What’s It Gonna Take?

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing someone from the IMB (usually it’s someone in leadership) say, “What’s it gonna take to get the job done?”

Now I’ve gone through my thoughts about the “Unfinished Task” in previous posts. As far as I can tell, “the Task” we’re called to is nothing less than a step-by-step following of the Holy Spirit. But the IMB has scrapped that for something more practical. It’s like we read the instructions Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20, and we say, “Ok boys, you heard Him. All nations. Let’s get the job done!” It started in the 1976 with “Bold Mission Thrust,” a massive campaign the IMB launched to “Evangelize the world by the year 2000.” (Followed by “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000″ in 1980, “Strategy to Every People” in 1984, “One million native missionaries” in 1986 and “Decade of Evangelism” in 1990.) Like all of the Y2K Doomsday Prophets, we don’t really talk about this any more. These fund-raising campaigns (our strategies have proven that they were never really goals after all), did little to advance our overseas ministries, but they went a long way to giving Southern Baptists across the country a false understanding of missions.

All along we’ve set ourselves up as the missions experts, and told people that missions is about “reaching” people. We’ve developed mathmatical equasions for calculating a people group’s “need.” We ignore places in the world where God is working in ways we can’t use to raise money. We plaster pictures of needy dark-skinned people in the “-stans,” and tell the people in the pew that it all depends on us. We settle for evangelism because disciple-making (church planting) is too abstract and hard to measure. We worship missionaries as “super-Christians,” perpetuating the lies of professional clergy and highter callings.

Now we’ve decided that God’s goal is to “reach” every nation in the world (apparently not by the year 2000). We’ve gone to great lengths to develop strategies to get us to that end. We’ve even calculated how much money, how many people, and how long it’s going to take the IMB to fulfill this task. The problem is that we’ve made a “goals and action plan” project of God’s call to ongoing obedience.

What’s it gonna take? Us admitting that our human-centered understanding of missions and our plans for doing it are prime examples of us getting ahead of God. If we want to be involved in what God is doing around the world, we’re going to have to stop assuming we know what God is doing and that we know the best way to “get it done.” It’s going to take our churches (not our organization) sending people who are committed to going where God calls them and doing what God leads them to do, even if it doesn’t seem to fit our strategy.

Finally, why aren’t we suspicious of the extremely pragmatic nature of our question? Asking “What’s it gonna take?” is focusing on the end, ignoring the means. I believe the same sort of thing happened when Jesus talked about His kingdom and Peter reached for his sword.

Can I get some feedback here?

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.