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Evangelical Mission

by Dr. Peter S. Perry, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Glendale, AZ

“Evangelical Mission” is a phrase that requires some elaboration. For me, it summons an image of earnest missionaries going to a distant country to set up schools and hospitals and to teach that God motivates them to do this so that everyone will know of God’s love and saving power through Jesus. It brings to mind people who become rooted in a place for the sake of the Good News of Jesus (“evangelical” means Gospel-centered).

The person motivated by God’s love in Christ to care for others and teach others to follow Jesus is perhaps not far off with what we mean by Evangelical Mission in 2011. “Evangelical Mission” challenges today’s Lutheran Christians to see themselves as missionaries in their neighborhood, workplace and broader community. At least 5 points inform what it means to be evangelical missionaries today:

(1) Gospel-centered: The activities of evangelical missionaries centers on and is motivated by the saving and healing work of Jesus. The motivation is driven by a desire to follow Jesus, not to satisfy ourselves that we are making a difference or that this is what churches are expected to do. (Read Mark 1:1-8. John the baptizer’s words and actions points to Jesus)

(2) Outward-directed: Evangelical missionaries follows Jesus into places and communities outside their own. Now the places and communities are close to home! There is always someone nearby to serve, someone else to tell about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that fulfills God’s promises. (Read Mark 6:6b-13. The disciples are sent out of their villages and towns to serve and proclaim.)

(3) Accompanying others:  Evangelical missionaries walk with others humbly to learn how to serve. Trust and caring Christian relationships are built by listening carefully to needs and learning other’s values and attitudes. The old condescension that “we already know how to serve you” is replaced with a humble spirit of “how may I best walk with you?” (Read Mark 7:24-30. Even Jesus needs to be guided by the Syrophoencian woman.)

(4) In humble service: Evangelical missionaries serve in ways that arise from walking with people as Jesus walked with others. Many of the ways Jesus served, we serve: feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, giving hope in the midst of despair, and decrying injustice. (Read Mark 8:1-10. A sign of God’s rule is the hungry are fed.)

(5)To proclaim Jesus as Lord: Service and speech, words and deeds, go together to proclaim Jesus as the one we follow, the one who motivates us to be outward-directed, to accompany others and to humbly serve. Evangelical missionaries implicitly and explicitly invite others to follow Jesus and to join in God’s mission to save the world through him. (Read Mark 9:33-37. Whoever welcomes a child welcomes Jesus, and whoever welcomes Jesus welcomes God the Father.)

What does “Evangelical mission” mean to you?