I’m in Oklahoma City with about fifty other Baptist pastors, talking about how to do missions in a changing world. One of them told us an interesting story about something that happened to him a few years ago.
He said he got a visit from a young woman who was engaged to be married to a member of his church. “Is it true,” she asked, “that before I can be married here I have to join First Baptist Church?”
“Um, well, yes, that is our policy.”
“I can’t join this church,” she said. “I’m a member of the Christian Missionary Alliance church. We take missions seriously.”
“Well, so do we,” he said, proudly. “We’re Baptists!”
“Humph,” she said. “How many Baptists are there?”
“Um, I think there are about…”
“I’ll tell you,” she said. “Sixteen million. Sixteen million Baptists! And how many missionaries do you have?” she asked.
“Maybe you could tell me,” he said, settling back into his chair.
“Five thousand,” she said. “That’s pitiful! If there were sixteen million people in my denomination we’d have 100,000 missionaries!”
She was just getting warmed up.
“How many people in this church?” she asked.
“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me,” he said.
“Six thousand, five hundred,” she said, crossing her arms. “And how many missionaries do you have?”
“That’s right!” she said, triumphantly. “None. I can’t join this church. Y’all don’t take missions seriously.”
“And so,” he said, finishing the story, “she joined as a watchcare member.”
Baptists don’t usually get taken to school like that when it comes to missions. We’ve been sending missionaries to the ends of the earth for decades! But maybe the girl from the Christian Missionary Alliance had a point.
Part of what it means to be missional is understanding that the church is not here only to send missionaries: the church is here to be sent. In the tenth chapter of Matthew Jesus sends his disciples to tell people that the Kingdom has come near—to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. In other words, to do the very things Jesus was doing. In the twentieth chaper of John he breathes on his disciples, tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, and then says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” To be a disciple of Jesus, then, is to be sent. It’s not just the career missionaries; it’s all of us.
So, if that girl from the Missionary Alliance Church were to ask me how many of our members are missionaries I’d want to tell her this:
“All of them!”