READ: Psalm 150, Mark 4, James 1
The Word of God is central to missions. Because mission takes place in contexts that are inherently deceptive, it is critical that there is no deception in our words or lives. All lying has to be removed from us (Psalm 119:29). Christians deceive themselves when they claim not to lie. We lie all the time; we are just clever enough to discount our lies as hyperbole or humor. God’s excellent greatness (150:2) is sullied when proclaimed by two-tongued representatives.
We Are Proclaimers. Mark 4:14 states: “The sower sows the seed.” If the missionary role is to be simplified down to its most basic function, it would be that we are messengers. Before we are educators, before we are humanists, before we are environmentalists, before we are reformers, before we are spiritual S.E.A.L.’s (rescuing those in danger), we are those called to abide in the presence of Jesus, listen to what He says, and then go make it known in all the world. Our gifts and service sectors vary, but the message does not, neither does the source. The missionary is the one who lingers in the presence of God listening and then goes out to the peoples of the world who don’t have access to the gospel to verbalize what he or she has heard.
We Proclaim the Word. When the missionary traverses land and sea, it is not to make our hearers in our own image (and thus, twice the son of hell we can be), but to pass on the words of Jesus. Mission is not about the missionaries, not about their thoughts, not about their ideas, not about their opinions, not about their words. Mission is about verbalizing the words of God (truth) to those who have never heard it. God intends the Word to be elevated to a high platform from which it shines (Mark 4:21). The word is to be spoken “as they were able to hear it” (v. 33). Jesus used parables in order to help His hearers grapple with His truth, not to disguise or veil what He wanted them to understand. The goal of the missionary is not a self-satisfaction resulting from shouting parroted words to an uncomprehending audience. The goal of the missionary is to communicate God’s words in a way that is comprehendible to the hearer–even if it is rejected. Comprehension of the Word is not to be confused with acceptance of the Word. The missionary can only be at peace with the rejected word if he or she is assured that the hearer has comprehended it. This is why there can be no abiding mission without linguistic/cultural fluency.
The Word Gets Us in Trouble. When we are doers and hearers (James 1:22) and proclaimers of the Word, we have one guarantee: trouble. When God’s Word is understood, it will offend and repulse more than it woos and pleases. The missionary must come to terms with the reality that our Word-based role destines us for joy and woe. God’s Word both gives us life and leads us to our deaths.