The first steps towards involvement in mission

WHAT does it mean to be involved in mission? Is mission involvement only for those who go on mission trips, are in missions’ committees or participate in mission events?

Romans 10:5-18 envisages a role for every believer in God’s mission. The passage begins by affirming that the key to being accepted by God is not because of a strict religious observance but by a personal encounter of Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Paul describes this experience as an inseparable two-part process:

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” – Romans 10:10).

Surely, one believes with the mind, not the heart! Yet, Scriptures call for a believing in the heart. In the New Testament, the heart is the centre of life – that which directs how one lives. One could even say the heart IS the person. It is this core of the person that needs to believe who Jesus is and what He has done, i.e., that needs to be transformed.

“Believing in the heart” is allowing for the totality of who we are and what we believe to come under the influence of Jesus.

Then we can “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”.

In the Roman context to confess that Jesus is Lord meant identifying with the despised Christian minority. It entailed rejection of the commonly accepted Emperor worship, avoiding accepted practices such as acquiring mistresses, giving in to lusts or unnatural acts and other such behaviour (Paul discusses this more fully in Romans chapters 1 and 2). To confess with your mouth was to live as a follower of Jesus and therefore invite possible persecution, even death. It was a test of their inner believing in the heart.

For us too, confession refers to living consistent with the belief in our heart. It affects the way we live, use our resources and relate with others. In other words, all of our life is our confession that Jesus is Lord.

Paul asserts that a life turned to Jesus is not primarily focused on personal salvation or personal devotions but also includes a responsibility to communicate to others the meaning of trusting Jesus. In Romans 10, this meant that the followers of Jesus had the responsibility to ensure that their fellow Jews had an opportunity to hear the Good News. Similarly, we too have a responsibility to ensure the proclamation of the message of Jesus in our context and our world.

How does this proclamation take place?

Firstly, proclaiming the Good News begins with the way we live. It concerns the way we view and treat people, whether they be the boss or the construction worker, the family member or the foreign domestic worker. It is significant that the First-century church grew primarily as Christians shared their faith with those they had natural and daily contact with, e.g. family members and friends. This challenges us that proclamation takes place in the way we act as well as with our words. It is about how we live.

Recently I heard of a Chinese construction worker who sought medical treatment at a free clinic run by a Christian organisation. During treatment, the staff struck up a conversation and discovered that this person and his colleagues had been cheated by their boss. The staff then sought advice and help from others to resolve the abuse. After much effort, some compensation was given to the workers before they were repatriated to China. At their last meeting, one of the workers said, “You have been a refuge to us. When I go back I want to look for a church.”

This unusual story demonstrates the potential of living with a heart that cares for others and seeks to bring the Good News to them.

Secondly, proclamation includes praying for people who have not yet experienced Jesus or have moved away from the faith. One way to do so is to make a list of people we are familiar with and commit ourselves to pray for them regularly.

Thirdly, proclamation takes place when we partner with others within the body of Christ who take up the task of missionary service. We partner with them by learning about the work they do and praying for them and by deliberately deciding to put aside our personal finances to support their mission endeavours. It is not the amount of money that matters as much as our commitment to the proclamation of the Good News through others.

According to Paul’s priority, the first step in getting involved in God’s mission is have a heart that believes and wants to live daily by the teaching of Christ. Then we can proclaim the Good New of Jesus to people we meet in the routine of daily living. We also proclaim Jesus by setting aside time to pray and resources to give to those engaged in mission endeavours, in Singapore and overseas. God’s mission, then, is a task for every believer and it begins today in the way we live.