Elliot Clark writes a helpful article at the Gospel Coalition encouraging reformed Christians to avoid wallowing in a “pious resignation of failure” as we speak of suffering, weakness, frustration for lack of fruit or health in the global church. Rather, he encourages us that “whenever we consider our role in that glorious missionary narrative, when we look at the state of the church globally, we should look with the eyes of the Bible. Despite all the real problems and challenges, I’m convinced a biblical perspective doesn’t focus as much on our failure as it does on God’s fulfillment. All over the world the gospel is advancing and bearing fruit. Jesus’s words are true. The kingdom is at hand. The glass is fuller than we realize.”
Perhaps you’ve noticed a certain tone when we, particularly in Reformed circles, talk about global missions. At times we slip into categories of desperation or even defeat. Some approach missions with a pious resignation to failure—after all, we were promised the world would reject us. Even those with a more hopeful outlook, who would rouse us to great missionary endeavors, sometimes motivate with past failures and the disgrace of an unfinished task.
When we look at our collective world and consider the missionary mandate, we note all we’re not doing, all the unengaged peoples we’re not reaching. We criticize the lack of giving and subsequent lack of resources, human and otherwise. When we turn to the global church, we become cynical, bemoaning shallow theologies and rampant false teaching around the world. Thus we label the missions glass half-empty. As a result, our global Christian perspective tilts toward melancholy.
But if we consistently approach missions from the standpoint of all we’re not doing, of all that’s yet to be done, we miss the glory of what has already been fulfilled. If Christ’s mission, as far as we’re concerned, remains largely unaccomplished, then we don’t have a fully formed biblical perspective, one that recognizes all that God has done and is now doing in the world.
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