We come to the close of our Missions Month today. Some, like me, prefer to use the word ‘missions’ instead of ‘mission’. Perhaps, the best way to explain this is by way of using a quote I read many years ago – ‘The mission of the church is missions’.
Recently, I read an article1, in an effort to delineate the differences in the terms, mission, missions and missional. The term ‘missional’ has in the last ten years become popular, with not a few churches and agencies jumping into the bandwagon, seeking to be missional – whatever it means. However, despite its common usage (or maybe because of it being so freely thrown about), its definition is oftentimes blurred.
From that same article, the writer suggests that being missional has its biblical support from John 20:21, ‘Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”’ (thus calling it Johannine missions), whereas missions has its biblical basis from passages like Acts 1:8, ‘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 end of the earth.’ (thus calling it Pauline missions). According to this writer, differentiating the two will be to see missional as living purposefully with a mission in view. How the writer sees this as mission to our doorstep neighbours is, to me, not as clear. Personally, why not use the age-old term, ‘evangelism’? As for missions, it is derived from the Great Commission to ‘Go into all the world’. This is clear enough.
Still on terminologies, it has been for years that the term ‘Unreached People Groups’ has been the focus of the attention of missions experts, drumming into our minds the need to concentrate our efforts on such people. Here again is a definition by ‘Joshua Project’, which is a great resource for UPGS – ‘An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.’ Joshua Project further mentions that while others may not, they use the terms Unreached and Least-reached to mean the same thing. They are inter-changeable.
Just when you think that we have finally gotten our act together with all the definitions, up came in the last few years yet another term to further define Unreached People Groups – Unengaged. Hence, we now have to grapple with yet another group of people, known as the Unengaged, Unreached People Groups (UUPG)! I.M.B. – International Missions Board, which is strong in missions endeavor, says, ‘A people group is engaged when a church planting strategy, consistent with evangelical faith and practice, is under implementation.’
I suppose that more and more terms will come our way as the years progress on. As a layman, I would say, let us not be bogged down by all these terminologies. They are helpful, definitely. However, at the end of the day, having been informed or having clarified in our minds as to what each of such definitions mean, it still boils down to what is it saying to our hearts. Missions month concludes today. But missions is here to stay. What is my response?
Elder Richard Lai