Real Christians are Going Christians

5059-27548I spend a lot of time thinking about how we market missions. I know there are lots of people out there trying to advocate for unreached people and raise support for missionaries working among them. But usually, it seems that missions marketers (they prefer the word “mobilizers) appeal to the “doing” side of things. They cite statistics and show pictures of unreached peoples in an effort to motivate people to action.

What I rarely hear, though, is the “being” argument for missions. That followers of Jesus will constantly be frustrated spiritually until they get on mission. You’re not a real Christian unless you’re a going Christian.

The value of marketing missions as “being” is that it moves us away from worldly metrics (how many, how difficult, how lost), and toward Godly ones (obedience, Christ-likeness, prayer). Missions as being helps people understand who they are in Christ. It establishes a posture for every aspect of life. Framing the conversation around being changes the way we think about missions. Instead of focusing on what missionaries do (construction, medical care, preaching, evangelism), we can focus on who missionaries are (sinners who obediently move in and between cultures to incarnate the gospel). We often hear “I don’t want to do that” but rarely would someone say, “I don’t want to be that.”

16 thoughts on “Real Christians are Going Christians

  1. Excellent post…worth the wait :-)

    Part of this issue exists because this is the same way the US measures herself. If you read Pastors Sunday recaps on their blogs it’s usually all about what they did over the weekend. Rarely if ever do they mention who they’re becoming or how they saw their church manifest the character of God through obedience and service.

    This is also evident when you tell people you’re missional…living out your in front of and with others. They usually follow-up with the question “So you don’t share the Gospel with people.” We equate doing with everything.
    Good thinking Ernest!

  2. Thanks. So I had some things to do since my last post. Sorry.
    Being vs. Doing isn’t a new conversation, but I think it’s time to start applying it to how we talk about mission.

  3. I have always tried to explain that faith always produces works, but works alone doesn’t always produce faith.

    If we are living/incarnating (I like that term) Christ in our being, our doing will follow. But, the same is not true the other way around. Jesus’ life actions were always a product of his being. We should follow him in this area as well.

  4. Some of it has to be cultural. With the States being a progress or future-focused group this makes sense. While those in my mission field feel that we’re a whirlwind of ministry activity (this culture is an in-the-moment group and not known for high industry/productivity in a secular sense), I know that most of our Stateside supporters feel we “do” way too little or aren’t getting much results. “Being” with the people and building the relationships take so much time, and I know many Americans think we’re just sitting back or being lazy.

  5. C. Holland,
    I know what you mean about the cultural aspect of the “doing” phenomenon. I think a good way to combat the expectations of the “doers” is to explain the rationale for not “doing” so “much.” Whenever someone accuses you of not “doing” enough, it’s helpful to lay out the cultural and worldview differences, showing them how their programs and general busyness is overwhelming and disconcerting to nationals.

    If they still don’t get it how about turning them loose to “do” all they they think you should be doing? I bet they’d either learn the hard way or give up under the “persecution.”

  6. Great thoughts. I completely agree with your point that we need to focus on what missionaries are, “sinners who obediently move in and between cultures to incarnate the gospel” in contrast to simply what they do. This has been a big problem for my wife and I as we are raising support to “be” missionaries in Asia, and communicate to potential partners in churches. They are typically more concerned with what we will be doing and what we will accomplish, than if we are spiritually prepared to do it! I believe this is due to the trend in American churches that approaches commands of scripture as mandates for more programs. American Christians have been taught that the “Great Commission” is accomplished by the missions or outreach program in their church, not through their personal and life changing devotion to God.

  7. It is good to see the interaction over the issues of being and doing. For Americans our primary core value is doing. This is where we try to build our significance. What we do. Even when I am aware of it and try to fight against it I’m overwhelmed. As an American I don’t understand what being is. Being is relational but I don’t understand relationships because it gets in the way of my independence and freedom.

    I spent numerous years in Africa and the biggest problem I say was that it was all about the doing and not about the relationships. When we got together as missionaries it was about the task not about who we where as the community of God. So I had to protect my task so that you wouldn’t get the money I needed to do my thing. Our focus on the doing destroys the community that God is building.

  8. Jeff

    While I agree with you on the importance of being. We cannot also forget the word of God’s admonition to be doers of the word and not hearers only.

    We must develop a balance in our lives where our doing emanates from our being. Doing apart from being results in the prideful dangers of the Pharisees but being apart from doing results in the failure to fulfill the great commission.

    We should always serve because of who we are, led by the Spirit of God, for the purpose of glorifying God in this life. Light’s work (illumination) occurs because it is light and so should our works occur because we are children of the Father.

  9. Dave
    Thanks for your reply. I agree with you we do need the task but what I saw many times was the task was the focus. I believe it is both/and but we need to get the two in right order. In my thinking the doing needs to flow out of the being.

    It is hard to just jump into a conversation because there are not common meanings to our words and those need to be learned in dialogue with each other. By ‘being” I am thinking more of relationships. Our ‘doing’ needs to flow from our relationships. First with God, then with others. I realize that this is very simple explanation and it needs a lot more development, which I can’t do here. So to say, we probably more in agreement than appears at first glance

  10. Jeff,

    You are absolutely correct. God’s order is always of utmost importance. It is clear to me that “being” always came first in scripture.

    No where is the order of being then doing made more clear than when Jesus says to Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32)

    Jesus was telling Peter that his being would drive his doing. I guess that my comment was just a concern that we don’t swing the pendulum from the extreme of doing without being to being without doing.

    So … I do agree with you in this area.

  11. Dave,
    I thought this was the case. I think this what Jesus is saying in John 15, especially in verse 5.

    In my own missional journey this is what I am learning. The relationship needs to be there or we are just a noise gong. Too many times we make people a task to be done and not a person to relate to.

  12. @Stepchild: Yeah, I’ve considered saying, “Come spend a week walking in my shoes and see how you do.” I believe the outcome would change their mind, but only then.

    @Jeff: Too many American missionaries before me have made the nationals in my field “a task to be done”, and the nationals are very aware of this. It has made them more suspicious of me as a missionary as I’m viewed (at first impression) as another one who wants to tear through my agenda regardless of the people’s feelings. We’re making headway, but it will take years.

  13. @C.Holland: The same thing happened to us in Africa. We are now understanding that mission begins in relationship. We have so much to learn. We think we have the answers but we don’t even know the questions. I’m looking at Trinitarian Theology for a paradigm to develop my Missional Theology.

    I am beginning to realize that our Theology of Mission is developed from a Reformed Theology perspective which focuses on Soteriology. Trinitarian Theology focuses on God so it has a much more relational perspective.

  14. I agree that we should talk more about being a missionary, but since the church (at least the church in America) won’t support you just because you “are” a missionary, we all feel like we have to make a dent, so to speak. I try to put myself in the place of a church member listening to a guy just “being” a missionary and I would think, “Yeah, but are you doing anything?”

    So maybe I’m not there either.

  15. Dan,
    Yeah, but it sounds like you’re talking about “being” a paid missionary. Mobilization is about trying to get people involved. I think a lot of people who aren’t on mission might see things differently if they understood that mission is what they were made and saved for.

    As for answering the question, “Yeah, but what do you do?” If a believer comes to understand that mission is the missing piece in the puzzle of his spiritual life, he’ll have less difficulty seeing his actions (the doing) as part of that mission. If we were to truly redefine missions as being, the church wouldn’t be disappointed to hear about a missionary that “only” works a secular job and invites his neighbors over for dinner.

    The church (at least the church in America) has, in general, a very poor understanding of what missions is. I’m happy to partner with people who are working to challenge bad missiology and provide biblical alternatives.

    Thanks for your comment.

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