Understanding Mission: Reactive and Proactive

Reactive and Proactive Mission

Not only is it important to understand that we are joining God in an ancient work, but we must also understand that our missional activity is dependent upon the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles we see the Holy Spirit acting as the guide, compass, and fuel; empowering, leading, and directing the church in the mission of God. We want to try and understand this leading of the Holy Spirit in mission as Reactive and Proactive mission.

Let’s begin with definitions. Reactive mission can be defined as mission in the moment. This would include the opportunity for gospel conversations that the Spirit provides in the “everyday” moments of life (on a lunch break at work, in line at the grocery store, at the park while your kids play, with a neighbor while you are working in the lawn, etc.) Reactive mission happens in the moments of life that we have little control over, so it is critical that we are walking in Spirit and have eyes to see and ears to hear the Spirit as he leads us into reactive mission. We must be careful not to become so busy and consumed with our selves throughout our day that we are not open to opportunities for reactive mission.  On the other hand, proactive mission can be defined as mission by design. This means organizing the controllable aspects of our lives (spare time, weekends, hobbies, where we live and work, meals we eat, celebrations, vacations, how we spend our money, where we shop, etc.) around the mission of God. Proactive mission requires a team that is committed to God, each other, and disciple making. Together as a family, we should always be asking how can we organize our lives in such a way that those around us will know the gospel? This involves sacrifice, but remember, in Christ we are servants—and what better thing to sacrifice for than the mission of God!

Consider for a second the disciple making movement that explodes in the book of Acts. We see both proactive and reactive mission working together like it should, leading to fruitful ministry.  In Acts 1:8 we see mission by design: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.  The plan is in place—receive the holy spirit, begin in Jerusalem and then move outward from there with the gospel. But as you keep reading the book of Acts you see persecution and other unexpected events that develop along the way. It might seem as if the plan is falling apart, but we know that the Spirit constantly leading, guiding, and fueling the church the entire time. The disciples are forced to become reactive missionaries following the leading of the Spirit in the moment, yet always looking to reorient their lives together around disciple making (proactive mission). We can also point to the numerous examples in the Epistles where we see Paul stating his plan and strategy for mission, but always being open to the possibility of the Spirit opening new doors of ministry (see 1 Corinthians 16:6-9 for one example).

What we can say then is that the key is to look for where God is opening up the opportunity to develop reactive mission into proactive mission. This could be as simple as your missional community committing to eating weekly and tipping generously at a specific restaurant because one person in the group recently had the opportunity to share the gospel with a waitress while eating there.  It could also be as complex as planting a new missional community in an apartment complex because the Spirit is constantly leading a group member into gospel conversations there. Either way, the only way that we will have success in reaching the lost around us is if we are looking to the Spirit to lead us, guide us, and fuel us in both reactive and proactive mission.

Questions for MCs to Consider:

1. What in your lives keeps you from being a Reactive Missionary?

2. How are the definitions of reactive and proactive mission helpful to you?

3. Why is reactive mission without proactive mission dangerous? Why is proactive mission without reactive mission dangerous?

4. What can you plan this month to turn reactive mission into proactive mission?

Understanding Mission: An Ancient Work

In my last post, I shared the importance of clearly defining the mission of God with the people you are leading. We will not be able to get people on mission, unless everyone understands what God is doing in our world through the gospel. In the next three posts I want to share a few things that we are beginning to teach our church to help us better understand how we relate to and participate in mission.

At Redeemer, we want to be a family that understands that mission is an ancient work, we want to approach mission reactively and proactively, and we want to accept that mission happens in seasons. Lets start with Ancient Work.

ANCIENT WORK

From the moment that Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden, it could be said that God’s missionary work began. It started when he pursued Adam and Eve in the garden and provided them with clothes to cover their shame, continued to a promise that through Abraham he would bless the nations, culminated in sending Jesus into the world and to the cross, and now sits with the church that has been tasked with making disciples of all nations. God’s commitment to his glory in all the earth is the foundation of our understanding and engaging of mission. What we must first realize and digest is that mission is God’s work and it is an ancient work. We must be certain that God is committed to accomplishing his purposes and he will bring it to completion!

I think that the enemy wants to make mission feel weighty to us. He wants us to feel burdened and overwhelmed by the task of making disciples of all nations. Are you familiar with this feeling? I once went on a short-term mission trip to Tokyo, Japan and while I was there I became overwhelmed with the reality that there were millions of people in this country that had never heard the gospel in their lives. As I tried to share my faith with people I remember thinking— there is no way I can lead these people to Christ…they believe in other gods and are clueless when I try and talk about Jesus. The truth of the matter was that I was right. There was no way I could do it. But God on the other hand, has promised from the beginning of time that he will accomplish his purpose of making disciples of all nations and he is doing it and will complete it (Ephesians 1:10)!

We must learn and believe that mission is not up to us. It is something that God has been doing throughout redemptive history and he is simply calling us into. Mission is more about our obedience as disciples than our production of disciples.  We must value missional obedience more than we value missional activity. This means that sometimes we will labor and see no fruit—but that is okay because God values our obedience. Other times we will immediately be thrown into a harvest—and we rejoice because we know that God has been doing something great and we got to share a small part in it. When we view mission as an ancient work of God, rather a new work of man, it isn’t burdensome or overwhelming to us. Instead, mission becomes about journeying with God, enjoying God, and joining God in his work to redeem and restore brokenness—and that is beautiful!

Some Questions to Consider

1. Do you feel overwhelmed or burdened when you think about living on mission? What is making you feel this way? Sin, lack of equipping, wrong perspective?

2. Does the task of making disciples in your neighborhood or city seem impossible to you? Do you need to repent of thinking it is your work(a new work) rather than the Spirit’s work(an ancient work)?

3. How does the truth that God is at work and has been at work in your city relieve you of missional stress and pressure? (Our job is to investigate where we can join HIM in what he is doing. A good missionary is a good investigator!)

4. What do you (or your MC) need to do in order to investigate where you can join God’s ancient work in your neighborhood/city? Do you need to spend time praying, listening, learning stories of people who live in your area? How are you going to do this?

5. Do you value obedience over production? What if God asks you to labor for 5 years in your neighborhood without any “results”— would you be okay with that?

Understanding Mission: What is it?

One of the things that I have learned over the last few years of leading and planting missional communities is that getting people to understand their missionary identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) is challenging. This challenge can often be credited to our western culture that has taught us that we exist for self. This leads us to naturally worshiping comfort and convenience– two of the biggest obstacles to missionary work (see Jesus and the rich man or any other new testament passage for that matter). So, as we have all experienced both personally and corporatley, sin and heart idols oppose missional efforts.

But there is one other major challenge to helping Christians learn their missionary identity— a lack of understanding the mission of God. There is a good chance that there is confusion among the people in your church or MC right now as to what God is working to accomplish in the world. If you don’t believe me then ask your people next time you gather, “What is the mission of God?” and have them write down their answers. You might be shocked at the different responses you get! Therefore, it is hard to call people to be on mission together, if you are all on a different page about the mission God is on.

So…What is the mission of God?

The way we answer this question will ultimately form and shape the mission of our churches. Therefore, we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goal as God’s family of missionary servants. We also want to be careful and make sure that we are leading a church that is about what God is about.

As we think about the mission of God we want to do so with the whole of scripture in mind. We want to think about the Bible as one big story about God and what he is doing in the world. It could be said that the entire bible can be summed up in four words—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. God created man and woman in his image and gave them the command to be fruitful, multiply, and cultivate the earth. What we see in creation is God’s desire to fill the earth with his image and glory (Genesis 1:26-31). You don’t have to read much further into the story to see the fall. Adam and Eve choose creation over the creator. They choose to disobey God’s one command and in doing so sin and death fills the earth rather than God’s image and glory (Genesis 3). This is bad news for everyone. But the story doesn’t end as a tragedy; God shows his great love for his children and begins to write an epic story of redemption. He promises to create a family that he would use to bless the nations (Genesis 12:1-3). He promises a savior that would come from this family that would bring rescue and salvation through his death and resurrection. In Christ he is creating a new family, his church, which he has empowered through his Spirit and is using to bring good news to the world (John 20:21, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). And he has shared with us how the story will end—with a new heaven and new earth. Total restoration. Worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation filling the earth with God’s image and glory.

This is the mission of God: redeeming and restoring a broken world full of sin by replacing it with his image and his glory once again.

He is doing this through transforming his people in Christ and using them to bring renewal to our cities and world by making disciples. God’s mission won’t stop until the earth looks just like heaven. What a beautiful day that will be!

Now that we have defined the mission of God, we need to begin to understand our role in it. Over the next few weeks I will be posting a 3 part series titled Understanding the Mission of God that aims at giving practical handles to how we should relate, think about, and participate in the mission of God.