I had an interaction with a church planter recently that startled me. He told me that his church isn’t going to do any overseas evangelism until every last person in his city knows Christ. I was troubled by this. I walked away stunned and wondering how many other pastors, even if they wouldn’t be so blunt about it, share his perspective.
Let me say for the record that I am a thousand percent for churches being missional. I don’t think you can pattern your ministry after Jesus or Paul without contextualizing the gospel to the culture you are trying to reach. And we do need to be passionate about reaching our cities. Do I believe that we have a mission field right under our noses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Yes! But that certainly doesn’t free us from the mandate to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
Today, church planting is ultra hip. And I am grateful that God is raising up an army of young pastors to plant slick, relevant churches that will reach this culture. I embrace the latte’s and the foyer’s that feel like you are in an Urban Outfitters and all the tech,(provided we remember that we don’t make the Bible relevant–the Bible makes the Bible relevant!) but in our efforts to effectively reach our cities we must not neglect the rest of the world.
In my life, the desire to plant a church and reach a new city was born out of a missionary heart that God had awakened. When I was 16 I had been around the world a few times and I viewed missionaries like Bruce Olson, William Carey, and Hudson Taylor as rockstars. As a result, it is a part of my DNA and I couldn’t lead a church that would ignore the lost in the world if I wanted to. You just can’t undo what leading someone to Christ in a squatter village in the slums of the Philippines does to you, on the inside. And it would be incompatible with following Christ, who died for and will be worshipped in heaven by every tongue, tribe and nation.
Being on mission in my city hasn’t replaced or eclipsed the desire to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, it has intensified it.
We certainly haven’t perfected this at fresh life but we are being intentional about integrating global missions into our daily lives and ministry as a church. Here is a video clip from this weekend that will give you an idea of what this looks like for us.