What should get the higher priority – corporate or individual mission? This has been a question the leaders at ID have been asking during the course of the summer. I thank God that these are the types of questions we’re wrestling with!
One reason for this tension is that not every individual feels called or compelled to engage with the partnerships that ID has formed. Now, I haven’t heard anyone say that they don’t think we should care for the public schools or those on the verge of homelessness. But the reality is, not everyone is passionate about elementary education. Not everyone understands or feels equipped to engage with the varied factors that contribute to homelessness. Further, while our “church” is located on 52nd and North on Milwaukee’s west side, our CHURCH is scattered throughout the Milwaukee metro area.
So people are rightfully asking – what should be my priority? Building redemptive relationships where I am – or investing in the corporate mission of the church? What a wonderful question to ask! But before I can attempt to answer this question, it will be helpful for us to consider this issue from a broader perspective.
Few would argue that where most people spend most of their time is at work and home. It follows, then, that where most people should be most intentional about reaching out is where they live and where they work. We ought to consider ourselves missionaries on our blocks and at our jobs. Mission is not something we “do,” it’s who we are. And we need to make disciples “as we go,” in the everyday stuff of life.
At the same time, we need to thoughtfully consider how we have come to decide where we live and work. Are you aware of the framework that influenced you to make those choices? What are the most important factors to you when deciding where to live? Affordability? Resale value? Safety? Access to freeways? A place you can grow into?
How about where you work? What influenced you most to take your current job or pursue the career path you’re on? Salary? Work/life balance? Opportunity to advance? Utilizing your education, training, or skills? An opportunity to make a difference in this world?
All of those are good factors to consider. But are those the only factors we should consider? Are they even the primary ones? Does the Bible provide any other values for us to consider? I believe it does.
“Which kingdom’s values are going to most shape our lives?”
In American culture, it is assumed that we will pursue our dreams. When making these decisions, then, we value comfort. Security. Wealth. Power. Respect. None of that is bad. It can all be good. But would you say that those are the values that best define Jesus’ lifestyle? And whose life is the church supposed to emulate?
Here is where I get uncomfortable with this conversation. If we are more influenced by American values than biblical values when deciding where to live and work, and if we invest most of our time and energy into those spaces, then what kingdom are we going to be most likely to experience? Which kingdom’s values are going to most shape our lives?
Could this contribute to some of the recurring issues many Christians face? Such as excessive debt? Exhaustion? Loneliness?
I am not suggesting that everyone should live in the most depressed, dangerous neighborhood they can find. I am also not advocating that people should choose jobs where they will be taken advantage of and disrespected. However, I am suggesting that we bring the gospel to bear on the decisions we make that will most influence our lives – where we live and where we work. I do not believe that we can faithfully or fully follow Jesus if we assume that we should always take the best deal for ourselves. Sometimes we ought to take what will be a better deal for someone else.
Which brings me back to the importance of corporate mission. I do not want to see any of our neighbors or co-workers neglected. But since that is where we spend most of our time without effort, it seems to me that we need to prioritize engaging in the lives of people that we would otherwise overlook. Not because we don’t care, simply because they are not on our radar.
Further, Jesus has said that the world will know that we are His followers and that He is God based on how we love each other. How is the world going to see how we love each other if we don’t go out into the world – together? It will be better for this city if we serve the city, together. Since we are limited, we won’t be able to care for every opportunity that presents itself. So we will have to prioritize. Which will mean that some of us will need to sacrifice personal preference and comfort to engage in the corporate mission of the church.
“How is the world going to see how we love each other if we don’t go out into the world – together?”
Which brings us all to the gospel. Jesus did not pursue comfort or safety, respect or power. In fact, in order for Him to fulfill God’s mission, He had to sacrifice everything He preferred. He didn’t simply settle for a lower quality of life – He laid down His life – so that through faith in Him – we could have life. Since His Spirit lives in our hearts through faith, He can empower us to engage His world with His love. And when we do this, our hearts will be most satisfied and His Name will be most glorified.
This will help to untangle our hearts from the deceptive American Dream. We will see how shallow “power” is when we love serving others as Christ served us. We will see how fleeting success is in this world when our hearts are grounded by the success of the resurrection. We will see how foolish luxury is when we experience the exhilaration of stepping out in faith to place more trust in Christ than in comfort.
When our trust is in Christ, then, we are safe even to wrestle through all of this. His love has secured our hearts FOR good works but not BY our good works. Our lives have been eternally secured by the good work Jesus has already accomplished. So now we can follow Him to wherever He would lead because we trust Him more than anyone else.