Christian missions completely re-orients one’s self-identity in terms of time, space, culture, language, and history. Missionaries follow God away from home and family to become an identifiable member of another people group. The holistic nature of this endeavor requires a holistic Christian education. A brief look at Romans 15:4-13 illustrates why http://e360bible.org/ presents an integrated Christian education that does not distinguish between biblical study, prayer, worship, and missions. This site is a great resource for those involved in a holistic, transformative, education to prepare for the joy, peace and hope of Christian missions.
Tired? Discouraged? Learn History!
Whether past, present, or future, Paul was an optimist with a cause. He wrote, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Ro 15:4, NIV).” In context of this passage, missional hope is anticipating the present, real-time, worship of God by those now see the goodness and mercy of God in the person and story of Christ Jesus. Paul even says that the conversion of many people from many different nations was part of the original promise given to the ancient Jewish patriarchs (15:8)!
Paul’s use of Scripture in verses 9b-12 are not merely prooftexts. He carefully chose them to show that even though God’s actions in human history manifested in a particular people group (the Jews) and culminated in a specific person (Jesus of Nazareth), all of humanity was included, from the beginning, in the history of salvation. In fact, 15:12 suggests that the rest of humanity would not have had a point of reference for turning to God unless He worked through a particular people group and, ultimately, a specific individual.
Missions Begins at Home
In 15:7, Paul wrote, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (NIV).” Remember that Paul’s audience was the Church itself. Effective missions among those who do not have the Gospel is dependent upon how Christians treat one another because unity is necessary for an accurate presentation of Christ. A familiar ad campaign asks, “What’s in your wallet?” Another says, “Don’t leave home without it.” For missionaries, it is easy to use “Love” as an analogy; however, “Unity” is better because it is more tangible. Too often, Christians claim the love of Christ for those they don’t know in the midst of disunity with their co-laborers “in Christ” with other denominations.
Missional Prayer Transforms the Missionary
Verses 5 and 13 contain powerful prayers for missionaries. Both prayers are dependent upon the idea that Jesus was always God’s gift to the world. We are all the same. Loved by God. Saved by Christ. Enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the self-identity required by missions is the same for all Christians, regardless of geography. Tenwek Hospital is a perfect example of how this understanding can create real-world, salvific, change.