Hebrews 12:1-2 Mission Planters:Focus On The Joy That Is Set Before Us
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”(Hebrews 12:1-2)
Are you out there trying to plant a mission but feel you are not being successful? Do you feel that the 10 or 3 people that gather with you on Sunday are a sign of failure? Have you reached out to many with the message of the Gospel but all you seem to get is a lot of rejection? You took out a sizeable amount of your savings or are using a lot of your income to support your mission plant but nothing seems to work? Are your superiors telling you that it is time for you to close shop and to invest your time supporting other more successful ministries?
Planting a mission can certainly be a difficult endeavor, and for sure it is not for the faint of heart. There are many reports that state that the failure of mission plants is as high as 70%! That means that according to ‘world critics’ (I will explain what I mean in a little bit), only 3 out of 10 mission plants actually make it. That is one hard and discouraging number to face when being a mission planter. Facts like this certainly make it hard for mission planters to stay hopeful and motivated. But let me tell you, as a mission planter, you should not pay attention to these numbers at all.
You see, it turns out that a lot of the ways that we as mission planters tend to measure the success of our mission planting work are corrupted by worldly concepts. These worldly concepts are what ‘world critics’ use in order to measure the success of missions. However, what ‘world critics’ fail to understand is that the work of mission planting, while it takes place in this world, is meant for the world to come. Those who use the standards of the world to measure the matters of the Kingdom of God have a completely distorted notion about what mission planting is, and more importantly about what fuels mission planting.
In other words, while it is perfectly practical to count the number of heads sitting in a restaurant every night it is open for business, when it comes to mission planting the opposite is true. After all, in the restaurant business it makes total sense to keep track of how many people show up to the restaurant in order to see if a particular advertisement was successful in attracting customers to come in and order food. If not enough people showed up to the restaurant then the particular advertisement was a failure. Furthermore, even if a lot of people show up, the restaurant owner needs to keep track of other expenses such as food cost and staff, and at the end of the day he/she tallies up to determine if there was a profit or a loss. If the restaurant owner has too many bad nights, i.e. if not enough people show up to buy food, he/she will be forced to close the restaurant. After all the restaurant owner got into it for the profit to himself and his business associates.
Yet, that is not how mission planting works. Mission planting is not about bringing people to a location so that they can congregate every Sunday. Mission planting is about bringing people out from themselves and into Christ. This is done by sharing with them the seed of Salvation. Once the seed of Salvation is planted in another person’s heart, we have to turn them over to the Lord so that His Sacred Heart can begin transforming them as He is transforming us. If they choose to allow us to water the seed that we just planted, we then call upon the Holy Spirit to inspire us to help them grow right alongside us. However, if they chose to find someone else to teach them, then we have accomplished the mission, we planted the seed. That is what a mission planter is, a person who introduces others to Jesus.
Unfortunately, often times we get so caught up in the notion that we are to congregate people in large numbers. We fail to see that so long as we are sharing Christ with people, we are in fact being successful at mission planting. We fail to see that the only way to fail at mission planting is to stop preaching, to stop ministering and to stop moving forward. The success of your mission should not be measured only by the number of people that you are able to congregate, but it should be measured by your yearning to continue sharing the message of Christ even when you do not have great numbers to show.
In looking at mission planting from that Biblical perspective, we can see that there is no need for us to focus on visible markers such as congregational size, but instead we should “focus on the joy set before [us]” (Hebrews 12:2) . For we have Christ as our hope and as the motivation for our mission planting work. With Christ as our focal point and our measure for success, we can then remove from our minds the need to measure what can’t be measure, and we can remove the need to be successful by worldly standards. This will allow us to go out there to plant seeds, not with disappointment and discontent, but as one “[running] with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we desire nothing more than to serve you. Your love for us is so great, your mercy has manifested in our life in such wonderful ways, that we want to share the Gospel of Christ with others. Sometimes we forget that our role does not depend on human precepts, but that instead it depends on your love and your mercy for us. Help us to persevere with our mission planting work, that as a result many will come to accept you and serve you. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Amen.
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