There are a variety of reason that the idea of mis- sion is currently undergoing renegotiation and revision in the church’s imagination. One of the most important is the fact that the nature of the world has changed. Although even a standard definition of globalization is difficult to come by, the complex processes that word refers to have undeniably produced tremendous change in the global landscape. Missions used to be about whom was sent to where from where. In order to engage in “world missions,” “global missions,” or “foreign missions,” sending a missionary was necessary, and that fact shaped the definition of missions (the church’s “mission work”) and, in turn, of mission (God’s purposes in all of creation).
As the idea of mission has shifted to a more lifestyle-oriented definition, separate and apart from those who are sent to a specific place for a specific task, the world has simultaneously changed. Through globalization, the world has become amazingly connected. Physical and cultural distance are barriers that have somehow become far more permeable. The outcome is a rather amazing coincidence: while Christians who would never dream of being sent somewhere foreign have decided to live missional lives right where they are, at the same time their capacity to have a global, personal impact has increased exponentially. In other words, the local Christian is able to be an agent of the kingdom on a global scale.
Being a missionary myself, I’m quite a fan of sending missionaries in order to have a specific kind of global impact. But I’m excited nonetheless that the whole church is connected with God’s world in an unprecedented way. We no longer need to feel powerless in the face of the world’s enormous, far-away problems, because we are no longer “just” members of our local communities; we are members of the global village. For a great practical resource on how to live missionally in the global village, check out:
David Livermore, What Can I Do?: Making a Global Difference Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).