It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature

March 11, 2024 Joel H

Have you ever heard that line before? It’s usually used when someone can’t fix a problem and they repackage their product trying to make something that was originally undesirable into a selling point. With a clever cliché, almost anything can be redeemed: wilting flowers, glitching webpages, and even a melting economy. 

Perhaps there is something that we consider a bug that really isn’t. If that something is a part of God’s design and we are kicking against it, we might not be realizing the true value. When it comes to missions endeavors, and really any parachurch ministry, a few values often rise to the top: efficiency, cost-effectiveness, innovation, or passion. These, or many other values like these, can often be seen displayed by companies seeking to motivate their employees and customers. God in his common grace gives wisdom for people to run effective businesses. 

It should go without saying, though, that the church is not a business. Any ministry of the church – missions included – should not be primarily thought of as a business endeavor. The Apostle Paul warned against appropriating the wisdom of this world, such as having and affinity for prestige, eloquence, and power. Instead, God chooses people to be a part of the church for the sole purpose of bringing glory to himself. It is said in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29: “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Being unwise according to worldly standards, not powerful, and not noble might seem like a bug. 

So, here is the warning: when it comes to the doing of missions, the church is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Many Christians are zealous for obedience to the Great Commission, and what a wonderful gift that should not be squandered. Yet, many Christians are seeking to answer God’s call on their life independent of the church. The church can be seen as a drag, a bunch of people who don’t really get your zeal. It’s hard to work with people who have a different vision of ministry than you do. Perhaps the people in charge of the finances aren’t nearly as interested in crossing cultures with the gospel in global missions efforts. Maybe the pastor preaches from a text of scripture but skips over what seems like a clear application for global missions. These and many other frustrations creep up on the aspiring missionary who is itching to get to the field. When will the real work begin?

But maybe the real work has already begun? Maybe the people on the other side of the world are just as frustrating to deal with as people at home? Maybe they are even more frustrating because of how different their culture is. In our human nature we tend to think that the people on the other side are easier to get along with. What if engaging in the slow work with a church is exactly the kind of work that God intends for the missionary? What if our independent entrepreneurial spirit comes more from our western culture than it does from biblical methodology? 

God has designed the church to be his means of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. And the people that God has saved to accomplish this mission might not be the ones we would choose, but they are the ones whom God has chosen. And we might just find that if we follow God’s design, then he gets all the glory. Yes, it might be harder, slower, and not as smooth as you would like it. But God’s glory is worth the extra work. When it comes to accomplishing God’s purposes in this world, the church is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Read other articles in this series: Church Engagement
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Author

Joel H
With experience in missions and pastoral ministry, Joel serves Propempo with resource development and production.