Over the holiday break, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking regarding mission and the church. Specifically, how these two ideas became separate streams of thought. It’s as if we feel the freedom to look at these separately and choose which is more important. I see this as a challenge in the denomination where I’m ordained and I see it as a challenge across the church in New Zealand. Why is mission seen as something we do,? For some, it’s become an add-on when our church has grown enough and is ready.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve had pastors indicate that they would love to be engaged in mission but they have to focus on local ministry/growing their church. I’ve seen historically missional churches raid their mission funding because the budget was tight and “the church admin costs support local mission, right?” I know the reality behind this – that statistically church attendance is in decline and less people means less resources to work with. But, I also think we buy into a lie when we tell ourselves that we will be engaged in cross-cultural ministry when we have more resources. Budgets just don’t work that way.
Our budgets indicate what is important to us and what we will make sacrifices for. I have a friend who has a heart for travel. She loves exploring new parts of the world, and refuses to let her limited finances stop travel from being a part of who she is. So, she’s figured out what she can do. She’s intentionally made it part of her plans and has been able to travel bi-annually. Two years ago, it was Greece. Her next trip will be Rome.
My point is that she could have waited until she had a better job or more money. Had she done that, chances are she would have never travelled. Instead, she said, this is part of my DNA so what can I do now. Instead of seeing resources as scarce and controlling who she could be, she looked for ways to live her values today, regardless of the challenges she faced. As a result, she travels.
So, if your church believes mission should be at the centre of what we do, if your church believes that God calls us BOTH locally and cross-culturally, what would happen if you asked, “How do we embrace this now?” instead of letting the current circumstances define what can be embraced. I’ve seen churches do that and know that when it comes to mission, passion and commitment matter more than size. Funny thing, passion and commitment are also characteristics that attract new people.