NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Have you ever taken a mission trip that placed you in a culture or an environment that was much different than your own? The mission location may have been overseas or across town, but you found yourself agreeing with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
God often calls us to walk by faith and step outside our demographic comfort zone in order to be on mission with him. But have you ever thought about Christmas as the “ultimate mission trip?”
Can you imagine what it must have been like for Jesus? In heaven, the eternal, transcendent, second person of the Trinity says goodbye to the Father and one nanosecond later, that same transcendent, holy God was reduced to a microscopic cell in the womb of a virgin.
Allow me to introduce you to a discussion between God the Father and God the Son: “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God'” (Hebrews 10:5-7).
Think about these last words Jesus said to his Father before he left the glory of heaven on the ultimate mission trip to planet earth!
The apostle John tells us “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us” (John 1:14). Jesus said, “the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'” (John 4:34). And the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).
God chooses you and me to be on mission with him to reconcile a lost world to himself. Peter declares that Jesus “was chosen before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). Many centuries before it occurred, the Father promised to answer the Son’s request to give him the nations as his inheritance and the ends of the earth as his possession (Psalm 2:7-8).
God not only chose Jesus but also you and me before the world’s foundation (Ephesians 1:4,11). How reassuring to realize God planned our lives before the creation of the world! We may not understand how God chose us before we were born, but once we are in his Kingdom, He reveals that he made the initial choice. That means he has a purpose to fulfill in each of us (Jeremiah 1:4-9).
God also calls you and me to accompany him on his mission. Jesus prayed to his Father, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Think back on God’s call to you. God’s call was not only for salvation but also for service. His call to follow him did not mean just to follow him down a church aisle or in believer’s baptism. His call was to be like Jesus and to join him on his mission.
What evidence is your church demonstrating that it is being used to fulfill its calling to reconcile the lost of this world to God? If you are striving to be on mission with Jesus, your church also must be moving in the same direction he is moving. Certainly it should not be moving in the opposite direction! You can exert influence to lead your church to be on mission with God.
As you look around you this Christmas season, note whether your church is sponsoring mission trips to places and people groups that need to hear the gospel proclaimed, both overseas and nearer home. Be alert to whether these trips are social occasions or truly opportunities to share the gospel.
Here are some practical ways God can use your church to fulfill his mission in the world:
— Adopt a single missionary or couple — pray for them, communicate with them, support them with various resources.
— Give to special missions offerings to minister to the peoples of the world.
— Present strategic missions information in creative ways to make people more aware of the needs around the world.
— Create special ministries to your community’s poor or down-and-out, such as crisis pregnancy centers, prison ministries, Christ-centered support groups and other programs for the homeless.
— Minister in the inner city.
— Send your students, families and senior adults on mission trips (we would love to have you join God on mission with us in New Orleans!).
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
Eichelberger is director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Providence Learning Center.