Day 36: Made for a Mission – 40 Days of Purpose-Driven Life

Purpose #5: You Were Made for a Mission

Point to Ponder: I was made for a mission.

Verse to Remember: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:1920 (NIV)

Question to Consider: What fears have kept me from fulfilling the mission God made me to accomplish? What keeps me from telling others the Good News?

[Read More] thoughts on Day 36 of Rick Warren‘s Purpose-Driven Life* including the relationship between evangelism and mission.

Rick enters the final week by stressing that we need to have both a ministry to believers, and a mission to unbelievers. He emphasizes:

A. The Importance of Your Mission

a. Your mission is a continuation of Jesus’ mission on earth
b. Your mission is a wonderful privilege
c. Telling others how they can have eternal life is the greatest thing you can do for them
d. Your mission has eternal significance
e. You mission gives your life meaning
f. God’s timetable for history’s conclusion is connected to the completion of our commission

B. What it Costs to Fulfill Your Mission

a. “that you abandon your agenda and accept God’s agenda for your life”
b. “hand God a blank sheet with your name signed at the bottom and ask him to fill in the details”
c. “commit to fulfilling your mission in life no matter what it costs”

Sounds heavy! But if we do so, we “will experience the blessing of God in ways few people ever experience.”

I must admit, I am somewhat conflicted about Rick’s teaching here. Don’t get me wrong, I heartily approve of everything he says about mission. I absolutely agree that fulfilling our purpose requires giving up our self-centered agenda in favor of God’s other-centered agenda.

What I wrestle with is the implication that it is all (or at least mostly) about evangelism. To be fair, part of that may be simply because I myself am weak on evangelism; it isn’t one of my gifts, and frankly I don’t do a very good job of compensating for that lack. So, I’ll admit up front that I may be biased.

That said, I do think it there is an tendency on the part of evangelicals to decouple “evangelism” from “discipleship”, as if they were two totally distinct phases. The implicit (sometimes explicit!) message is that evangelism is what really matters, and discipleship is just a tool for creating more evangelists. While a plausible theory — it does fit well with the idea that souls are the only thing we can take to heaven — I’m not convinced it accurately reflects the scriptures or the heart of God. After all, even that very passage was talking about disciples, not converts, and Jesus himself preached “the kingdom of God” much more often than “repentance unto salvation.” For that matter, there are at least hints that we also take our ‘works’ into heaven, not just ‘souls’ — not that either of those get us into heaven.

This is not in any way meant to diminish the importance of evangelism. Rather, I see evangelism — and thus conversion — as merely the tip of the arrow. It is certainly crucial, as the “business end” of an arrow, which in turn is the impactful expression of the bow. However, an arrowhead doesn’t travel very well by itself, and even if it somehow strikes its target it ain’t gonna do much damage; it just can’t penetrate deep enough to impact anything vital.

What I am arguing for, I guess, is a more holistic understanding of evangelism and discipleship as two facets of the same continuum: bringing the kingdom of God. Rick would probably agree with that, but I’d even go further, by saying that our work is intrinsically meaningful as a way to glorify God and bless others — not just instrumentally meaningful as way to develop money and contacts for evangelism.

That said, Rick may well share a similar understanding, but is starting with evangelism as it is certainly the crux of our mission, and the most fundamental expression of our service to others. I guess we’ll have to see how the rest of the week goes.

Prayer: God, it is one thing to (literally) sit back in my armchair and critique Rick’s exposition of mission. However, the real question is whether I live it out! Better to wholeheartedly follow an incomplete understanding of you than sit back and admire a sterile but technically correct theology. Father, I confess that I have too often disregarded your mandate(s) for the sake of my own comfort and convenience. Teach me what it means to die to my own agenda, and have a genuine heart for the needs of others — most especially their need for salvation. May everything I do be for your glory, and the good of others. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.