Risk-taking mission and service ministries bring nothing to the church. Humanitarian projects after a national disaster will not bring new people into the church. Feeding people who live with food instability does not do something for the church. Partnering with a church in Haiti will not necessarily bring in new members. Each of these activities do, however, mirror living out our calling in Jesus Christ.
Many churches are program-driven. They have activities and events. Each one has a clear objective. For example, a new study of Genesis focuses on discipleship and applying the Bible to daily living. Each program fits with the life of the church. And, programs can dovetail with the mission of the church. In the example of a new Bible study, the program will (a) draw inactive members to greater involvement, (b) attract new members, and/or (c) teach a valuable lesson for the church, like stewardship or commitment.
Programs are not bad. In fact, they can be unequivocally good. Yet, programs are not inherently connected with the mission of the church. Drawing inactive members to greater activity is good. Attracting new members is good. Teaching valuable lessons is good. Each case is a bit self-serving. The church benefits when new people start coming or inactive people get more active.
Risk-taking mission activities are different than the sorts of programs described above. Risk-taking mission means listening to God and going where God leads. In some ways, something only qualifies as a risk-taking mission if we gain nothing in return. We do it because we feel God calling us to do it.
Mark 7:24-30 tells the story of the Syrophoenician woman’s faith. She found Jesus and asked him to heal her daughter. He had no incentive to do so. Healing the woman’s daughter would have cost him some credibility because she was not part of his tribe. He responded with a metaphor for the Jewish Messianic theology. “Let the children be fed first. Don’t take their food away and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus implied she was a dog.
The Syrophoenician woman’s pithy response changed Jesus’ mind. “Even the dogs under the table get the children’s scraps.” Jesus healed her daughter. His action was a risk-taking mission. The Bible is full of these kinds of risky ministries. Jesus took so many risks that he upset the social norm and ended up on a cross. The one thing the Bible lacks is a clear program designed to grow the fledgling church.
What risk-taking mission and service ministry is God calling you to do? What is God calling University Baptist to do? How does God want us to step away from concern about our own future and to move in faith?