WHY MISSIONARIES? PART 2
This is the second part in a four-part Pastor's Perspective. I'm giving you some insight on why KCN is calling Missionaries to the Big Island to be on staff at a local church--a development that is largely unheard of in the Unites States.
I finished the last newsletter suggesting that there is a common assumption about the material reality of the local church. It goes like this: The church as an institution (which it is organizationally and administratively), should it be a healthy institution, must manage its assets and resources in a way that best fulfills its mission. We too believe this is true. It is true for every institution. Christian leaders of churches are familiar with this reality as the responsibility of stewardship.
But from here, it is believed that the church--and this is the part that we have problems with--is bound by the amount of its assets. In other words, the belief (and therefore the practice) is that the fewer assets the church has the less "ministry reach" it has, and conversely, the more assets, the more "ministry reach". In other words, more assets = more ministry reach and vice versa.
A simple look at the launch of the original church demands that we NOT accept this as always true for the church.
Look at Acts 2. At this point in the development of the church, it is little more than a bunch of rag-tag shepherds, tax collectors and fishermen. They had just lost their leader (it's always a tough time right after a pastor leaves a church!), but had a whole lot of confidence in their purpose (great worship has a way of doing that…Pentecost would qualify). Peter, perhaps the most confident among the bunch, begins to preach/yell (see v14) to the crowd (not the well established congregation, not the church membership, not the board or deacons, not the Sunday School teachers, not the big tithers, but the disorganized and unsettled crowd). The reach of this disorganized ministry was extensive. Many were baptized and saved that day alone (thousands!--v41).
Look at Acts 4. A conflict arises between the "Chief of Police" (captain of the temple guards) and the "wealthy aristocrats (Sadducees) and the disorganized band of worshipers led by Peter and John. The established power holders interrogated but ended up not pressing charges (v21). Peter and John reported to the believers all that happened and the building was shaken, they were filled with power, and many spoke of the truth of Jesus and the resurrection with confidence. (I pray that KCN can have a ministry that shakes buildings and shares the Good News with the world confidently!). But this is not the result of being well established and organized, it's the result of prayer, worship, and a genuine faith in the power of the Spirit (see v24 & 29).
Or take a look at Acts 8 & 9. Just a quick word: the church is persecuted and scattered (the antithesis of institutional security). In chapter 8, the result of persecution (and prayer) was more proclamation, more testimony, and more people reached throughout Samaria (8:25). And in chapter 9, the conviction and conversion of a leader (NOT the security, size, or structure of the church institution) was the impetus for the church and its mission to be strengthened and increase in numbers (9:31).
For the early church, disorganized + interrogated + persecuted + scattered = more reach! (Interesting. Hmmm.)
So why is more assets = more reach a "law of nature" for "secular" institutions but not for God's church?
While the church IS an institution, it also IS the only "institution" that was initiated by God after God came as a baby (Immanuel), and therefore cannot be reduced to the restrictive "laws" of governing, managing, and measuring institutions. In other words, there are RATHER LARGE elements to the institution we call the church that frees it from mere material restrictions: namely, it is the people of a (non-material) God gathered in the (non-measurable) power of the resurrected Jesus, and inspired by the life-giving (non-restrictive) Spirit.
To reduce the church to a "calculus" like more assets = more ministry reach, demands that we completely dismiss all that is not measurable. In light of scripture, we are forced to ignore that "non-assets" (God's abundant grace, the movement of God's Spirit, the force and influence of repentance on the newly saved, resurrection power, etc) are active and present in the life of the church
Let me say what I've said more simply: if we believe the reach of the church is limited by its material assets, we also must believe that the church is NOTHING MORE than an institution. The church in this belief is another non-profit organization, like the Humane Society or Veterans for Peace.
But the Church is the Body of Christ, given access to power that is both found in the humility and suffering of Jesus Christ AND in the magnificence of the resurrection and indwelling Spirit of Pentecost.
So, what do MISSIONARIES have to do with all this? I think there are two major issues:
1. Missionaries understand the reality of material limitations of the local church. They live it; their livelihood depends on it. But more importantly, deep in their bones they believe that God works outside the limitations of material restrictions. Think of it this way: The global frontier...missionaries, unreached people groups...missionaries, hostile cultures...missionaries, love the unlovable in impossible cross-cultural environments....missionaries. Missionaries take the gospel ahead of infrastructure, assets, and development. They ARE the assets of God's kingdom advancement, sometimes wielding nothing measurable but the Good News and a call to do Kingdom work. The very call of a missionary is a call to be Christ's presence where it has either not yet reached or has failed to reach effectively. In other words, missionaries embody the non-material, non-measurable, but no less real "elements" of the Body of Christ that makes it more than just another institution. They disprove the material "calculus" of the church.
2. Because a missionary's primary role is to contextualize the Gospel where the church cannot "afford" to reach, they are resourceful and driven. They are often more frugal, more creative, and more innovative. Part of this is the result of need (too little funding!), but mostly it's "built" into the call of missions. Consider that a missionary's primary objective is to REACH the lost, and their primary tool is the EMBODIED TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL. Consequently, their reach is often a result of what they do "in the flesh" and what they "begin from scratch". Without facilities, expense accounts, and well-developed programs, a missionary still has with him the greatest resource for effective missions: themselves inspired by the Spirit and called by God. The true mark of a missionary, then, is a spirit of entrepreneurship (not for monetary profit but for kingdom profit)--to make big impact with little imput, to do more with less.
The gifts, talents, convictions, and call of a missionary are hard to quantify, BUT they certainly extend the ministerial reach of the church. They extend the reach of the church beyond what many would think is possible given a mere asset analysis.
P.S. Our missionaries covet your prayers. Consider joining the KCN Prayer Team by clicking here.
P.P.S. If you want to follow along with more "behind-the-scenes" insights for KCN, click here to receive Pastor's Perspective.