By MARCUS OMDAHL, Minister, New Beginnings Christian Church
A few years ago I listened to an interview of Eugene Peterson (translator of The Message). I was eager to listen to Eugene Peterson because I had come to love several of his books (The Contemplative Pastor, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, & Subversive Spirituality).
One comment in the interview remains with me to this day. I remember Eugene saying, “The problem with most pastors is that they think people exist for the sake of the mission, without realizing, that the people themselves are the mission.”
Later, in a different context, I remember hearing a pastor using an analogy from the military, saying, “The mission is more important than the men.” I remember liking that statement as well because it emphasized the fact that we are called to be on mission and not just fooling around. We’re called to something bigger than ourselves, and we are, in fact, expendable.
From where I sit now, with just a little more perspective (though not too much), I realize that both positions are a bit overstated. We spiritual leaders tend to do that…erase all ambiguity to ensure the sermon is clear. But life is not like that…nor is the gospel. In my opinion, a blend of both the above stated positions is the best. The mission isn’t just the people “in here”, nor is it just about the people “out there.” It’s both. In other words, people are the mission and exist for the mission. This seems to make the most sense of Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.
If you’re reading this and you are a Christian I want to challenge you to consider the tension in the above statements to shape the very nature of your daily life. If you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian, I want to challenge you to read Matthew’s Gospel. Don’t hurry. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. Read it with the awareness that at every turn, Jesus sees people as both an end and a means. Then ask yourself if following Jesus would be something you would want to be a part of.