How To Overcome Mission Amnesia in Your Church or School

The Purpose of the Church- A Bible & Spirit of Prophecy Study By Dave Livermore

Director of Personal Evangelism and Discipleship, Upper Columbia Conference

I accepted the call to the Upper Columbia Conference about a year ago, put our house up for sale, and got ready to transition. Let me tell you a bit about our home in Longview WA. We had it built 14 years ago so it was pretty much exactly as we had planned for. It sat on an acre overlooking the bluffs. Our neighbors on one side were three horses. Our neighborhood was safe and friendly. We had prayed with and anointed some of our neighbors.

I told Teresa the house will sell fast, I remember saying; “I would buy this house in a minute.” And sure enough, our home sold in a week on the market. Everything was going well, we met the buyer and walked the yard with them. I was so confident. The outside of the house was freshly painted, the inside meticulously clean, Teresa had staged several rooms beautifully.

Then the inspector came. I was so confident that he wouldn’t find anything that would affect the sale of our home.

The report came back from the inspector that there was water underneath the house and mold in the attic. The buyer fled as fast as he could go. I remember Teresa and I sitting there, looking at each other speechless and absolutely stunned. How could this have happened? Our house was a good house, this was our home, one that we have taken good care of and loved deeply. But it took an inspector to get us to realize: Things aren’t always as they seem. Sometimes right underneath the surface is serious trouble.

I think we can make an application to our church: We love our church. This is the vehicle that God chose to bring us to Him. Our church looks for the most part beautiful on the outside and well taken care of. But if an inspector came, what would he find under the surface? Would he find the mission as the driving force of the church? Would he find a clear vision articulating steps to fulfilling our mission? What do our churches say about themselves and what do others say about us? Even if we are a friendly church are we a church where we can make friends?

I had a conversation with a pastor who called and said that Dan Serns had referred him to me to talk about soul winning. He told me he baptized two people a couple of Sabbaths ago. He was so happy and excited to share that Good News with me because, as he put it said; “It has been 18 years since a conversion growth individual was baptized in that church.” They had baptized their kids, but no one from the community was brought in for 18 years. Now we could ask what have they been doing the past 18 years to reach out and influence their community for Christ. And that question needs to asked at some point in time. But maybe they are sick, maybe they have caught a disease and no one is diagnosing them, or treating them. In diagnosing we need to ask the questions “How did you catch this, and why have you ended up in this condition?”

Instead of always talking about what we do or should do, maybe it’s time to raise the question “Why?” Why should we do what we do? Why should I care about my brothers and sisters that are far from the Lord. Why should I go out of my way for another? Why should I invest my time and energy and money into the “lost.” And if I did, would it even matter? Would it matter to Jesus? To my church? My conference? To me?

“The church needs to drink deeply of the spirituality of the Word. Their service to God needs to be very different from the tame, lifeless, emotionless religious experience that makes many believers but little different from those who believe not. Halfhearted Christians are worse than infidels; for their deceptive words and noncommittal position lead many astray. The infidel shows his colors. The lukewarm Christian deceives both parties. He is neither a good worldling nor a good Christian. Satan uses him to do a work that no one else can do.” {Our High Calling p. 348.4}

I submit to you that “halfhearted Christians” are sick. And the sickness is killing not only their souls, but killing the church.

Mission Amnesia

I am under the conviction that we have a disease among us. And frankly, I believe this condition is fatal. It’s called Mission Amnesia. It’s seductive and cruel, it takes away what should be driving the church, what gives the church it’s purpose, and it eliminates from our minds and our hearts that which we exist for.

So we resort to rules. Rules have their place but they are not to be confused with the objective of the church. We resort to counting tithe and fudge on people. We spend all kinds of time and energy on programs and events without looking at the overall effectiveness of how we are fulfilling our mission.

Diagnosing Mission and Vision

Let me just say a few words about diagnosing Mission and vision.

What is the stated mission of our church?

Is it inward, outward, or both? If you say “It’s both,” I’ll guarantee you that it’s inward. If there is one gift each of our churches has it’s squeaking in tongues. The squeaking wheel gets the grease.

On our Mission: Do the leaders own it? Are the values and structure consistent with it? What is our target audience?

Is it consistent with the community to which the church ministers?

Our job is to probe and listen to check our churches’ heartbeat, and does the heart beat for the lost among us?

What is the stated vision?

The purpose of casting a vision is to paint a picture of a preferable future. Beneath the casting of vision must be passion and urgency.

Bible and Spirit of Prophecy Insights

Let’s get a couple of Bible texts in our hearts and minds.

Luke 15, “The lost sheep, coin and son.”

If I had to be reduced to one chapter of Scripture, I would take this one. It’s provides for me the reason why we exist.

Here are some Spirit of Prophecy quotations about this.

“When the lost sheep was found, it was borne home with joy, and much rejoicing followed. This illustrates the blessed, joyful work of laboring for the erring. The church that engages successfully in this work, is a happy church. That man or that woman whose soul is drawn out in compassion and love for the erring, and who labors to bring them to the fold of the Great Shepherd, is engaged in a blessed work.”{Life Sketches p. 187.5}

“That church or those persons who shut themselves away from bearing burdens for others, who shut themselves up to themselves, will soon suffer spiritual feebleness. It is labor that keeps the strong man strong. And spiritual labor, toil, and burden bearing, is what will give strength to the church of Christ.” { Life Sketches p. 188.1}

In the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and Lost Son that which is lost is of most importance. It matters not why that boy who is outside is gone, it’s simply true that he is more on the heart of the Father than that son that is inside. Why? Because that which is lost is of most importance.

“Life is serious. You have a large field in which to work; and persevering search for the lost sheep will be the most successful way in which you can employ your time. . . . If you can exert a saving influence over one soul, remember there is joy in heaven over the one that repented. . . . You may, by judicious effort, be the means of bringing back the lost sheep to Jesus’ fold.” {Sons and Daughters of God p. 277.5}

Luke 19:10, Jesus finds Zacchaeus hanging from a tree, and invites himself to his home. People mutter; “he has gone to be the guest of a “sinner.” But Jesus says; in verse 10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Then in Matthew 28:18-20; The instruction is clear. Go and don’t stop going to bring the Good News to all people.

Acts 4:12“There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

We must bring them to Jesus and give them an opportunity to find their Savior and Lord.

Looking more at what the Spirit of Prophecy says about the Why.

Act of Apostles p. 9

The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.[1]

I’ve been labeled as a “ready, fire, aim” guy. I always taught and still believe we best learn by doing something, not just talking. I believe that those Jesus called had a bias towards action. And that call to action is clearer in these days than it’s been prior.

“In these final hours of probation for the sons of men, when the fate of every soul is so soon to be decided forever, the Lord of heaven and earth expects His church to arouse to action as never before.” ChS p.81

Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessing can be retained only as it is shared. {CME 17.4}[2]
The prevailing monotony of the religious round of service in our churches needs to be disturbed. The leaven of activity needs to be introduced that our church members may work along new lines, and devise new methods. The Holy Spirit’s power will move upon hearts when this dead, lifeless monotony is broken up, and many will begin to work in earnest who never before thought of being anything but idle spectators. A working church on earth is connected with the working church above. God works, angels work, and men should work for the conversion of souls. Efforts should be made to do something while the day lasts, and the grace of God will be revealed that souls may be saved to Christ. Everywhere souls are perishing in their sins, and God is saying to every believing soul, Hasten to their help with the message that I shall give you. {TM 204.1}[3]

O that I could speak words to men and women that would arouse them to diligent action! The moments now granted us to work are few. We are standing upon the very borders of the eternal world. We have no time to lose. Every moment is golden, and altogether too precious to be devoted merely to self-serving. {PH010 7.1}[4]

In the day of God not one will be excused for being shut up to his own selfish interests. And it is by working for others that you will keep your own souls alive. {CME 25.3}[5] (Call to Medical Evangelism)

Christ has given “to every man his work” (Mark 13: 34). He expects every man to do his work with fidelity. High and low, rich and poor, all have a work to do for the Master. Every one is called to action. But if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, if you do not do His appointed work in firm reliance upon Christ as your sufficiency, if you do not follow His example, “unfaithful, slothful servant” will be registered against your name. Unless the light which has been given you is communicated to others, unless you let your light shine, it will go out in darkness, and your soul will be left in awful peril. God speaks to every one who knows the truth, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Communicate the knowledge of the truth to others. This is God’s plan to enlighten the world.[6] SM Bk1, p.265

“We are not to spend our time merely in repeating over and over again the same things to the churches where the truth is well known. Let the church members labor unitedly in their several lines to create an interest. The disciples of Christ are to unite in labor for perishing souls. Let the laborers invite others to unite with them in their efforts, that many may be fired with zeal to work for the Master.” {7MR 108.2}[7]

The churches need to have their eyes anointed with the heavenly eye salve, that they may see the many opportunities all about them to minister for God. Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 294. {ChS 39.2}[8]

When the church awakes to a sense of what must be done in our world, the members will have travail of soul for those who know not God and who in their spiritual ignorance, cannot understand the truth for this time. {1NL 46.6}[9] (Notebook Leaflets)

The members of a church that is an active, working church, will have a realization that they are wearing Christ’s yoke, and drawing with Him. {1NL 47.1}[10]

What must be the thoughts of the angels of God as they look upon the church of Christ, and see how slow is the action of those who profess to be the followers of Christ, to impart the light of truth to the world which lies in moral darkness? {PH019 9.2}[11]

It is the Christian’s business to shine. The professed follower of Christ is not fulfilling the requirements of the gospel unless he is ministering to others. He is never to forget that he is to let his light so shine before men that they, seeing his good works, may glorify their Father which is in heaven.[12]

Every Christian, high or low, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, is to talk of the kingdom of God, to speak of Christ and Him crucified, to those who are in ignorance and sin. You are to speak to sinners; for you know not but God is moving upon their hearts. {PH019 10.2}[13]

What are you doing, my Christian brothers and sisters? Can you say that as far as it was in your power, you have declared, or represented, Christ and His love for fallen humanity to those who know Him not? If you have confined your efforts merely to those who are of the same faith as yourself, what about seeking to save those who are lost? If the curtain should be rolled back, you would see souls perishing in their sins, and the church idle, indolent, unsympathetic, absorbed in selfish interests, and caring not whether souls are saved or lost, so long as they themselves can have an easy time, and be secure in the hope of salvation. But no one will ever enter heaven who is not a laborer together with God. If you had any appreciation of the salvation brought to you at infinite cost, you would arouse, you would lay hold upon the strength of Jesus, you would lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show “My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” You would cry loud, and spare not. You would work to the utmost of your capacity, reaching first one and then another.–Review & Herald, Feb. 12, 19, 1895. {PH019 11.1}

“I have been shown that as a church you are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. There is not that consecration to God, that devotion to His service, and that disinterested labor for the up building of His cause which would make you a prosperous and healthy church. (emphasis supplied) 5T 354 [14]

Church-members need to be taught that the measure of their success in ministering to souls will be the measure of their self-denial and their faithfulness in following Christ’s example. Those who, while claiming to be Christians, think they have no church responsibility but to sit and listen to the preacher, fail of realizing the privileges of the children of God. What can be said to the idlers that will lead them to understand, and arouse them from their do-nothing position? O, that Zion would arouse and put on her beautiful garments. Brethren and sisters, as members of the church, let us act our part faithfully. Let us not allow the light which is in us to go out because we refuse to give that light to others. {PUR, February 20, 1908 par. 3} [15]

God has given to every man his work; not one is excused from service. All should seek for an education that will enable them to give the truth of the gospel to their fellow men. Every agency in the church should become a channel of light to the world. There are many who will receive the evidences given, and will accept the truth. The youth are to take hold of this work of soul-saving. All our talents are to be used to the glory of God. I saw One standing with outstretched arms, saying in a clear, ringing voice, “Come into line, come into line.” {PUR, February 20, 1908 par. 4} [16]


[1]White, E. G. 1911; 2002. The Acts of the Apostles in the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; Conflict of the Ages Series, Volume 4; Acts of the Apostles . Pacific Press Publishing Association; Pacific Press Publishing Association[2]A Call to Medical Evangelism and Health Education. 1933; 2002 . Southern Publishing Association[3]White, E. G. 1923; 2002. Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers . Pacific Press Publishing Association[4]An Appeal to Ministers and Church Officers. 1908; 2002 . Pacific Press Publishing Association[5]A Call to Medical Evangelism and Health Education. 1933; 2002 . Southern Publishing Association[6]White, E. G. 1958; 2002. Selected Messages From the Writings of Ellen G. White, Book 1; Selected Messages, Book 1 . Review and Herald Publishing Association[7]Manuscript Releases, Volume 7 [Nos. 419-525, 1975-1977]. 1993; 2002 . Ellen G. White Estate[8]White, E. G. 1925; 2002. Instruction for Effective Christian Service; Christian Service . Review and Herald Publishing Association[9]Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, Volume 1. 1985; 2002 . Leaves-Of-Autumn Books

[10]Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, Volume 1. 1985; 2002 . Leaves-Of-Autumn Books

[11]A Call to Service in the Master’s Harvest Field. 1907; 2002 . Pacific Press Publishing Association

[12]A Call to Service in the Master’s Harvest Field. 1907; 2002 . Pacific Press Publishing Association

[13]A Call to Service in the Master’s Harvest Field. 1907; 2002 . Pacific Press Publishing Association

[14]The Home Missionary. 2002

[15]Pacific Union Recorder. 2002

[16]Pacific Union Recorder. 2002

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