The “Mission Field”

A friend of mine snapped this picture in a fundy church he was visiting. I think it’s telling that the “mission field” is always seen as out there beyond the church walls. In here we are the holy, the blessed, the congregation of saints. By contrast, anybody who isn’t here in this place is our mission field. Stop and ponder that idea for a moment.

Outside these walls are sinners and reprobates no matter what they claim to profess. Be they ever so Christian, be they ever so holy, be they ever so kind and just and loving: they are not of us and therefore we must proselytize them tirelessly.

92 thoughts on “The “Mission Field””

      1. Dear fundyfacinated:

        No to key chain butt cushions.
        Yes to butt cushions arranged as prayer beads.

        [Ducks for incoming projectiles … hymnals, rolling pins … the usual].

        Christian Socialist

  1. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. ~Proverbs 11:30

    Is the verse telling us that one would first have to gain wisdom in order to win souls? Maybe a walk through those doors would do those people some good.

    1. I find it hard to imagine a verse more abused than that on. Verses ahead are bout treating the people you encounter in life well, and as vs 31 says you’ll be recompensed in the earth, those that don’t essentially will be punished (while alive on earth implied)

        1. Agreed. After noticing the verse on the sign I read all of Proverbs 30 so as to understand the meaning in its proper in context. A little habit I picked up after leaving IFBism :mrgreen:

        2. Someone on this site once gave the advice, “Never read a Bible verse” (read the whole chapter instead, and sometimes the chapters before and after it). I’ve never forgotten this precept, and I think it’s one of the best ways to understand the Bible better that I know of.

        3. Absolutely! It became my habit once I left my IFBx church and began hearing expository preaching. Getting away from the topical preaching (as a norm), reading chapters before and after when studying scriptures, exposes the truth of any Bible text in it’s entirety.

          This helps a Christian to spot preachers that twist a verse to their agenda.

        1. That’s actually the Lord’s glory shinning off the pastor as he shakes people’s hands while they walk out.

  2. What!?!? No hover text? Darrell is slipping.

    Per the posting: because everyone knows that it is our job to show everyone else that they are wrong; if they are not saved, they are wrong for not being saved; if they are saved, they are wrong for not attending our church; if they attend our church, they are wrong for not living as we live. After all, who is so right and holy as I am?

    In many churches, sadly, it has become more about being better than one’s fellow church members than about glorifying Jesus Christ.

    1. That’s why I love the fact that true salvation is by grace through faith: it is not of works, least any man should boast. And believe me, we human beings love to boast!

  3. somehow I think that Proverbs verse is more about winning disputes than gettin’ people saved . . . but I’d have to do more research there. Winning souls in the new testament sense doesn’t really fit into an OT context.

    1. Read in the context of the entire chapter, it seems clear to me that it is about winning friends.

      With that said, let me encourage any current college student, staff member, choir member, Sunday School teacher, or missionary, when asked in person or on some sort of an accountability form, to gladly respond to the question, “how many souls have you won” or “how many times have you gone soulwinning” with the proper meaning of this verse in mind.

      That certainly makes “soulwinning” a lot more enjoyable doesn’t it?

      Although it throws into question how effective knocking on a strangers door at 10:30 on Saturday morning to invite them to your church is at accomplishing this.

      Perhaps you should try some old school generosity or compassion instead. Or maybe you could invite a neighbor or coworker over for some pizza, or even a beer, or maybe even a poker night.

      Whatever it is, just go out and win some souls today!

  4. I like how fundies overlook verse 29. โ€œWhoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heartโ€.

    1. In retrospect itโ€™s so easy for me to point my figure at fundies for overlooking this verse, but am I causing trouble in my own house? I donโ€™t mean by abusing my children (of which I have none), and not treating my wife with the respect she deserves. Do I have peace with God in my life? Am I striving daily to live a quiet and peaceful life? Do I extend grace to others, especially after experiencing the amazing grace of God? Am I wise in heart, or a fool?

      1. If you are wise in heart, do you know it? If someone thinks they’re wise in heart, wouldn’t that automatically make them a fool? “Do not be wise in your own eyes….”

        1. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

          William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, Act 5 scene 1

  5. The clock says “12:30”. That’s perfect timing on preacher’s account! Amen! If he went 15 minutes more our dinner in the crock pot would be burnt. Amen!

  6. The Hebrew word “nephesh” translated here as “souls” is translated elsewhere in the KJV as “life” “person” “mind” “heart” and at least once, even “appetite.”

    The context of Proverbs 11 deals with interpersonal relationships. Perhaps, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would be a good chapter heading.

    It covers issues such as pride, hypocrisy, deceit, gossip, indiscretion, and greed on the one hand, and humility, integrity, grace, mercy, and generosity.

    It also discusses the impact our behavior can have on our relationships and how our relationships in turn can impact our life (Pride, deceitfulness, and greed might bring temporary gains but in the end will lead to your downfall, whereas humility, honesty and generosity will produce lasting friendships and partnerships that will eventually return more than you gave.)

    In a grand conclusion to the chapter, verse thirty says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls (hearts, minds, friends) is wise.”

    Can you find a more abused (and abusive) verse in fundamentalism?

    1. I agree. I think that is one of the most abused verses in fundamentalism. Two other abused verses are Malachi 3:8 (tithing) and Proverbs 29:18 (Where there is no vision the people perish). The latter is always the jump-off verse before the new building program is presented.

      1. Yes the typical fundy interpretation of Proverbs 29:18 is a pretty twisted. It replaces God’s word with the Pastor’s program and implies that the congregation is hapless without his vision.

        1. At best. they might say that in a strict dispensational sense, this verse may apply to the people of Israel or that word may refer to the Law of God, but that in principle, it can mean whatever the h*ll I want.

    2. I agree, and if I might really contextualize the verse in quesiton, isn’t Proverbs essentially a book of self evident truisms? If you go way back to chapter 1, you can tell that Solomon and the Hebrew people see wisdom as a self evident thing screaming at you everywhere you go. Basically, it seems to me that what they call wisdom, an evangelical might call general revelation. There are certain things about God that are just obvious, and it shouts at you in the day to day life.

      The parallels between Romans 1 (a major text for the general revelation doctring) and Proverbs 1 are interesting. What this would mean is that our verse isn’t talking about someone ‘getting saved,’ but it is someone who pays attention to how life works and is loved because of how they apply their observations.

  7. Actually, the problem with this sign is not the proclamation, but the meaning that fundies put behind it. What if our mission was to live quiet and peaceable lives, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love mercy, and do justly, and walk humbly with God? Suddenly “mission field” takes on a new meaning, and the emphasis is no longer on decision cards, but about who I am. There is a deep theological root underneath this poisonous shrub, but it is probably too long for a comment on a blog post on Friday…

    1. I’m interested in church only when it is something more than a big pyramid scheme (you get ten to join, then those will get a hundred more, then those will get another thousand …). That’s applying the standards of Amway, not those of the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Acts tells us that in the early church, people were drawn in because they saw how much the members loved each other and their neighbors. I think that’s a more sound plan that any door-knocking scheme.

      1. Amen! That’s how I was drawn into church and Christianity to begin with, and after a long (and verrrry painful!) detour, I am seeing and experiencing it again. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. THIS. We have a simple “Now Entering the Mission Field” sign below the EXIT sign in our Episcopal church–but our mission is, in a nutshell, to be excellent to each other. Proselytizing other Christians is called “sheep rustling” and bugging non-churchgoers to show up and sit in the pews is just being a pest. Invite them to a potluck if they need to get out of the house, the Christmas pageant if they like Christmas pageants, the Winter Solstice “Blue Christmas” service if they’re feeling bummed out, our adult study class if they express an interest in learning more about the Bible/Church history/theology . . . that’s inviting somebody to participate in something. But putting butts in pews is just treating people like objects.

        1. This service is for people who get depressed around the Holidays or are experiencing heavy family or other stress. The hymns, Scripture readings, and sermon are all about sorrow, anger, etc. Catharsis, basically.

        2. @JI
          I am a bit disappointed. I thought Elvis would be involved in some way with the Blue Christmas service. :mrgreen:

  8. I’ve been in several churches that have that sign, and to be fair, I don’t think that’s what they mean by it. The majority of the people in church are Christian, or at least professing to be. The “mission field” is outside of it, so don’t assume your job is done just because you went to church that week.

    I don’t like that sign though, because my first (and dysfunctionally weird) church had one, and I try to avoid all reminders of that place if possible ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. It’s the “soul winning” verse stuck on to the sign that puts me off. Especially because if you use a less muddy translation, this verse turns out to be about making friends. “Winning souls” tends to do the opposite!

    1. I like the idea of it. The imagery on the sign is pretty cool. I believe those are doves flying from the cross. Given what a dove represents (Holy Spirit, peace, purity, etc), I really like the idea that the imagery communicates.

  9. I prefer the version a church I know has:
    As you go into the sanctuary, it says above the doors: “Enter to worship.”
    As you leave, it says above the same doors: “Go forth to love and serve your neighbor.”

        1. Since a “Don” is roughly equivalent to a “Lord” in Spanish speaking countries, are you a “Don Don?” :mrgreen:

  10. A previous church of mine had that sign above the door.
    I was also involved in home missions (church planting) for a few years. Tucson is not a highly churched town; I have heard several Christians from the Bible belt exclaim how different Tucson is than where they are from as we do not have “a church on every corner.” Anyway, I do see my city as a mission field, and other Christians, no matter the ‘stripe,’ as co-laborers.

  11. I once lived in a large rental house in college with a bunch of central-illinois evangelicals. Someone had posted this kind of thing near all the doors. I was always really uncomfortable with it. And Darrell, you just perfectly summarized why it made me so uncomfortable. Christians need the gospel. Christians are just as terrible and sinful as anyone.

  12. I don’t know how many August sermons I sat through, complete with a check-off list included in the bulletin, on the topic, “How are you going to serve God this year?” The emphasis was that one served God only in the church, by teaching Sunday School, being a Youth Group sponsor, cleaning up after coffee hours, sending cards to people who were sick. The idea of serving God outside the church was not mentioned. I once told an elderly friend who nurtured a beautiful flower garden that she was serving God by creating beauty in her neighborhood. Being a former Baptist pastor’s wife, she could not grasp this idea.

  13. Thought I’d throw in some thoughts on Pro. 11:30.

    On my phone, I have the NET (New English Translation) Bible, which I love for many reasons, one of which being that it includes translator notes which can be very helpful at times. Below I’ve copied the note and this verse (the original Hebrew word is given as ___ because I don’t have Hebrew letters).

    The fruit of the righteous is like a tree producing life, and the one who wins souls is wise.*
    *”The MT reads ___ (khakham, “wise”) and seems to refer to capturing (___, laqakh; “to lay hold of; to seize; to capture”) people with influential ideas (e.g., 2 Sam 15:6). An alternate textual tradition reads ___ (khamas) “violent” (reflected in the LXX and Syriac) and refers to taking away lives: “but the one who takes away lives (=kills people) is violent” (cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV).
    [explanation of how the textual variant came about]
    If the parallelism is synonymous, the MT reading fits; if the parallelism is antithetical, the alternate tradition fits. See D.C. Snell, “‘Taking Souls’ in Proverbs 11:30,” VT 33 (1083): 362-65.

    I left the citation in just in case someone wanted to dig deeper. I find both readings very interesting, and I note that neither has to do with proselytizing (or even the good of the person being “won”).

    1. The Book of Proverbs is generally categorized as part of the “Wisdom Literature” of the Hebrew scriptures. In fact, the book is titled “Wisdom” in some translations. It rather clearly has nothing to do with any Christology, Plan of Salvation, or missionary exhortations.

    1. So then you DON’T do that inside the church? Seems a bit odd to tell people as they’re leaving church that NOW they’re to share Christ and his gospel as if they’re somehow not expected to do so in the church itself.

      Although, come to think of it, that may be quite accurate.

      1. Fundies tend to think the Gospel is only for unbelievers. However, Christians also need the Gospel every day to keep us from falling into a performance relationship with God. Truth is, we Christians need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day because it goes far beyond our salvation.
        There is Sufficiency in the Gospel, Freedom from Sin’s Power in the Gospel, Resting in Christ’s Righteousness in the Gospel, Loving the Brethren in the Gospel, A Heart for the Lost in the Gospel, Cultivating Humility in the Gospel, Liberation from Self-Love in the Gospel, Mortifying the Flesh in the Gospel…and on and on.

        The Apostle Paul not only preached the Gospel to unbelievers, but also to the saints, Romans 1:15, “So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to (lit.”evangelize) you also who are in Rome.” and I Cor.15:1, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you….”.

        Sadly, your point that “Outside these walls are sinners and reprobates no matter what they claim to profess….they are not of us therefore we must proselytize them tirelessly.” is an accurate state-of-mind in most Fundy churches. To “share Christ and His Gospel” in the church itself is a strange concept to most IFB’ers.

  14. This sign is not a statement on the spiritual health of those in attendance, but a challenge to those in the church to live a life on mission. I would be amazed if any of you believe a Christian should not live a missional life.

    1. “If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it,allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be.” C.J.Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life, 20-21

      If this would be real to Christians, there would be no need for signs over church doors, for the sign would be written on our hearts.

    2. Joel what you fail to “get” is the fundamental meaning this has in fundystan. They view their neighbors relatives and friends as someone to proseletize and bring to the fundy church ritual(building the mogs revenue). Every interaction is in order to proseletize. When you shed the indoctrination and the false interpretation of proverbs 11 you can start to look at them as human beings.

    1. Interesting. If you’re not a “funds” then why do you care whether or not there’s something to talk about here or not? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Must not be much left on the Internet to read.

  15. It comes across a little bit to me like an attempt at being “holier than thou.”

    These “You are now entering the mission field” signs are relatively common in churches, but THIS church had to add, not only one Bible verse, but FOUR to the sign. It seems to say, “Our sign is better because we have Scripture quotations.” The only thing it’s missing are the letters KJV.

    (I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve seen this attitude OFTEN.)

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