The Talk Place

Blogs with inside information and personal opinions from GRN members around the world

The Urgency of Mission

Graydon Colville - Wednesday 10 August 2016

I have grown up hearing about the urgency of mission and indeed there is an urgency. Every moment people are dying and going to a Christ-less eternity. I wish more of the church would share this sense of urgency.

Yet I feel a sense of disquiet when I hear language like 'doing mission in order to speed the return of Christ'. I understand and applaud the sense of urgency that is behind it but can't help wondering if something of our Western agenda for urgency and 'instant' is not creeping into our missiology. After all that is not the purpose of mission! God already knows the time of Jesus' return. The purpose of mission is perhaps better expressed as “to glorify God through the peoples of the world coming to worship him!” or some variation on this theme.

When I read the Scriptures I am constantly amazed at how God seems not to be in a hurry. We read in a few minutes chapters that span generations; 400 years went by between the Old and New Testaments. Why didn't the Messiah come earlier?!

Well the scholars among us can give historical reasons that relate to the state of the Greco-Roman world and the use of the Greek language and can even quote Paul who said “When the time had fully come...” but couldn't God have moved a bit quicker? Still, it is easier to accept God's apparently slow time scale when we look back into the Scriptures than when we look at the world around us. Maybe we forget that the distinction between a day and a thousand years seems not to be overly significant to God!

My point is simply that as humans our knowledge and perspective is limited when compared to God's. He sees the whole picture. We see only a small piece. We must be careful before we allow our own culturally informed business or marketing strategies drive agendas and strategies that may not be quite what God has in mind. We would seldom put it so crassly and we are skilled at dressing it up in spiritual language but… do we risk doing damage to God's work because we are not prepared to wait on his time? There are many proverbs in English (probably other languages too) that suggest that too much haste results in slower or less progress e.g. “more haste less speed”.

There are strategies being acted on in the word of missions today that appear to be driven primarily by the perceived need for speed. I find them concerning. God will always achieve his purposes – sometimes through us, sometimes in spite of us! Cutting corners to get things done quickly may not achieve God's purpose though it may achieve ours!

I'm not arguing for laziness! We are called to work while it is day, but let us not rush in and do damage when a little more time and thought – and listening to God, may result in a better outcome for the Kingdom of God.