Saturday, April 7, 2007
Who really are the "Missional" ?
A COG minister once asked me a few years ago for some information on the number of missionaries the COG had in contrast to other missions-minded religious organizations.
At the time, we were fielding 185 COG missionaries.
I'm sure these numbers have changed since then (I think I did this back in 2000) ..
The Southern Baptists sent out 4834 ..
The Mormons had in circulation 65,000+ ..
We won't speak of the impact of the Jehovah's Witnesses .. they only fielded 698,781 of their "Pioneers" ..
I'm not trying to belittle those 185 missionaries at all nor am I being critical of the world missions efforts of the Church of God which are by far among the better responses of the Body of Christ in the last days to answering Christ's Great Commission to go out and preach the Gospel to every creature. So please don't misunderstand my words as meaning that - for all of our failings and warts, I am certain that our efforts to spread the Gospel into all the world have been ordained, empowered and sovereignly blessed by God. We are fielding and supporting some of the choicest people on this earth to go where we, for any one of a millions reasons, do NOT go .. (and that is a post for another time)
My concerns, however, lie in the fact that I think the Church of God as a movement can do better, far better, and we do not. So can the entire Body of Christ. We can argue all we want to about the politics behind the funding of any given missions department or organization, but the truth of the matter is that while money makes things happen, the plain fact is that the world will not hear unless the church goes out and preaches. I am just not convinced finances are the problem. We miss the bigger picture here when we start fighting over our myopic view of missions funding. There's a far deeper issue here we are missing completely. And it is THIS reason that explains why there are 185 COG missionaries, 4000+ Baptist ones, and well over 60,000 of the Mormons ..
Could it be US? how many missionaries have launched from our churches? How much of the missionary zeal we once had still exists?
One of the buzz words making the rounds in churches seeking to think "outside the box" is one that describes the quality of being focused upon a particular objective in an very intentional way. That word is "missional" and this word has been bandied about in many a church circle in recent years in regards to how we are to "do" church. The hard truth of the matter is that the adherents of Mormonism are hard pressed to not be the poster children for what is truly "Missional" - and that with a capital "M"
This LDS website gives great insight into how a cultic movement has systematically mobilized its membership to an intentional missionality that is simply beyond most "Evangelicals" to fully appreciate, much less approximate.
Today, every worthy young man of the Church is expected to fulfill a mission. Every worthy, young woman can also serve a mission, and many do. The missionaries and their families are expected to pay their own way, or as much as they can. In circumstances where extreme poverty or hardship may prevent a young person who is desirous of serving from going on a mission, the members of the missionary's home congregations, called a ward, will help out. Missionaries are also aided by a general Church fund set up to assist missionaries. In general, however, most missionaries and their families save up for the expected time. Many young Mormons will have a missionary fund in which they can save money for their future mission.
When young men turn 19, or 21 in the case of women, they can submit their name to the Church to prepare for a mission. Mormon leaders, including the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, prayful consider where missionaries are needed and what applications they have. They then assign each missionary to a particular mission, of the Church. As of 2005, there were over 330 missions worldwide. When the soon-to-be missionary receives his or her call, it is time for the whole family to celebrate.
In all of the years I have witnessed to Mormons, gotten to know them and spoken to ex-Mormons, many of whom served missions themselves, I have come away with a sobering insight that familiarity with them brings. The LDS culture, from the cradle to the grave, relentlessly and endlessly emphasizes the LDS mission as a divine calling everyone is meant to answer and serve in precisely the manner spoke above. The expectation of serving LDS mission is passionately celebrated, advocated and impressed upon ALL LDS youth from their earliest days. Generations of earnest LDS parents, Sunday School teachers and disciplers have used song, multimedia, curricula and the LDS missionary presence perpetually upheld in the local congregations to totally immerse their children in this ideal.
There are two LDS hymns I've heard wistfully and sometimes even tearfully referred to by ex Mormons who remembered these as cherished memories of childhood: here is one and here is the other if you want to take a listen ..
This music is part of Mormonism's particularly potent shaping of its young minds and ideals to Mormon ends. When Grandma and Grandpa give you $1000 at age 9 to be put into your savings account you started when you were 5 to go on your mission, when you see and hear how fervent the prayers of Elder Smith and Elder Jones are when they serve in Sunday worship, when you see the heartwarming videos and satellite conferences extolling missions .. and you realize there's millions of others out there like you "preaching the restored Gospel" like Joseph did, what would you expect but the zeal of a child harnessed and captured for the work of the "Kingdom"?
It's an indoctrination beyond imagination, but this why the LDS Church is where it is today. Is it any wonder then that THOUSANDS of young men and women from countries all over the world would then obediently submit to what they see is a "call" from God when they approach their leaders? Doesn't this explain why they choose to become totally submissive flag bearers for the LDS Church at their own expense for 2 solid years wherever the Church bids them to go?
NOW, I ask, where is the Evangelical response to THAT? Where is the Church of God response to THAT?
Showing Veggie Tales? Video games on Sunday morning? A weiner roast in a back yard? Maybe a whole soundstage of colorful props and lights and energetic kids ministries? All of that is well and good, I'm not knocking it. But I'm convinced that much of that energy and time and money is spent entertaining and occupying children instead of discipling and instilling in them the vision we are supposed to have. I know there are many fine children's ministries workers who are doing just that .. but it's often completely out of sync with any coherent focus in the total educational thrust of a church, which is usually running a hundred different directions to begin with.
And I'm trying to be as charitable as I can. I double majored in Biblical AND Christian education at Lee College .. I've seen this sideshow dimension in children's ministry really become a bane in the side of our movement. And then we wonder why the kids drift away when they get older? What did we teach them up with so they wouldn't depart from it? Do we still think our baby sitting extravaganzas are going to found them in faith, let alone captivate them with a vision of reaching the world with the Gospel?
At one time, early in the beginnings of this movement, I think the Pentecostal Church was aflame with that kind of truly Evanglical mission and urgency - but we always exalted the preacher and the revival and the Event as the focus of what we did. The LDS Church has compelled their entire membership to be a part of it day in and day out and they show no signs of slowing down.
My God, we can change this! We can.
WE CAN! Aren't we supposed to be Holy Ghost filled firebrands loosed on the earth for the "End Time Revival"? I have always believed that Pentecostal folk should be better than the level we wallow in. But we are not. And the cults, who know how to manipulate and indoctrinate, run rings around us every time.
And where are the leaders of such change among us? What is the vision? The Great Commission? Or the Good Church Revival?
THAT is why there are 185 Church of God missionaries .. and thousands more serving the cult of a lustful polygamist prophet who created a pious pretense of religion buttressed by scrupulous morality, winsome sincerity, enviable zeal and a PR Machine beyond belief.
And leading tens of millions to hell on the broad road paved with good intentions ..