"The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no church; where there is neither church nor mission, there is no faith." Emil Bruner, The Word and the World.
Missions defines us as a body of believers. In 1707 a group of baptist churches came together in Philadelphia for the purpose of working together. Admittedly missions was not their first thought, but their association became the vehicle through which the task of missions found broad support. Baptist have always been a people on mission. Dr. Rick Lance, the Executive Secretary for the Alabama Baptist State Convention, has become well known for his statement, "We have one mission, the Great Commission." He's right on the mark. Missions defines us.
Missions also directs us as a church. All we do must be passed through the filter of missions. I was recently listening to NPR and a church had sponsored a segment of the broadcast. What caught my ear was the tag line the church used, "A church committed to social justice." Now I am in no way opposed to social justice, I am glad to see social injustice righted. However I take strong biblical issue with it being the primary purpose directing the activity of any church. The church is entrusted with the message of reconciliation by God? (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:1) If the church pursues tangential matters, it's resources and energies are drained from its primary purpose and objective. I believe as the church fulfills its mission the issues of social justice will also be addressed. As the hearts of men and women are transformed so to will the heart of a society be transformed. The axiom, "Keep the main thing the main thing" is readily applicable here.
Missions drives us as a church. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 states, "The love of Christ compels us..." Because we are loved by Christ we also love others. Especially those who are not reconciled to God in Christ Jesus. This is what drives our lives, to see all kinds of people from all kinds of places come to know the wonder of salvation; to help them experience the grace of God for themselves.
Unfortunately the statistics say that our walk does not match our talk. A recent study conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources states, "A majority of the unchurched (57%) wonder why their Christian friends and neighbors never talk with them about spiritual matters. 82% say they would be open to attending church if a friend invited them. Unfortunately, only 21% of active church going Christians invited someone to church last year." (LifeWay Research, emphasis added). Beloved, we have work to do.