Rev. Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc. (a Lutheran radio program that you should be listening to everyday) reminded me of an important aspect of missions work: Without Christ and His cross at the center, missions is just a strategy.
I was reminded of this topic after reading Rev. Wilken’s response to my post from yesterday dealing with Rev. Anthony Steinbronn’s presentation to the 2009 New Jersey District Convention (a presentation that I must admit I missed; I was talking with a fellow pastor outside of the conference room). The entire presentation is centered on a strategic plan for missions; as Rev. Wilken pointed out, it was missing Christ.
Our district and Synod have been focused on “missions” for a long while, but I feel that we’ve come off the tracks, so to speak, as we try and push this train forward. The Synod’s “Ablaze” program is supposed to be centered on reaching 100 Million people with Christ by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Regardless of the effectiveness of this missions’ strategy (come see me at church and bring lunch; I will go on for hours), it has always missed an important aspect of why we’re doing these “missions” in the first place:
That is Jesus Christ.
That is fulfilling his command to Baptize all nations in the name of the Triune God.
That is showing love of neighbor as we proclaim Christ crucified.
When our direction is on figuring out how to run a more effective bake sale or how we raise money through a car wash, this direction is not centered on Christ. How is getting a car clean proclaiming Him who died for us?
The important part of a missions strategy has to be on a missions program that presses Christ and the salvation He won for us at the cross. For this salvation is not just for me and the members of our church; it is for all people. Telling this Good News must be at the heart of all missions. Without this very basic Christian understanding of our faith, missions projects become fundraisers.
As a pastor, it is far too easy for me to fall into pressing a missions strategy that is centered on the financial bottom line. But evangelism is more than just bake sales. It is about proclaiming the salvation won by Jesus Christ at the cross.