Here are my notes from Dr. Richard Pratt's Saturday morning message at MTW's Global Missions Conference, which was held in Atlanta two weeks ago. I just finished typing these notes up to share with some people at work and thought there might be broader interest out there, too...
When you add to a house, it’s almost impossible to make the addition look like it belongs. In our denomination, missions is an add-on, and it’s obvious that it doesn’t belong with the main part of the house. There’s an attitude that “If we’re able to ____, then we’ll have missions.”
The heart of what we are about as the church is a mission agency. We’ll never understand what we are as the church of Jesus Christ unless we embrace missions as our identity: it is the building, it is what it means to be the Body.
This misconception arises out of a misunderstanding of the Bible; the Great Commission didn’t start in Matthew 28. When did it begin? In Genesis 1:27 … MTW (our mission to the world) began when God created us. A lot of people also trace missions to Abraham (“blessing to the nations”), but it goes back to the beginning, the reason for our existence.
Who we are: We are created in God’s image. Although the doctrine of total depravity is important, we should not think of ourselves as sinners first; we are first of all created in God’s image. The first thought in our mind about ourselves is often “sinners;” the first thought in God’s mind about us is “my image.”
In the days of the Bible, language of “Image of God” (IOG) was not unique to Israel, but for other cultures, the expression was only applied to the emperor/king/pharaoh. In Scripture, every human being (male & female) is the IOG.
One of the reasons missions is an add-on is because we think like Americans, not understanding this concept of “IOG” from its original context. The role of the IOG in biblical times was to stand between heaven and earth. The IOG had special access to God and was to learn God’s will and bring that to bear on earth (sound familiar? “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”). The choices you make are as weighty as those of any president or king. Yes, we’re sinners; but Eph 4:24 says that you are being renewed as the IOG in this world. Piety isn’t exalting God and deprecating his image; it’s exalting God and exalting his image, too. People have that kind of value!
MTW is an add-on because we’ve forgotten why we were made, which is to be paradise-makers. “Be fruitful … subdue.” Adam and Eve weren’t to focus on themselves, but to make the world a paradise; only Eden was a paradise, a small piece of the earth – they had the world to conquer.
The Great Commission is about filling the planet with redeemed IOGs. We multiply IOGs by making babies and evangelism. Muslims understand that they have a mission to show that their God is king of heaven and earth (and the current culture of secularism is fertile ground for Islam); Christians have forgotten this. Our goal is to see so many people come to Christ that the world is transformed (including social structures).
Forget “better safe than sorry.” If we continue to play it safe, we are ensuring that our children and grandchildren will be sorry. We have a mission. Stop adding MTW to the church; MTW is the church.