READ: Psalm 72, Daniel 1-3, Mark 16, 1 Corinthians 7
The church and the missions sending agency have different purposes. It is a mistake of great consequence to organize and run mission agencies the same way we organize and run churches. Ralph Winter referred to the church as a “modality” and the mission agency as a “sodality.” The church by nature is multifaceted, intended to represent the Kingdom of God in a fully orbed manner within society. The mission agency is to have one priceless vision: planting the church among the peoples where it does not exist.
Churches then are feminine and mission agencies masculine. Eternal God, who is Spirit, cannot be confined to a gender, even as Jesus (God in the flesh) is unashamedly male. To refer to the church as feminine and the mission as masculine is not to denigrate either the gender or the institution; it merely helps us understand purpose and therefore helps us retain focus. The church is full of male shepherds and the mission full of female pioneers. The church nurtures, adopts, shepherds, teaches, cares, embraces, protects, conserves, and disciples. The church reveals the “tender mercies” of our God (Psalm 119:77). Men and women work within and from the church to express to all society the goodness and kindness of our gracious God. The mission takes new territory, boldly goes where there is none to nurture, advances through storm and enemy attacks, marches all night long to battle all day for the King. Mission is singular in cause: win souls from among all peoples and establish them in churches. Mission is rough, aggressive, risk-prone, dangerous, raw, disturbing, and pioneer. Even as male and female complement each other (while remaining distinct) and cannot exist in health without each other, even so do church and mission have an interdependence whose beauty is only preserved when their unique purpose is guarded.
Mission is not intended by God to be soft and fuzzy or even as the locus of nurture for those who belong to Christ. Mission is designed to take on the powers of hell and to do so in contexts where the Kingdom is most resisted and most unknown. In Daniel chapters 1-3, God’s representatives are manifesting His glory among a darkened people (2:22). These men stood up to the rage and fury of a powerful pagan King (3:13). Full of fury (v. 19) the king condemns these proto-missionaries to a fire that cannot overpower them (v. 27) for they had “frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God” (v. 28). This is mission at its robust purity–standing as men against the powers of evil for the glory of God among all nations.
Humanity needs both its male and female attributes to reflect the divine nature, but neither gender is served when one of them is diminished. God’s Kingdom is not served when mission tries to be the compassionate female nor when the church tries to act like an aggressive male. The mission is simply to go, preach, cast out demons, speak with new tongues, take up serpents (danger), drink poison (risk), lay hands on the sick and miraculously heal (Mark 16:14-20). To rob mission of its singular, sharp priority is to emasculate it.