There was a time, believe it or not, when churches didn’t call themselves “missional.” Missions was, for most Christians, what other people did. It was for the elite, the varsity level, the Navy SEALs of the Christian world. The rest of us praised our missionaries and considered them heroes, but we never really considered that we, too, were supposed to be missionaries.
That attitude is beginning to change, but the American church has a long way to go. It is immensely encouraging to hear of churches around the country catching the vision that mission is part of the very essence of the church. God doesn’t call us into His kingdom and only at some later time call a few more of us into His mission. His call to join Him in mission is tied up in His call to salvation. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).
As Charles Spurgeon put it, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” That doesn’t mean that every believer must pack up his bags and move to Afghanistan (though many more should). It means that the call to follow Christ is a call to follow Him where He leads as His gospel is made known around the world. It means that whether you’re a hairdresser or a pastor, a stay-at-home mom or an overseas missionary, God’s got a mission for you. He gave you the Holy Spirit, and He did that for a reason.
Many people look around at our society and are worried about the direction our country is headed. But I look around and see opportunity. I see a nation in need of the light of the gospel. I see a flood of immigrants coming into the United States that gives us a chance to fulfill the Great Commission in our own backyard. I see an opportune moment that God has given the North American church. Will we shrink back in fear, or will we seize this moment?
The church is not composed of “those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith” (Heb. 10:39). Our churches must recover this confidence and move from “shrinking” to sending. We must avoid the ease of measuring success by seating capacity and view ministry success more by sending capacity. Seating capacity is comfortable. It’s safe. But sending capacity is risky and frightening. Seating capacity makes the churches’ leaders look important. But sending capacity makes the mission—and Jesus—look important.
Every time we send people out from our church, they leave gaps. It’s painful to think about sometimes. More than once, I have had to force myself to open my hands to God: open in surrender; open as a sign that I must take my hands off of one of the most precious earthly things to me—my church; open as an offering of praise to Jesus’ worthiness and faith in His promise; open in the belief that God builds His kingdom not as we hold on, but as we let go.