Mission Creep

John the Baptist was a man on a mission. We would do well to follow His example as we seek to serve well.

John had a special place in God’s plan to redeem the world. In John 1:6, we read, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (NASB). From the three other Gospels in the New Testament, we know that this verse refers to John the Baptist. This is a different man than John, the son of Zebedee, who wrote the Gospel that bears his name.

God gave John the Baptist a specific mission (“sent from God”) that supported His overall plan to redeem the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. John’s assignment preceded Christ’s mission on the world stage as he pointed everyone he could to Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah. In the following verse, we learn that John came to witness and testify about Jesus Christ (John 1:7). In other words, His job was to shine a spotlight on “the Light” that had come into the darkness.

John’s mission put him in conflict with the mission of those who would ultimately rejected Jesus. Later on in John chapter 1, John the Baptist was questioned by a group of priests and Levites who were sent by the Jewish establishment (John 1:19-28). They were concerned about John and what he was trying to do. Neither he, nor Jesus, fit into their preconceived notions of a Savior.

The problem with a mission is that it can change overtime. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, mission creep is “the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization.” As John pointed people to Jesus his own popularity grew. In a short time, he attracted his own group of followers who were eager to hear a message from God. Even after John death, there was a group of disciples who followed John’s teachings and ignored Jesus. (Acts 19:1-7).

The closing verse in this short section guards against confusion and mission creep. In John 1:8 is says that John the Baptist was NOT the Light of the World (John 8:12). Even though he had a significant job to do, he was not the center of God’s plan to redeem the world.

Today’s Christian leaders would do well to pay attention to this verse. Like John the Baptist, believers today have been sent on a mission (John 20:21-22). That mission is to point others to Jesus Christ, not to replace Him as the Savior – of the Church, the denomiaiton, or the world. Christian leaders who gain popularity can drift from their original mission and forget that we are all just humble witnesses to the Light.

What Kind of Partnerships are Permissible?

This past Sunday I shared a message with my church about the distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness from Ephesians 5:3-14. In the passage, Christians are called “children of light” and called to live in God-honoring ways. One of the instructions in the passage that stands out is the warning about partnering with unbelievers (v. 7, “Do not be partakers with them”).

This should make thinking Christians ask, “What kind or partnerships are permissible and what kind of partnerships are out of bounds?” This original question led me to four more additional questions. The answers to these questions serve as a framework for evaluating the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith.

Will it affect your identity? Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (NIV). A “good name” involves your identity and reputation. Once your identity and reputation have been tarnished, they can be very hard to restore.

Associations with certain social clubs or even social movements can be viewed a kind of voluntary partnerships. Believers should be careful not to associate themselves with a club or a cause they don’t fully understand. If they do, they might unintentionally harm their identity.

Will it affect your values?  2 Corinthians 6:14 is verse another verses that addresses Christian partnerships, especially marriage. It says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (NIV). This verse emphasizes the importance of going the same direction, pursing the same things, and valuing the same things in a long-term relationship.

A solid marriage is built on agreement in a number of key areas. How will you spend your time and money? How will you raise your children? How will you express you religious convictions? Bible believing Christians and agnostics have different views on these key areas because they have conflicting values. This is just one of the reasons why it is unwise for a believer to marry an unbeliever.

Will it affect your resources? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). In other words, the way someone uses their money is a window into their soul.

Entering a partnership with someone who has a different faith commitment can be tricky. A business partnership along these lines may be strained as you make decisions that affect your bottom line. Christians must be cautious here.

Will it affect your witness? 1 Peter 2:12 is just one of many verses that urge believes to steer clear from blameworthy behavior. If a Christian lives like a non-Christian, it can be hard for them to explain their faith to others. Some connections, and even some friendships, can have a negative impact on your ability to share the gospel.

The warning in Ephesians 5:3-14 should not be misunderstood as a call for isolation or various levels of separation from the world. We must engage the world and the kingdom of darkness. But we must also be thoughtful and wise about our longterm partnerships, so that we can live in ways that honor God.

What questions would you add to evaluate the types of relationships believers should engage in with those outside the faith? Please leave your comments below.