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International Missions – Building Upon John Piper’s Guidance

Being Disobedient Is More Than Just Being Disobedient

Disobeying the Great Commission isn’t just neglecting a command. It’s a denial of who we are in Christ. I am not saying that if you don’t actively share the gospel you’re probably not a Christian. I am saying, however, that if our identity as sent ones informs all of life, then “disobedience” reflects an identity crisis that needs discipleship and pastoral care.

Goers Are Not an Elite Band

When describing both goers and senders, Piper uses the term “an elite band.” He goes on to say in reference to goers, “I do love and esteem them highly.” While at the Cross Conference in 2013, I listened to an interview with Piper in which he noted the danger of overemphasizing goers above senders, but then went on to define goers only as frontier missionaries. He also then comparatively downplayed his own role in the church and called pastoral ministry “the back end of the Great Commission” while the crowd snickered at the pun.

Whether intentional or not, the message was clear to the college students sitting around me: traditional frontier goers are the true elite. This kind of communication lends itself toward a “culture of hierarchy and privilege,” as illustrated in Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission (p. 15). As much as I love “goers” and want to maintain my own admired status as one, I see how such categories create a caste system that immobilizes the church more than builds her up and sends her out.

We All Cross Cultural Boundaries

Unbeknownst to many of us, we all navigate a maze of culture and subculture. Every environment in which we exist has its own unique context and jargon, from our homes to our workplaces to our favorite coffee shops.

However, few of us have ever been trained to notice or interpret such differences. Therefore, in the church we assume our understanding of cultural context simply because we live in the neighborhood and speak the language. Cross-cultural training is only for “goers” rather than being a common part of every believer’s discipleship.

It is this “cultural distance [that] keeps ‘Unreached Peoples’ being names on a list instead of being our friends, coworkers, and neighbors” (Goodman). If, instead, all believers are sent ones and are already crossing some measure of cultural boundaries, then churches have the perfect setup to mobilize every member rather than only a select few.

Christians Can Both Send and Go  

Although the sender-goer paradigm doesn’t preclude people from changing categories, it does infer fulfilling only one role at a time. When “sentness” becomes a way of life, sending and going are simultaneously possible. Church members can more easily move from having a global worldview to being a global Christian. They can champion those sent to other countries while also experiencing the same gospel advance in their own contexts.

Global sent ones can experience new depths of their own “sentness” while making disciples who will themselves be goers that carry the gospel even further. Furthermore, the relationships between global sent ones and local sent ones could likely be healthier and ongoing, full of mutual understanding and encouragement.

Perhaps this comes across as splitting hairs. Certainly it could be taken as unnecessary divisiveness or missiological commentary that means nothing to a world in desperate need. But if we fail to build upon the foundation of thought that has been given to us in God’s mission, then we will continue to approach a 2020 world with a 1994 perspective. And we may fail to marvel over our identity as sons and daughters of our sending God.


This article on international missions originally appeared here, and is used by permission.