Part 3: Missional Urgency

Three Factors in the Church That Affect Our Missional Urgency

The Church is a living organism and, as such, it grows, changes, and goes through phases. It also suffers from viral infections. There are a number of beliefs present in various parts of the Body of Christ that cause damage to their host. Such beliefs can cause more damage than any external factor, such as persecution or opposition. It is certainly no accident. Any entity seeking to destroy or cripple the Church would be well served to poison it, as much as to combat it.

And so, in our efforts to see the Great Commission fulfilled, we must be as mindful of teachings in the Church that harm our capacity for mission as much as the challenges present in the wider world. There are far more factors affecting our missional urgency than this article could present. But the following three are among the most influential:

1. Prosperity Theology

Little needs to be said here; we are all familiar enough with the premises of the prosperity Gospel. The only consideration worth articulating is that this is no 'one-size-fits-all' teaching. From the most blatant charlatan with his 'thousand-fold' promises, to the most avaricious televangelist, to the more sophisticated and subtle versions that proliferate in influential cities and churches, there are myriad strains of this theology. Prosperity teaching on wealth and poverty is at best weak and flawed. At worst, it is destructive and deceitful. It can seduce believers into pursuing the very things that we are called to surrender, and place our own desires and agendas ahead of those of the Lord.

2. MTD

Moralistic therapeutic deism might be a mouthful, but the premise is simple enough. God becomes a genie in a bottle who exists for us and our satisfaction. Apart from when He is particularly needed, He more or less stays out of our way. Being nice to one another is what He wants from us.

In the last couple of generations, Western values have shifted dramatically. Previously the highest value was doing good. Then it evolved to being good. Now, it is about feeling good. To feel good, be happy and have whatever we want is held up as a morally excellent outcome.

The worst part of both the prosperity gospel and moralistic therapeutic deism might not be what it makes us aim for, but what it can convince us to abandon – the unshakeable commitment to reach the unreached at any cost, to have compassion for the poor and to identify with the down-and-outers. God wants us to enjoy our lives, not to slave away in such undesirable, difficult conditions!

3. Religious Pluralism

Another factor that combines most dangerously with these above factors is that of the uniqueness of Jesus. There are voices both inside and outside the Church that question the notion that Jesus alone is the way to the Father. This is of course nothing new.

We are no longer in some medieval village where everyone claims to be Christian. It is truly a global village in the 21st century. And it is much easier to accept the possibility that other paths lead to salvation when your everyday life involves rubbing shoulders with practitioners of various faith systems. Many of these people are lovely, kind, good individuals.

So, our conviction that those outside of Christ are indeed in urgent need of His Gospel is increasingly challenged. And even while this conviction is assaulted, we are told that God most of all wants us to be happy, to be wealthy, to be successful, and to feel good. You can imagine what this does to our willingness to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, to know the fellowship of His sufferings. Especially when it involves sacrificially going to those who have not heard and living out the Good News in another culture.

Even our worship and prayer ministries can be at risk of becoming self-indulgent, for our own feel-good factor rather than for the glorification of God. The bride is as yet incomplete; the body of Christ not fully formed. For us to be self-indulgent in worship while at the same time ignoring those who cry out for salvation and deliverance from oppression seems to me to miss the mark. I am reminded of the quote from C.T. Studd (a missionary of the late 19th and early 20th centuries):

"Some people want to live within the sound of a chapel bell, but I want to run a rescue shop a yard from the gates of hell."
by Jason Mandryk, Editor, Operation World


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