By Joel A. Hess –
You have seen the small white sign as you have pulled out of plenty of church driveways. “You are now entering the Mission Field.” Inspiring, right? Surely it was put there with good intentions. What better than to remind folks who are leaving the Church service that there are people out there who need Jesus? So don’t be a lazy, so and so. You have work to do. Or is the grace and peace Jesus just gave you a bad investment? Or did you think it was just the pastor’s job to witness to and serve the community?
Just like the Lord’s Supper has saved many a Law heavy sermon, this fairly cheap sign saves the poor parishioners from too much Gospel. You aren’t getting off that easy!
I recently had a great conversation with a friend and pastor about this very matter. He recalled a recent conversation with another pastor who told him that churches that don’t have specific outreach programs are just docked ships. If a church isn’t doing intentional outreach, it’s wasting his time. Hand holding, he called it.
Now, for sure, there is nothing wrong with congregations doing intentional outreach activities and events, let alone pastors who encourage their people to spread the love. However, to think of a church as a people who are saved and therefore do not need any more saving might be irresponsible, unbiblical, and downright negligent.
God’s mission field does not begin outside of a church’s walls or a church’s people. No, that infamous sign would be better placed on the pulpit and the altar. Yes, you dear saved sinner, and even you, mighty pastor, are still in God’s mission field! Or at least Jesus’ apostles think so. You know, the ones who wrote the books and letter in the New Testament. Paul didn’t write Romans chapter 3 to non-believers. He wrote it to the church in Rome. The same goes for all of his letters. They needed to hear the Gospel! Did they already know it? I’ll bet they did, and I’ll bet they believed it. But they needed to hear it again. And again. And again. They need to be evangelized with the same gusto as the guy sitting in the porno theater contemplating whether he should go home to his wife or not.
For sure, speaking to a congregation of believers is different than unbelievers, just as Paul’s conversation with the Athenians was different than with the Corinthians. But do not think for a moment that they don’t have sins weighing them down, that they don’t have fears of death and chaos haunting them at night, that the devil doesn’t whisper in their ear every, “there is no God.” Peter tells us that “the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8.
God’s mission to us does not end until His Son comes in Glory. Through His people He evangelizes us until we are buried and at rest. When we are brittle and afraid we need to hear the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life and certainty of our salvation. No one graduates from this. And God does not stop. And I thank Him. For I am certain that I would have fallen away a long time ago if not for His intervention through His Word, through His pastors, through His people.
While there are fantastic and creative ways congregations can cast nets into their communities, there is nothing that replaces a congregation whose pastor understands that he is evangelizing the already saved with every sermon, bible study and home visit. If the Gospel is clearly proclaimed to the people who are sitting right in front of them, as opposed to simply giving them information to share with others, the joy of Christ will overflow into the lives of their family members, neighbors and coworkers!
Certainly, dear listener, God has called you to serve your neighbor, but have comfort you are still the object of His Mission of shepherding you to the promised land. You are still the helpless babe at the font needing His complete embrace, forgiveness, and hope. You are the mission field.