Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Missional Church: Consuming Mission

Mars Hill Audio is a great resource for those who want to keep up with a lot of the thought out there on Christianity and contemporary culture. Sometimes the interviews and subject matter can be a little esoteric (at least for a pastor and philosopher), but they are more often than not rewarding for the attentive listener.

A recent interview with Vincent Miller about his book, “Consuming Religion,” could easily fall into that category. He argues that we have separated ourselves enough from the roots and humanity of our products that we no longer treat them as real objects with real histories. Instead, products like food, clothing, and music are nothing more than commodities. We consume potatoes, for instance, and have no idea where they come from, how they got to us, and any of the issues facing potato farmers. I know that argument will excite several people, especially those who are driven by social justice issues, but what it did for me was cause me to reflect on the life of the church in the 21st century when it comes to mission.

I have always been a supporter of supporting missions. Not all of us have the inclination, the gifting, and the drive to pick up our lives, move to a foreign land, and live among the natives. As Americans, though, we more than likely do have the ability to provide for missionaries financially. In fact, I believe that we shirk our duties and blessings if we do not do such things.

When we turn our attention to the American cultures, however, more and more people are seeing the church’s job “at home” as missional. As time goes on, more Americans have no discernible Christian background, and have little to no interest in the Christian church. I believe that part of what the church will find itself doing to meet these new challenges will be augmenting the traditional formats of missional work. Given what we have typically done in the American church, I think we have flirted with consuming mission; we have turned missional work into a commodity and have separated ourselves from the human issues with our money. One friend of mine calls this “buying our way out of evangelism.”

In addition to the financial support of missions and missionaries over-seas, I think the church should pursue missions closer to home which bring the believer into literal physical contact with the mission field. It is true that many Christians have been on short term missions trips and have worked closely with needs in other countries, but I imagine it is another level of mission altogether when a believer sees themselves as living 24/7 among the need. There is no going home from this mission field.

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