Imperialist Missionaries

The great CT Studd, one of The Cambridge Seven

The term “missional” has become elastic. Mike Frost lamented as much in his excellent “The Road to Missional”. The newly minted funky term was losing its shine through over-use; first adopted by any and every group, movement and church, then adapted to mean what they would like it to mean -a sort of funnel down which you pour meaning.  To paraphrase Syndrome from The Incredibles, “When everyone is missional, no one will be.”

It got me thinking. Perhaps one day we could write a book called “The Road Back to Missionary”.  In the bad old days (according to the caricatures anyway – Ed) missionaries were triumphalistic imperialists who wanted to impose a religious perspective on an unsuspecting public.  Pioneering missionaries like CT Studd (pictured above) are a bit of an embarrassment these days (should have stuck to Test cricket old chap – Ed) The vestige of this is that practices such as door-knocking to share the gospel fell out of vogue.  That wasn’t being a missionary – that was being rude and obnoxious and er…triumphalistically imperialist (say wot? – Ed).  At the same time practices such as NOT sharing the verbal gospel became known as missionary work.  I have nothing against such practices, and indeed find myself involved in them, supporting them, and encouraging them.  But somewhere along the line someone has to share the verbal gospel with a person if that person is ever to hear the gospel, repent and believe.  It’s just not going to happen by osmosis.

Which is why, heart in mouth, I hit the streets of Midland earlier this year with fellow Providence bloke, Damon, in order to knock doors, ask people what they believed and see if we could share the gospel with them. I just felt like I wanted to put back some of the original meaning into the term missionary. A few people have called us arrogant (I’m usually nervous as anything), others have called it a waste of time (we see it as discharging our duty). This week – the first of the school holidays – a team of us will be knocking doors all week in Midland, tag-teaming our way through a whole bunch of streets.

We have NEVER, EVER had anyone ever become a Christian or ask if they could come along to something we do.  NEVER, EVER…

…until today that is…

when an older lady who we first met a few months ago turned up. Damon dropped in to see her this week. Today she arrived at our Midland Providence gathering.  One person. One out of several thousand door knocks.  Just one.  You could call that a waste of time.  You could call that a bad use of employee hours. You could call that triumphalistic imperialism (Enough already! – exasperated Ed).  Or you could call it a mustard seed of the gospel that could, by God’s grace grow into a tree that shelters many birds in its branches. You could call it a tiny bit of leaven that is hidden in flour that leavens the whole batch. You could call it the possibility of one sheep being rescued by the shepherd while the 99 sit safely in the pen.  You could call it a whole lot of things that Jesus calls it. You could even – gasp – call it the result of being a missionary.





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