What should we look for in missions presentations?

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This post is prompted a little by Steve Kneale’s article where he describes sitting through a missions’ sermon.  It got me thinking a little about what we expect in and from a missions talk.

So often the aim of a such a presentation (aside from sharing specific prayer points) tends to be about persuading me why I should either give to the work or come and join them. In the case of joining, often in the case of short term missions, the selling point tends to be the experience I will have and what I will gain from my time with the organisation at the specific destination.

In a similar way, I am expected to support a particular mission because of its unique focus. It is the only mission organisation working in this vital area. That means first of all that the mission organisation has to talk up its particular strengths and build up the particular needs on that field so that I develop a special connection with that place.

Now, there may be a case for doing that but I also want to put forward another model. There is now a strong view that Paul’s purpose, at least in part, for writing to the church in Rome was to seek their partnership for his planned mission to Spain. With that in mind, it is worth noting his approach in soliciting their involvement.

Paul starts by presenting the overall need of the Gospel for both Jews and Gentiles (ch 1-3) and then goes on to show how wonderful the Gospel is as it brings forgiveness, justification, reconciliation and eternal security (ch 4-8). Then he shows that his concern for wider mission does not reflect a neglect of concern or a giving up on his own people the Jews (ch9-11). He then applies the gospel practically (ch 12ff). 

It is in the context of this application that he turns his attention to Spain, writing:

23 But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. 24 I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.[1]

That’s it. Just a couple of verses, a few sentences. There’s no impassioned plea, no power-point, no gut wrenching videos, no spelling out of the desperate need in Spain. The desperate need has already been covered by his general description of sin in chapter 1 and he reserves his emotional connection for those he is specifically not going to reach (his fellow Jews).

I am not saying that we don’t need those presentations and appeals today but it does leave me asking “what is it that motivates my interest in mission and what should it actually be?”

[1] Romans 15:23-24.

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