Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Mission Station" Mentality

When a person comes to faith in Christ, are we calling that person FROM something or TO something? I thought about this as I listened to Ryan Bolger address the recent “The Church in a Virtual Age” conference sponsored by Central Seminary. Bolger pointed out the missionary model used by western missionaries in India (and a number of other countries) in the 19th and 20th centuries pulled believers out of their society. This model called converts out of their culture into a way of life that was westernized, centered on the mission station, and separated from the world that gave them birth. The mission station was an enclave in a world that was perceived as hostile.

We may critique that approach as na├»ve and unproductive, but we often follow the same model today in calling people out of the world with which they are familiar into the church. We encourage people to find all of their friends, family activities, and service opportunities within the walls of the church. We often encourage people to come into a “Christian cocoon.” When they must have contact with those outside the walls of the church, we see this as a necessary evil.

If we are truly missional people, we will do several things. First, we will engage the culture in which we find ourselves and point out the redemptive work of God where we discern it. Second, we will not try to compete to provide the resources—recreational, educational, service—that are already present in our community but use them as a springboard for ministry. Third, we will give believers “permission” to pursue their call in the world then give them the coaching they need to do it.

The church is not meant to be a “mission station” but a recruiting center. In so doing, we pursue God’s mission in the world.

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