NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — When James Krabill preaches a sermon on mission, he's often asked by the hosting church which scripture he'll use as a basis for his preaching. Will it be the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20), where Jesus instructs his disciples to "make disciples of all nations" after his resurrection? Or perhaps Acts 1:8, just before Jesus' ascension, when he tells the apostles to be witnesses to him "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth?" (NRSVUE)
As Krabill explains in the fifth episode of MissionWary?, a podcast from Mennonite Mission Network, the basis for Christian mission is much broader. "I really like to start with Genesis, and then end with Revelation," he said. "Because the Bible is fundamentally, a mission book: a book of God's mission."
Krabill is a co-author of the book, Unless A Grain of Wheat: A Story of Friendship between African Independent Churches and North American Mennonites, and has spent most of his working life connected with ministries in Africa and North America. In the podcast excerpt below, he explains what Christ-like mission can look like.
"You can trace the good and bad streams of mission history by how far people embrace or remove themselves from Jesus," Krabill said. "The way Jesus went about carrying out his ministry is just so helpful, because more often than not, he would start with people's present needs."
Krabill explained that Jesus' readiness to answer hard questions, feed the hungry and heal the sick is central to the idea of contextual mission: the gospel meeting people where they're at, instead of forcing them to change.
"God becoming flesh and living among us is the biggest statement about mission," he said. "It means God came into our world, ate our food, walked our streets, slept in our beds, shared meals with people, and then sent people out to do the same."
Krabill cited the ministry of William Wadé Harris, a Liberian evangelist who traveled the coast of West Africa and invited people to faith. By building on the traditional wisdom that was already in place in the cultures and communities Harris ministered to, "he had an enormous impact," Krabill said.
"As historians tell us, in 18 months, Harris baptized between 100,000-200,000 people, based on what I would call appropriate contextualization: building on things that were already there.
If you actually think that this is God's mission and not yours, then you believe that God is already at work in a culture before you show up. And Harris came with that perspective, he built on that, and the impact was enormous."
MissionWary? is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Learn about the complex bond between service and mission, where the call to mission comes from and how stories of mission become the history of mission. To view the complete episode list, click here.