One of the problems today in the mission world is the idea that we need partnerships and alignments that can “meet the needs of people where they are”. We have to package the Gospel in such a way that it has a chance to be heard. This is the argument that comes out in the fights over contemporary worship, liturgy, the form of the sermon, the methods and ministries that should be a part of “missions”.
The problem is that the unbelievers, or even the believers difficulty is not how the saving truths are packaged, or how we align ourselves either in a more traditional or more modern way; it isn’t even that the claims we make on Jesus Christ and him crucified are incredible. Our society and the world around us hold on to so many absolutely ridiculous and incredible details that it is true we are a gullible race. The real issue seems to me, is that the traditionalist and the more progressive folks who want to align us to their way of doing things don’t understand that most people will not say “I don’t believe that what you were saying is true”, but “I don’t like what you’re saying and I don’t like the way you’re saying it”. Paul gave us the blueprint for this mulish behavior in first Corinthians 2:14. “The natural man does not welcome the thoughts of the Spirit of God; he thinks they are foolish and cannot understand them, because you must have the spirit to see the real value”. A great example of this is found in a Lenten text that we have heard many times but perhaps miss its import. It is the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the Jewish Councils reaction. John 11:49 “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” The God who has plans for the world “in Christ” puts the very words of prophecy into the mouth of the leader of these diabolical manipulators. They speak the Gospel and John speaks missions. Look at the alignments that were taking place here. The disciples were trying to align themselves to see who would be first in the Kingdom. The scribes and Pharisees were aligning to try and figure out what to do. The people were aligning and making decisions for and against the Lord of Life and God uses them all for his purposes. So here is a great existential question. Why should we try at all to align ourselves for the furtherance of the Gospel or our vision of mission and ministry when God is going to work it all for good anyway? Why try new programs, new ideas, new concepts and “brand discoveries”, when first of all none of them are really new, and secondly God will have His way anyway?
The answer is that it is God’s mission and he gives the means and the methods for us to do His will. The real problem is that we don’t much like God’s methods.