From the Archives: Meditating on Mission—Christ Bridges Cultures
By Thomas McCracken
Mission. It’s the local Women of the Church of God sending school and health kits to Uganda; it’s men, women, and children helping construct a building in Mexico; it’s young adults involved in sanitation projects in Haiti; it’s a young man teaching computer in a Christian university in Hong Kong; and it’s children in a local Sunday school providing Bibles for Native American children in the United States. And it’s much more.
Mission is service that once more gives flesh to the love of Christ; it shares the truth about life for which people long. It points to the cross and to the ascended Savior.
But our feelings about missionary work are mixed. Sometimes we associate it with sentimental images. Sometimes we confuse it with zeal for “our” traditions, “our” organizations, “our” jobs.
How should we think about the mission of the church?
We should think of the church’s mission as one. All followers of Christ are united in one spiritual church on earth. We acknowledge one Lord; he commands. Therefore, we should not think of fields or groups as competing. As we realize Christ’s present lordship, we establish fellowship with one another. We know we are partners, not competitors.
It is easier to cooperate with some brothers and sisters in Christ than with others. Even our understanding of Scripture inclines us to appreciate Christians who view the faith from a similar perspective.
The mission of the church is a gospel mission. We are not entrusted with a religion to spread. Advancing an organization is not our responsibility. As missionaries in Latin America, we encountered an accommodated Christianity that had blended pagan elements into its religious system promising salvation through human effort. It has made some symbols of the faith familiar, but disciples of Jesus are commissioned not just to promote a religious system but to announce the Good News—the offer of new life in communion with God.
Our mission streams from the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. “By grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph 2:8) defines our task. The message of grace is central to Christian mission. Like our Master, we call persons to turn from their sins, believe the Good News, and accept the reign of God in their lives.
Our mission is to all people. Western culture is not necessary preparation for conversion. The distorted Christianity of acceptance with God through rites or respectability is no basis for missionary work. Our business is not changing people’s religion, but calling them to life in God.
Therefore, we speak to the human condition. All people have sensed the residue of the image of God within. All have aspired, and all have felt their guilt for turning from the best they knew. People know they need forgiveness. Everywhere people know they have sinned and forfeited community with God.
The living Christ is not culture-bound. He personally confronts men and women in every society. He is Truth, written in all the universe. Christ uncovers reality in our lives. In love Christ calls persons everywhere to put aside sham and walk in integrity.
As we track the steps of Jesus, we will recognize all who belong to him as our partners, fellow servants in a single task, under one Leader—to bring the whole world to the light of God shining in Jesus’ face.
One Lord, one church, one mission.
Longtime missionaries for the Church of God, Tom and Jean McCracken serve the Lord on behalf of Global Strategy in Brazil. Learn more at www.chogglobal.org. Article originally published in the December 6, 1987, issue of Vital Christianity. Republished by permission.
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