Whether or not you've ever darkened the door of a North American church the word mission, when used in a “religious” sense, evokes thoughts of missionaries traveling to distant lands and unfamiliar peoples. For many, the word mission is associated with the financial support of others who go to distant lands and unfamiliar peoples in the name of Christ. Don't get me wrong, I have a great love for those who engage in mission to far away places. Our particular church supports a variety of mission organizations whose primary focus of ministry is beyond North America. Recently, we've been able to send short-term mission teams to Cameroon, the Philippines, and the Middle East, for which we give thanks.
That being said, when we speak of being missional, we are talking about more than supporting God's work in distant lands. For while the word mission is a noun that we can support from afar or for a summer, the word missional is an adjective that describes our personal participation in God’s ongoing mission all around us. Mission comes from the latin word missio, meaning “sent.” The missional church is nothing more than individuals who realize they have been sent by God, and in particular to their own place and time.
I heard someone complain to his pastor, “I just don’t have time to be missional.” I have to agree. With the busyness of our 21st century lives there’s simply no time left to be missional -- unless of course we make the time. For we will make time for the things we care about, the things we are concerned about, the things we are moved about. Friends, to be missional we need a heart change. In Matthew 9: 36 we discover a primary reason why Jesus was missional. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus had a heart – a heart of compassion for people. The word “compassion” translates a Greek word (splachna) meaning “to be moved from the gut.” Jesus had a gut-level compassion for the sick, the grieving, the lonely, the hungry, the harassed, and for those who were running from God as fast as they could. The compassion of Jesus begins at the exit doors of the church – and in a time when cynicism comes easy, this same compassion is the gift that Jesus wants to give us.
As we seek to understand more deeply what it means to be God’s missional people, and to be sent by God to this city, I’m asking our Lifegroups to ponder and respond to this important question: What are some of the things that really move you with compassion in our immediate situation, place, and time? In particular, what are the things that move you with compassion and concern right here in West Los Angeles…or in your own particular corner of God’s world? Let’s talk about it together…and pray that God will develop within us, his missional heart.