By Don Allsman 12 12 23
See the full version of this condensed article at www.completion.global/blog
Ted Esler reported that church leaders desire to engage their congregations in global mission.[i] This got my attention because I’ve heard several recent teachings that seem to send conflicting messages about involvement with the Great Commission.
The messages can be summarized as: God has a purpose for you, which must be discovered as quickly as possible, so you don’t miss out on a meaningful life. While this seems fine on the surface, I believe it is actually leading people away from Jesus’ teaching.
People are inundated by enticing messages that are individually designed by algorithms and hand-delivered through their phones. Driven by “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO), people act like safe-crackers, desperately looking for the combination that opens the door to optimum satisfaction. Sadly, this often leads to disappointment and despair.[ii]
Instead of scrambling to find my purpose, it’s better to plumb the depths of God’s purposes. Rather than frantically searching among countless options, people can find peace in a single-minded immersion into His plan for the world, knowing each person has a role to play. By switching the objective, the local church can be seen in a different light: the agent of God’s Kingdom to bless the world, rather than a place to collect helpful life-hacks.
This reversal can be obtained by re-calibrating our heads, hearts, and hands.
- Heads (theocentric mind): Cooper said, “If we believe that the world revolves around our mission and our vision for ministry, then God’s plan to unite all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10) will become a secondary or even tertiary act. We might do good things, but not the main thing.”[iii] This is true for individuals and ministries. Organizations that were once vibrant can become institutionalized, where survival or brand-building is more important than God’s agenda.
- Hearts (missiological impulse): Every part of the Bible relates to God’s promise to bless the nations (Gen. 12:3). Jesus’ determining factor for the culmination of human history is representation from all ethnic groups (Mt. 24:14). Therefore, the work is not done until the nations are won. If making disciples of all ethnic groups is the central organizing principle of human history, then it should be consistently preached in the church, not just as an occasional theme.
- Hands (serving with obscurity): Instead of a drive for fame and fortune, Jesus desires we serve without drawing attention to ourselves, with a clear priority for “the least of these” (Mt. 25). Instead of FOMO, people can be free to live each moment in peaceful contentment under His reign. We are created to be significant, but the world confuses significance with notoriety. Young people face a toxic temptation to become movie stars, professional athletes, or media influencers. Instead, children can be encouraged to seek an occupation where they can represent Christ in any given vocation. Real purpose is achieved as a quiet co-worker and friend, not as a celebrity with the most likes on their social media.
Burnout and anger are the likely result of today’s FOMO version to finding purpose. Freedom is possible as we seek His glory (theocentric mind) to make disciples of people groups (missiological impulse), by prioritizing the “least of these” (serving with obscurity). If people can escape the tyranny of “finding my purpose,” they may relax long enough to engage in global mission and find they had a purpose all along.
[i] Misaligned Missions Musings, Ted Esler, https://tedesler.substack.com/p/misaligned-missions-musings
[ii] Rebuilders podcast, Mark Sayers and Daniel Murton, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJxjPdvtdoY
[iii] Ephesiology, Michael Cooper, William Carey Press
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This article is submitted by Don Allsman of Completion Global. Completion Global is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.