First off, I am a missionary and have participated in ‘mission activities’ with hundreds of other missionaries. On my behalf, I apologize for breaking the church, and as with any sincere apology, I have sought repentance and continue to do so.
How have I broken the Church? By preaching a broken gospel which creates broken ‘believers’ and corralling them into broken systems. How do I know when I have contributed to breaking the church? I know when it doesn’t make disciples of Jesus the Christ that make other disciples of Jesus the Christ beyond my own generation. I know the church is broken when more time, energy, people, and other resources are put into sustaining that broken system than in mission. Specifically the mission of making disciples of Jesus the Christ.
Scot Mcknight says it in this way:
“I believe we are mistaken, and that mistake is creating problems we are trying to solve. But as long as we remain mistaken, we will never solve the problems. Our system (church) is broken and our so-called gospel broke it. We can’t keep trying to improve the mechanics of the system (church) because they’re not the problem. The problem is that the system is doing what it should do (wrongly) because it is energized by a badly shaped gospel.” *
I remember more than 11 years ago being thrust into the mission field with my church-shaped / salvation-hunter gospel. If I had to boil down that gospel to 3 words, those words would be ‘GET-THEM-SAVED.’ Once the cycle begins, it nearly impossible to escape. Broken Gospel = Broken Mission = Broken Church = Sending out Broken Missionaries which reinforce and propagate the broken system.
If ‘salvations’ were to be the measure of missionary success, then I’d have to say that I was going gangbusters. If however, missionary success was to be measured by multi-generational maturing disciples (follower-learners) of Jesus, then I’d have to admit failure and my own sin. All those times when I adopted a ‘toss a dirt ball on someones carpet’ to sell a vacuum gospel, and being convicted in my spirit for doing so, were opportunities for course corrections that I ignored and sin that I wanted to continue in. Yes, sin… and if subjecting the Gospel of the Kingdom to my broken and selfish desire to ‘win a soul’ is sin, then I must repent.
I want to make it clear here. I, and many of my fellow missionaries mistook ‘the plan of salvation’ for the gospel. When I did that, I used techniques, and dare I say gimmicks, to get them into the ‘decided’ camp instead of the disciple camp. Once someone prayed a prayer, stepped forward during an altar call, or even ‘confessed Christ as Lord,’ my task was done. “Not really done” I told myself, because I would do ‘follow-up’ or hand them over to someone else who would. If I was honest with myself, and in retrospect, I was never comfortable with handing over a soul I ‘won’ to a system that was already broken, i.e., a church that was more interested in churchy stuff than actually making disciples of Jesus. If I were to follow up my evangelistic efforts with what I thought was discipleship, then I would almost always be frustrated and disappointed when those who made decisions, confessed Jesus as Lord, or made some other ‘profession of faith never actually got around to actually making disciples.
“Maybe I could tweak my methods” I thought. “Maybe I could be more focused on social justice, or meeting people’s physical needs, or even be more consistently ‘present’ amongst those who I was trying win” I thought further. But no matter how much I nuanced my broken gospel, it didn’t produce disciples of Jesus. Sure, sometimes God would ‘use’ my efforts for His glory and change a person’s heart, but more often than not, the majority of those who made a profession of faith would fizzle out before ever making their first disciple.
It’s universal! More than 70% of people who are won by ‘the plan of salvation’ gospel never end up making one disciple. And, a large percentage of those walk away from God permanently. I did this! I was directly involved in pushing people away from God and pushing broken people into broken churches so they could mass produce a broken gospel people.
It was time to flee from Gospel Immorality! Something had to change. I could no longer be numbered with those who preach a broken gospel. If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16), and I believe it is, and if the gospel transforms, renews, reconciles, and restores a right relationship with God, which it does, then that’s the unbroken gospel that I want to share with others. The unbroken gospel can also Crazy-Glue the church back together so that she becomes the mission that she was intended to be.
It took me a while to ‘get there.’ I regret it. If I were to be even more transparent, I’d say that I might even be angry about it. Angry that those who ’knew better’ kept letting me off the hook. But maybe they were broken too and just didn’t know yet.
One consistent trend that I have seen with seasoned missionaries is that they too get to the point where they jettison the broken gospel for a full orbed Kingdom Gospel, a Kingdom Gospel of peace and grace and glory; a gospel that is everlasting and transformative and reconciling, a gospel that produces disciples (Acts 14:21)
Yes, I am a missionary and I took part in breaking the church. I’m sorry…
This is normally where I would ask some questions, but I thought I’d just let it be as it stands. Please use the comment section below for your ‘Raw’ reactions. Thanks.
*McKnight, Scot (2011-09-06). The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (p. 26). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.