Mission Detachment

11 01 2008

subtitle: “Why 95% of all Christian Ministries should Immediately Cease to Exist Because They Are Detached From Our Mission ”

Disclaimer – What I’m about to write I actually do believe but only recently and I’m putting it out there so it can undergo further testing so give me your honest response.

I used to believe that Christian activity involved a conglomeration of often separate mini-missions and each one was an end in itself.

Feeding the Poor
Assisting the Fatherless and the Widow

And various people could more or less pick what area they are most passionate about and either create a ministry inside their church (if they go to a big church) to fulfill the mission or join a para-church ministry that has a specific focus on that mini-mission.

However, I’ve recently undergone an enormous shift with regard to my belief about the Christian mission. Specifically that we have one central mission – to make disciples. This is how the Kingdom of God expands upon the Earth. This is the activity that consumed the life of Jesus, of Paul and it is the narrow enterprise that they released their trainees to do.

So here’s the question I’ve been working through – what is the logical conclusion of our central mission of discipleship to every area of the Christian life?

One conclusion I’m throwing out there today is this – if discipleship is the mission, then is it appropriate to build ministries that are detached from that central mission? Feeding the poor with no strategy to disciple them. Building Christian community apart from a clear discipleship process. Launching a worship service as the primary goal of the church instead of making disciples.

Isn’t this the problem? Isn’t this the reason the country with the most ministries, the most churches, the most seminaries is having a decreasing impact on the lives of professing Christians?

What if 100% of people involved in ministry in the United States only continued if their ministry was structured and driven by the goal of making disciples. I believe 95% of them would cease to exist. And then what would happen? Those gifted people would be forced to reconstitute their ministries in alignment with our mission. The food kitchen worker would only continue if they worked hand in glove with those willing to pour time into these souls not just food into stomachs. Imagine the worship leaders, prayer warriors and mercy ministers all coordinating their efforts in line with an intentional discipleship process that actually transformed people’s lives. Imagine the massive change this would create and the Kingdom fruit that would result.

But who wants to design a coordinated focussed attack around a clear mission when we can all simply group up with people who share a like-minded passion for a mini-mission?  It would be like in war where all the pilots went to one battlefield, the mechanics to another, and the fuel supply to a third. When they begin to fail at their mission and the general tries to bring them into alignment or orders them to disband they might cry out “But what we’re doing is so important.”. Yes, but it’s not as important as the mission and you’ve been given gifts and training for the purpose of the mission.

So why not either disband or reorient all Christian ministries around our mission?

Here are some of the objections that have been raised thus far:

1. “Why shouldn’t we just increase discipleship instead of alter or disband existing ministries?” Everyone seems to say this at first but I think what Christians so often fail to realize is that the good is the ENEMY of the best. What that means is the main enemy of discipleship is NOT the sinful world but the well-intentioned ministries that, on one hand, suck the resources, passion and personnel away from discipleship and on the other, subtly replace that mission with another.

2. “Jesus told us to do many things including giving people a cup of water in his name and that is not discipleship.” So by this are we saying that Jesus was just as likely to set up a water distribution ministry but he just happened to spend most of his time discipling because that was his gift? No, Jesus discipled because that was the mission. Other things Jesus told us to do – visit the sick, feed the hungry are things you do as part of discipling and being a disciple. That was the way he did it not instead of discipleship like is being done today.

3. “Didn’t the early church have a widow feeding ministry in the book of Acts?” This was only for widows who were disciples. Paul even lays out the widow feeding rules in 1 Timothy 5 where he tells Timothy to only put widows on “the list” if they are believers who have no believing family to take care of them. It’s not hard to see how keeping disciples from starving is directly connected to discipleship. But are we to have a ministry to feed the poor outside the church?. Sure, if its a part of a larger strategy to also feed their souls. What if its just to feed them? I can’t find a single example of the early church doing this and I’ve been looking (someone help me here).

4. “Aren’t you being a jerk? People who are doing these ministries are doing them out of love.” Let’s go back to the war analogy. Is the general being a jerk when he insists that the elements of his coordinated attack work together and for the same mission? If you have 10,000 hungry people in your community are you being unloving when you alter your ministry to feed 500 because through coordination you can actually feed AND disciple 50? Does the Christian food kitchen and the Christian prayer ministry have the same mission or not? If they do then why shouldn’t we choose to only move forward when we work together and when our ministry is designed to accomplish the mission we’ve been given.

5. “What if God specifically calls me to feed someone and I don’t know why?” This, I want to declare, is the one exception to the rule (I’ve found so far). If the Holy Spirit prompts you to do something for an unknown reason you do it and you don’t ask questions about strategy. But that doesn’t mean you build an entire ministry around it if its detached from our mission. If God is calling you to start a ministry simply insist that it be designed to accomplish our mission and refuse to allow it to become a mini-mission off on its own.

Why Middle-class Christians Neglect the Poor

9 10 2007

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” – Paul

Neglect of the poor is an embarrassing, dangerous failing of the modern church.  Our society is deeply divided by economic factors and its getting worse.  Our choice of restaurants, grocery stores, clothes, cars, beverages, neighborhoods, churches, schools, recreation and many other areas consistently breaks along economic lines.  We can now live happy socially active lives for decades without developing a single significant relationship with someone from a different economic strata.

So what’s the results?  We neglect the poor.  Not because we’re uncaring.  Not because we haven’t been transformed by the love of Christ.  I think the main reason is far more simple.  Far more subtle.  We don’t know them.  We don’t see them.  A lack of contact creates a convenient barrier between our blessed life and their deep needs.  And the church has quietly accepted this development in our culture as an unasked for blessing.

Faced with this reality you can do several things –

1. Push the whole unpleasant thought out of your mind with a few sips of Cabernet Sauvignon.
2. Feel a pang of guilt a few times a year and throw a bone to charity on occasion to medicate the sting.
3. Get involved in a ministry that helps bridge the relational gap and introduces you to a family in need that you can help in practical ways.

Members of our community’s outreach team are working to design a relational bridge and now we’re asking everyone – are you willing to walk across that bridge and develop an ongoing relationship with someone in need?