A pastor who visited me while I was in Korea told me of a tribe in Indonesia whose entire population is Christian. They were converted by missionaries hundreds of years ago. But they are now Christians in name only. He said that the house church system would help them learn to live a life of service and wondered if I could visit them and train their leaders for this purpose.
It’s true that house church members say they are happy, and that such happiness comes from serving. But the motivation for service should not come from the house church itself, but from the desire to reach non-believers. In a place where everyone considers themself a Christian, there are no non-believers to reach out to. When there are no non-believers, there is no missionary zeal. And where there is no missionary zeal, there is no motivation for service.
The church is a mission community. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he had in mind all the tribes on the earth: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19) When Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, he expected his disciples to subsequently go to the end of the earth: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Consequently, ministries done in the church without missionary purpose are bound to fail, no matter how good the intentions might be.
Studying the Bible without missionary purpose produces scholars, not disciples. Trying to live a Spirit-filled life without missionary purpose leads to mysticism. A church renewal movement without missionary purpose will hurt the church rather than help it. Social service without missionary purpose leads to secularization of the church and her members. An attempt for spiritual renewal without missionary purpose turns people into self-centered hermits. Without missionary purpose, activities such as worship renewal, leadership training, and more will not produce the anticipated fruit.
A well-known pastor in Korea made it his primary goal that his church members become spiritually mature, and endeavored toward this end for over 20 years. But after this time, an incident at his church revealed how immature his leaders still were. He was so disappointed that he seriously considered resigning.
I understand his disappointment. What I can’t understand, however, is how he didn’t know that the pursuit of spiritual maturity without missionary purpose is in vain.
Many of our church members say that one of the major reasons for their happiness is the church. This happiness has been granted to us because we have focused on fulfilling the Great Commission. If we lose sight of it, we will lose our happiness.
Whatever we do, we must do it under the umbrella of the Great Commission with missionary purpose.
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