Missional leaders and churches understand the significance of their witness. They also understand that the missional heart is not just about connections. Engaging a community or the world is not the final objective of Kingdom people. No, the mission pursuits of people tuned to the Kingdom have as their outcome the communication of the Good News, a witness to the life-changing glory of Christ. It is central to missional enterprise.
Jesus expressed this thought in his comments to Peter and the apostles following Simon's momentous confession of Christ. This entire pericope is a celebration of mission, Matthew 16: 13-20. When I wrestle with our missional calling, this passage provides the half-nelson that keeps me stayed in the missional process. From this passage we can understand what actually forms the missional heart. In the interchange Jesus said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." (Matthew 28:19).
OK, this statement has been addressed from every theological longitude and latitude. Some see an argument of the authority of the church, perhaps the papacy. Others see the rule of God over the powers vying for the heart of man, good and evil, God and the adversary. Others interpret church discipline, the locking and the unlocking, binding and loosing the doors of the church.
For me, the keys of the kingdom is Jesus entrusting to the apostles and the church the entrance to the kingdom through the witness, proclamation, and mission heart of the church. He has given us the message that unlocks eternity for people who believe.
This is crucial today. Many congregations resemble the good works and valid contributions of local community and civic organizations. What separates us from the Rotarians and Kiwanians, the Junior Chamber, and the garden club is the gospel. Shoot, the world is full of benevolent groups who champion great causes, alleviate pain and suffering around the world, feed the hungry, and construct low-income housing. Thankfully, non-profits exist to provide charitable assistance for people experiencing hardship and difficulty in life. Many major corporations underwrite these initiatives. Their work is commendable.
Yes, for many generations local congregations provided these services and ministries---hospitals, schools, food kitchens, crisis centers, clinics, orphanages, to mention a few. Today, great service organizations feed the hungry, house the poor, dig wells, purify water, give agricultural advice, print reading and teaching materials, care for children. As these needs telescope into our local communities, many congregations rise to the occasion of this need, missional hearts reaching out. Sometimes, however, the primary objective is overlooked. Missional become mission-less.
There is a delicate balance here. Missional people serve without thought of the outcome. There is no payback expected, no guaranteed return on investment. At the same time, there is the keys of the kingdom thing, the reality that Jesus entrusted to us the message of eternity. Our essential mission cannot get lost in the dust-cloud of our busy-ness.
We must not forget the mission.