missionary-sending church certainly do exist.
• Missions are not an option for serious, maturing congregations. Rather, they are a given that should exist on an increasing level as the congregation looks more and more outward rather than inward.
Churches involved in and sacrificing for missions will grow naturally as they receive a reciprocal blessing from God. Many congregations suffering from problems could probably attribute their internal struggles to an internal focus.
• Missions are not something God intended to make the local congregation feel good about itself. The result of “feeling good” comes from any sacrifice we make to accomplish a good for those outside of ourselves. That blessing comes naturally as we focus on giving rather than receiving.
Every congregation would do well to conduct regularly a self-evaluation of its focus. Individual Christians also would benefit from such a process. How much do we spend on ourselves in comparison to what we spend on projects that have no self-return built into them?
• Missions have to become the heart of a congregation rather than a mere budget item. Missions should consume much of the thinking and focus of the leadership of a congregation. Constant communication from the eldership to the congregation should be a weekly experience of educating and informing the membership of its investment in missions and the projections for reaching exciting future horizons.
• The success of missions should not and cannot be measured simply by the number of baptisms. A mature leadership and informed congregation will understand that church or kingdom growth is measured in a variety of ways and that numbers never should be allowed to manipulate our judgment and decisions.
It’s unfair for a mature, sending congregation to expect extraordinary, immediate results from a mission point. Very possibly, the church members themselves are not achieving the same results at home — despite having more expertise, size and money.
• While short-term missions have their place, we need more congregations that will stay the course with missionaries for years, decades and even lifetimes. Missionaries and their sending congregations should partner to extend the gospel of Christ to a lost world. Both should dedicate themselves to kingdom-building.
The events chronicled in the book of Acts take place during a span of about 30 years. Even by the end of the book, the task had only just begun.
We are the rest of the story.
KENT MARCUM and his wife, Sharla, have served as missionaries in Quito, Ecuador, since 1989. Kent Marcum directs the Quito School of Biblical Studies, an associate school of Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas.