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“It’s The Mission Stupid!”

September 15, 2011

“It’s the economy stupid!”

It was the political phrase made famous in Bill Clinton’s 1992 race to the White House to beat George Bush Sr. It was said that Bush’s strong points for reelection were his firm stances on foreign policy and the War in Iraq while Clinton’s strong points was refocusing the aim back to what he thought really mattered, the economy.

Sometimes all it takes to reenergize a people toward a successful vision is to remind them of what really matters. Not that Clinton had it right or that this refocusing strategy was the determining factor in his winning the Presidency. The content of the strategy may have been wrong, but the strategy itself was genius.

Bush focused on the wrong thing. He was focused on the minor things, not the main thing. Reminding people of the main thing, of what really matters, gives them purpose again and re-shifts their focus back on target. The goal is hitting the target, not getting close. Bulls-eye is the goal, not almost dead on.

Bush was fighting the wrong battle. Clinton apparently guessed right and found what most Americans agreed our focus should be on.

What Are We Fighting For?

Sometimes in the American Christian church today, it feels like we are fighting the wrong battle. And about what?

If you look across mainstream Christendom, there is so much infighting. Infighting over the right theology, right doctrine, right distinctives, right practices, right churchology (ecclesiology if you prefer big words), right missiology, right leadership structures, right music style, right definition of worship, right discipleship approaches, right cultural interpretation, right bible translation, right right right. Even infighting among guys in the same denomination or movement over trivial things like how services are implemented or where.

Gifts or no gifts? Calvinist or Arminian? Topical preaching or expository preaching? Tie or jeans with holes? Formal or informal? Day or night service? Traditional or contemporary worship? Relevant or different? Seeker-sensitive or discipleship-focused? And so on and so on.

I feel like someone should stand up and shout at the top of their lungs, “It’s the Mission stupid!”

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Christians are so good at missing the forest for the trees. We focus on what type of tree, how old it is, what leaves it produces, what fruit it yields, what kind of root system, what type of soil it needs, historical background, layers of bark, tap root size, best weather to plant, best time to seed, best type of fertilizer, etc. And we forget about the forest. Each individual tree makes up one big forest.

The pop-Christian topics are the trees. The forest is the mission! We miss the mission, the real bulls-eye, because we are focused on expository preaching or reformed theology. And quite often we miss the mark; even the whole target altogether.

My Greatest Fear: Becoming Sunday-focused instead of Mission-focused

The last few years I’ve seen more personal change than I’ve seen my whole life. Especially my view of the church and our purpose. I know our ultimate goal is to glorify God by exalting His Son Jesus Christ by becoming more like Him through making disciples. But it’s as if we believe the best way to do that is through a single Sunday gathering.

For too long, churches have been all about Sunday gatherings. What time? What happens? Who is our target audience? What program? How many services? How long should the service be? What’s our style of worship? Meeting space?

Even the word “church” conjures up to most nonChristians a place to go on Sunday. Our own culture reflects accurately what we’re becoming.

Every week so much work, planning, effort, time, energy, money, resources and prayer goes into one single Sunday gathering all over America. Days of work for 2 hours of time. It’s like training months for a job that lasts only one day. It doesn’t really make much sense. It seems almost foreign to Biblical church life. It feels more event-oriented than community-oriented.

I don’t think Jesus spent three years pouring into 12 guys to build into them how to master event planning. Then why does the church spend so much time trying to become the ultimate event planning, food catering, live entertainment, motivational speech business?

Jesus showed them how to live and die for something big. How to lay down your life for someone. How to live on mission. How to have power. How to beat temptation. How to fight sin. How to love one another. How to walk in the Spirit. How to embody grace. How to obey the Father. How to duplicate yourself and make more Christ-followers.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus were physically on earth today if he’d be doing a lot of jack-slapping. Not trying to be disrespectful. But I wonder if he’d tell us, “It’s the Mission stupid!” It’s what he lived, died and rose for. Now it’s what we live and die for. Not to have gatherings and meetings and services and master them. But to make disciples and master disciple-making. To baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all that Jesus commands.

Somehow along the way we’ve managed to make it all about how to have attractional (outward-focused) meetings or how to have discipleship/fellowship meetings (inward-focused).

If we place our emphasis back where it belongs, the mission, we reshift our aim back to what matters, the center of the target: the bulls-eye. Then we’ll also see more daily missional living as we go and do, instead of event-oriented Sunday-only living. It’s not about what we invite them to, but who we introduce to them; who we bring to them.

The Church = sent ones

The church is a sent community. A community of goers, not stayers. It’s news on the go. Our message is mobile. Our message is meant to be lived out in and among the culture. Not inside and away from the culture. We were meant to be “in the world, not of the world”. “Set apart”, not stay apart.

There are 7 days in a week. We can’t possibly think all or even most of our mission work and kingdom living can be done in 1 day, or even a few hours a week for that matter. Gatherings are crucial, don’t get me wrong.

The church is called to be a community. Communities must gather together in a place in order to pray together, worship together, equip one another together. But that can’t be done only once a week. It must be lived out daily.

The community gathers around a common goal: the mission. We don’t just gather simply to gather. As if gathering in itself has power and hope. No! It’s the mission that we gather around. It’s the missionary, King Jesus that we gather to worship and emulate. It’s His mission, so it’s also our mission. That’s why we exist. It’s why we are sent, meet back up and go back out.

To make disciples, not to gather. That’s our mission. And when the Sunday gathering becomes the bulls-eye, the mission loses its target position.

The mission touches every corner of our lives, every nook and cranny of our worlds. Every day and night. Every breath we take. Every decision we make. Everywhere we go. Everyone we meet. Every minute we spend is about the mission.

It’s not about the gathering or a Sunday meeting. It’s the Mission stupid!

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