Many are on fire for God’s mission—but for all the wrong reasons. Here are five traps people easily fall into, as we wrongly pursue everyday mission:
Nearly every job requires tasks we don’t like. We all attend events out of obligation. Everyone does things because we have to. But we can’t view mission through that lens. The prophet Jonah is often celebrated for finally going to Nineveh. But read the final two chapters of his story, and you’ll find that he may not be as excited as many have come to think. Jonah goes only one-third of the way into the city to which he was sent; he pronounces judgment with no call to repent. And when God saves Nineveh anyway, Jonah sulks—because God saved them! Yes, Jonah went. But not happily, and he only did the bare minimum. The book ends as God rebukes Jonah’s poor view of his mission. Mission can’t be a “just enough” pursuit, an empty obligation. Do you live on mission only because you have to?
“Does your ‘mission’ point people to Jesus, or just do nice things for others to feel good about yourself?”
From televangelists to Islam to some Catholicism, many religious traditions are largely founded on earning or losing favor: “If I don’t do this, God won’t do that . . . If only I’d do this, I’ll be blessed like that . . .” In this trap, mission becomes an attempt to earn something from God or prove something to Him. But mission is not atonement. No number of conversions makes up for whatever darkness drives us; only Jesus overcomes our past. Likewise, mission cannot be a way to please God or avoid some punishment; only Jesus takes God’s anger. Do you pursue mission to prove or earn something, before God or man?
Competition can be healthy—even fun. But sadly, we know people whose ministries, and even self-worth, are built on “how many people I’ve saved” compared to how many “you have.” The obvious issue in this view is that souls are worth far more than notches on a belt! Deeper though, this puts ourselves in the place of God. Yes, He gifts some as evangelists—praise Him for it. But as He reminds Jonah, and echoes throughout the Bible, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” We aren’t responsible for the success of His mission, so we can’t use His mission to build ourselves up. Do you do God’s mission to promote yourself?
Mission is not truly mission if it doesn’t involve Jesus. “Empty moralism” is doing nice things for people. It makes us feel good, and even benefits them for a time. But moralism alone stops short of mission: it doesn’t require or point to Jesus, it lacks eternal impact, and it often stems from poor motives. Jesus celebrates the feeding and clothing of people in need. But people who don’t know Jesus do that too. The final question of this book—“HOW do I share the gospel . . .?”—helps us ensure movement from moralism to mission. We must both display the gospel by our actions and declare it by our words. Does your “mission” point people to Jesus, or just do nice things for others to feel good about yourself?
As we’ve said, “missional” is a sexy word right now. Some call it a trend. But as AOL Instant Messenger and the clothes in your parents’ wedding photo prove, trends die off: As a word, “missional” may be a trend, but everyday mission is not. God’s mission is as old as history, as broad as every inch of land on which a follower of Jesus stands, and as necessary to life in Christ as discipleship or community. We’ll see practical ways to live on mission in the coming weeks, but we’ll first show the gospel motive that undergirds everything we write. Do you pursue mission just because you think it’s cool right now?
Why is each of these a trap? It’s a question of motives. Are we focused on God or on us? Sneakily, the outward expression often looks the same, regardless of what drives us. And we all know the deceit of our hearts. We must be careful with motivation: mission must find its root in God and His gospel work in us, for the sake of His gospel work in our everyday mission fields.
by Bob Roberts, Jr. and Ben Connelly
Surprise—if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, He calls you a missionary! You may never go halfway around the world, but because of...
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