By Tobey Pitman, Community Ministries Missionary, Northshore Baptist Association, LA
The ultimate task of the missionary is to bring people to Jesus. Missionary service is a widely varied work and many contributing factors make the task easier or more difficult. None the less the work always revolves around the singular goal of introducing others to Jesus. The missionary calling may be viewed as a diamond in that there are many facets or angles from which one may approach spiritual neediness and many ways to tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was always about the mission of helping people, all kinds of people, to achieve personal spiritual wholeness. The gospels remind us that Jesus spoke to people from the uttermost to the guttermost about the Kingdom. He spoke to the powerful…t Pontius Pilate and Herod, to the influential,,, Nicodemus, the scribes and Pharisees, and the High Priest, and to the least of society… lepers, beggars, and tax collectors. Jesus was singleminded in His work as He sought constantly to deliver humanity from the weight of the punishment of their own sin.
The good news is that Jesus receives sinful men and women! We are reminded of this joyful truth throughout the Gospels. But in spite of this good news, Jesus was criticized regularly by the religious traditionalists for the shoddy company He kept. Jesus invited these people into the Kingdom and to join Him in His mission. These men and women were not necessarily the most faithful members of the local synagogue.
In spite of the criticism, Jesus never changed His strategy of reaching out to all mankind, including the unclean and the outcast. He challenged the religious traditions of His day! He got into plenty of trouble considering that His only goal was reach out to people who needed the savior.
Jesus responded to His critics with simple truth. All the gospels record the same response, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Those who are sick usually know it. They may not do what it takes to get well! Some live in denial of their sickness. Others choose to deny that their sickness is a sickness- which may make them the most sick of all. Jesus defended His outreach efforts with a simple explanation and He continued to reach all with whom He came in contact.
The task of the church and of individual Christians is to bring people to Jesus. That task has not changed since those earliest disciples followed Jesus. So here is a question that is always worth asking… “How are we doing?” Are we making any headway? Are we taking our job description seriously? The water which we claim to be hauling… is it being carried to the ocean or to the desert?
A refresher is always in order. We need to be reminded. We can sometimes lose sight of the most important thing… Bringing people to Jesus… Sharing our faith with our lost world.
Mark 2 provides a reminder. We see four individuals taking their mission seriously… they are literally bringing someone to Jesus. We find a sick individual in Mark 2. He does not deny his sickness. He had a desire and a willingness to get well. But more than desire and willingness were required for this man to receive wholeness. Four hands of missional outreach were extended to help him reach spiritual completeness.
Mark 2:1-12 is the account of a man stricken with palsy. Several truths are evident… He was unable to walk… He was willing to be made whole… He had friends to come alongside to assist him… And he had a Savior able to provide healing. This man, because of his condition, was strictly at the mercy of others. People who were aware of his need were necessary in order for him to get help. This nameless man well represents contemporary lostness in the world around us.
Insight and wisdom can be gained in the study of four missional helpers who stepped up to aid the lame man.
The FIRST missionary arm to grab a corner of the mat was COMPASSION. Compassion led the way. Without compassion this man would have gone nowhere, would have received no help, and would have completely missed his opportunity for healing.
Compassion is never passive. Compassion is never about lip service. Compassion is an action word. Compassion demands that something be done. Compassion always steps forward to do something about the problem. Compassion never waits for someone else to do her work. Compassion without action is not compassion at all. Compassion without action is nothing more than simple sympathy.
Compassion is a uniquely divine trait, used in both testaments, and is usually cited as an attribute to the Godhead. Compassion when found in the New Testament is almost exclusively used to describe Christ. Compassion is used to describe Jesus’ reaction toward people and the needs around Him. His compassion is always followed by specific actions that He takes toward others.
Compassion must be the first missionary tool taken up by the church. We must find, hone, and develop a genuine understanding of compassion. Compassion must be activated and practiced if we are to increase our effectiveness among the lost of our communities.
Compassion provides the power needed to pick up the mat occupied by the lost of our communities and take them to Jesus. Compassion led the way and got him to the place he needed to be. Indifference, the opposite of compassion, never intends to take anyone to Jesus.
The SECOND corner of this missional mat was taken by the arm of DETERMINATION. Determination is that characteristic that refuses to be turned away. When they arrived at the house, the helpers saw that the house was full. They saw that the place was surrounded. They saw standing room only. Jesus was so popular that a mob had arrived. The doors and windows were blocked. There was no easy or obvious way to get this man to Jesus. However, these facts pale and are overridden by the reality that Determination was there and Jesus was there and need was there. Determination refuses to be turned away and his friend has no hope apart from Jesus. Determination is persistently single-minded.
Determination is a missional taskmaster that refuses to let any obstacle get in the way of bringing people to Jesus. Missional determination never gives up, never turns back, never cries uncle, is always challenged, and is never discouraged. Determination keeps not the goal but the bull’s eye ever present. Anything less than determination is failure and quits before the goal is reached. The opposite of determination is disinterest. Disinterest never took anyone to Jesus.
The THIRD missional helper to grab a corner of the mat was INNOVATION. Compassion and determination only got the man on the mat so far. It is there that Innovation took over. Innovation recognized that the typical way of getting this man to Jesus would not work. When the way is not obvious or seems impossible, Innovation finds a way. Innovation knows when something new is required. Innovation is not afraid to change or to try new methods. Innovation does not resist the tried and true but is always seeking new ways, when needed, to accomplish the desired result. Innovation recognizes the roadblocks and continues in a forward direction seeking answers. Innovation will depart from the tried and true when necessary. Innovation determined that the answer was to go above. Innovation says where there is a will there is a way. Innovation looks to new things and to new methods. The enemy of innovation is routine.
The FOURTH missionary partner to assist the man on the mat was PRIORITY. Priority ranks things by their value. Priority decides that some things are more important than others. Priority makes choices. In this case, priority decided that a soul is more valuable than a roof -- that a roof would not stand in the way of this man coming to Jesus.
As a missional partner Priority helps keeps things in perspective. Priority refocuses the words from Proverbs 11:30b which says, “He who wins souls is wise”. Priority says that the end result of our missional outreach must be (not withstanding 1CO3:6) souls.
Missional outreach can be a troubling business, even bringing difficult and necessary discussions into the life of the church. This may be less true when we do our mission work across the seas because we tend to understand that “things” are different there. But what about locally, right here at home, in our own back yard, across the tracks?
The tendency must be avoided to react in ways similar to the religious right of Jesus’ day. Churches must guard against a lack a warmth for outsiders or for those who are different in some way. Believers must remember that the language of hurt and pain is not the language of Zion. We must resist being offended that lost people talk and act like lost people.
Baptists have a genuine desire for all people to hear the gospel. Individual Baptists must increase our personal desire and commitment to share the gospel. We know that the gospel makes a huge difference in the outcomes of lives, families, communities, and nations! We have a true heart for their salvation. Additionally we want to see God do His marvelous transforming work in the lives of people. But we must also want the privilege of bringing them to Jesus. I cannot depend upon someone else to do my part of the task. We must grab the corners of the mat to bring people to Jesus who will receive them just as they are. We must do no less as we embrace, disciple, bless, befriend, and invite new converts into our congregations.
If we fail to embrace and accept them they will likely never be discipled and enjoy the fruits of their new life in Christ. We must not pass on the huge blessing of being there at their spiritual birth. We must not pass on seeing the sharp learning curve that takes place as Jesus changes them right before our eyes. We must not pass on seeing the discipleship continuum as the rough edges are smoothed. We must not pass on seeing the change in vocabulary. We must not pass on seeing the change in priorities. We must not pass on being able to say, “I remember you before you came to know Jesus.”
Let us not pass on the chance to be spiritual parents and to bring our spiritual offspring up in the ways of the Lord. May we never settle for childlessness. Go ahead! Reach down and grab a corner of the mat!
This article was originally posted in Pitman’s The Church Breaking Out blog at https://thechurchbreakingout.wordpress.com, and is reposted at SBC Today by permission of the author.