Jesus said, “Wake up and look around!”
By Peter Bunton
“Missions” is a term the church uses frequently. We immediately start to think of remote places in the world and activities such as communicating the Christian gospel to those who have never heard, or educating children in remote villages. The reality is, however, that missions today involves multiple tasks and locations.
The word “missions” comes from the Latin word missio, itself from the verb mittere, which means “to send.” So, technically, the word implies the church sending people on a task. Because “send” implies movement and travel, it has usually been attached to moving from one people or nation to another.
Multiple Ways to Be a Missionary
Today, being sent to communicate the love of Christ can involve multiple media. It could be that we speak and preach to people, but God often uses things such as drama, music, and dance to communicate His love. Moreover, such communication these days may be through websites and social media. Furthermore, the church has always “preached” the gospel through acts of kindness and compassion. Traditionally, one way has been through medical ministry. However, today missions can include feeding programs, or helping people develop a business so that their ongoing needs can be met. Whether you are a teacher, nurse, IT specialist, builder, or mechanic, there is a role for you in the church’s task of proclaiming Christ, discipling believers, and seeing new churches started around the world.
Not Just One People, but Missions to Many People at the Same Time
A further complexity in today’s world might mean that a missionary goes to another country to find they are ministering to multiple people groups. For example, American missionaries Justin and Rawan Shrum lead The Justice Project in Germany. As they minister to women caught in human trafficking and exploited in the sex industry, they find they rarely minister to Germans, but to Russians, Bulgarians, Colombians, and Nigerians. While called to Germany as their context for ministry, their outreach is to diverse peoples within that context.
Cross-Cultural Missions at Home
Today, missions might also mean staying in your home community, but reaching those of other cultural and linguistic groups. Most countries have large immigrant populations, many of which are not Christian. Indeed, they may be active adherents to another religion such as Islam or Buddhism. If we only think of missions as traveling somewhere on a plane, we may miss the multiple people groups near our home who also have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Especially as they are in a new country and culture, they are often open to new relationships and ways of thinking, and can be the very ripe harvest field of which Jesus spoke (John 4:35).
Foreign and Indigenous Missionaries Working Together
For some, missions can mean not even serving immigrants, but strategically helping those indigenous in your country, but who are from different tribes and religions. This is the case for a number of DOVE Africa missionaries who remain in their home country, yet serve those of other tribes, many of whom are Muslim. The power of their witness is enhanced through providing quality education or medical services to those who otherwise would be marginalized. An interesting dynamic in these situations is that foreigners support this mission through financial giving, but also through visiting teams. Such short-term foreign teams, while engaging in international missions, are doing so in the spirit of serving the long-term vision of the indigenous missionaries.
There are many ways to engage in missions today. Some may still need to fly to another country, but others of us may find a rich cross-cultural mission field closer to home. May God help each one of us know how we can engage in God’s missionary task today.
This article is from the book Evolving Missions: 24 Voices Reflecting on Missions Today. This book is a collection of 31 articles which show the diversity of modern missions and ways in which we can all be involved today. For more information or to purchase a copy, click here. For more information about missions, go to dovemission.org
About Peter Bunton
Peter, originally from Great Britain, lives in Pennsylvania. He serves on the DOVE International Apostolic Council and is a member of the DOVE Europe Apostolic Team. His main responsibility is the director of DOVE Mission International, where he helps develop and send missionaries from the USA. He has published works in the area of church history and cell groups and has received a PhD in missiology from the University of Manchester, England, for his research in founder succession in international Christian movements and organizations. Read more about Peter.