Putting the Ministries Fair in a Missions Context

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Last week I spoke in four daily chapels at Western Seminary in Portland. It was part of their missions emphasis week. The topic they gave me was: How to Bring Missions Vision and Life to a Local Church. There was an enthusiastic response from students and faculty. I’m praying for an ongoing movement there.

The message that seemed to touch a deep chord in faculty and students was the one entitled: Domestic Ministries and Frontier Missions: A Pastor’s Dilemma. I told the story of how the recent missions movement at Bethlehem began in the fall of 1983 and early 1984. And I recalled how there was a partial backlash effect as the domestic folk (non-missionaries) began to feel like second-class citizens. I think every institution experiences that when a group gets fired up for some special focus. So they were all ears to hear how we resolved the tension. Do you recall that crucial message in November, 1984?

We began with some definitions: Frontier Missions is the effort of the church to penetrate an unreached people with the gospel and establish there an ongoing, indigenous church which will apply the love and justice of Christ to that culture. Domestic ministries are the diversified efforts of a local church to apply the love and justice of Christ to its own culture (what the Ministries Fair is all about).

How do they relate? That is the tension. Are the lay people who do dozens of Domestic Ministries inferior to the people who go to the frontiers?

The surprising answer is that Domestic Ministries are a means and a goal of Frontier Missions. Domestic Ministries are the means of Frontier Missions because the funds, recruits and credibility of Frontier Missions come from the Domestic Ministries of the local church. Domestic Ministries are the goal of Frontier Missions because Frontier Missions is nothing other than the effort to plant Domestic Ministries in another culture!!!

In other words, Domestic Ministries are the thing we really want to see happening everywhere. And Missions is a temporary necessity because Domestic Ministries are not possible in cultures where people don’t even know of Christ.

This has enabled us to really affirm each other at Bethlehem, whether we are Senders or Goers. The Senders believe in the work of the Goers because what they are going to do is plant Domestic Ministries. And the Goers believe in the Senders for the same reason: how can you get upset if someone does here what you are trying to help others do elsewhere?

I love this partnership at Bethlehem! Let’s really stir each other up! Goers and Senders! Find a ministry. Believe in it. And support the person who (thank the Lord) is doing something different.

See you at the Fair!

Pastor John