I have heard it said that what binds the SBC together is missions. Well, that can't be right. If so, then we are bound together by nothing, which is maybe why we are struggling so much. A "mission" cannot keep us together.
After journeying with Jesus through India last week, I am rethinking the importance we place on "mission" as an aspect of the Christian life. Have we made too much of it apart from knowing the person and experiencing/sharing in the work of Jesus? Is this categorization a product of the specialization of society? Have we separated participation in mission from the life of Christ to the point of complete ineffectiveness? Perhaps we focus too much on mission/evangelism and too little on really knowing Jesus in all aspects of life everywhere we go.
The Christian life is not about mission. Neither is church life. Mission should not be the motivating factor of the Christian life. It should not be what binds us together as churches or as individuals. The motivating factor of the Christian life, what empowers us and binds us together is not a practice or a thing at all - it is the Person of Jesus Christ.
"He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17.
I am called to abide in Christ (John 15:1-8). My life's goal is to "know Christ" (Phil. 3:9-11). I am called to follow Jesus. Christ is to be the motivating person in my life. I am to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). Jesus is the head of the church. We don't start or end with mission - we start with Jesus. And, we end with Him too, the Alpha and Omega. I know that this is all a given, but it needs to be restated, I think. At least it does for me.
I am not trying to pit Jesus and His Mission against one another. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). As the Father sent Jesus, so is He sending us (John 20:21). The Man, the Message, and the Mission are connected (Luke 24:45-49). To follow Jesus means that we do what He did and go where He goes. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels tells you what Jesus was about. But, if it is possible to exalt the mission of Christ while devaluing actually knowing Jesus, it seems that we are doing it. I hear far more about what we are to do than who we are to be. I hear Mission and Missional Living constantly expounded upon in conference after conference and in the Christian publishing industry because of the "crisis" of falling numbers and declining budgets. But, I hear little about actually knowing Jesus and treasuring Him. Maybe I have just been listening to the wrong people.
Before we can be a people on mission, we must first be a people connected to Christ who treasure Him above all things. I know that many Christians, and Baptists for that matter, have things in the right order. But, more often than not, I am hearing things stated in the wrong order. We talk about mission as though a relationship with Christ is just assumed.
Perhaps we are assuming too much. Maybe our problem is not that we aren't doing enough, but that we have forsaken our First Love.