When it comes to missions, churches often use the language of who is “going” and who is “sending.” Rarely is there a conversation about who is staying. It’s a new paradigm, perhaps even an uncomfortable one. Maybe the misunderstanding begins with the Church’s perception of missionary work itself. We are quick to consider missionaries as those called to a foreign country, ministering to people of different languages and cultures. However, is this truly what it means to live life on mission?
Merriam Webster defines a mission as “a specific task with which a person or group is charged.” Being a missionary begins not with the jungles of Africa or the rising towers of a mosque–but with Jesus’s specific task to His followers: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In essence, this task starts in us as followers of Christ.
With this task in mind, the Missions Ministry at Bellevue organized a missions trip to its very own city, Memphis, Tennessee. Ross McGregor, Bellevue’s Local Missions Pastor, shared, “Our city needs the Gospel and needs to see the tangible love of Christ shown through His Church, and we wanted to rise to that occasion.” As Ross sees it, Memphis is the mission field of Bellevue Baptist Church, and from this thought, Mission Memphis was born.
For weeks, you might have read, “Mission Memphis is a short-term missions project to our city that will incorporate multiple ministry opportunities with varying start times, durations, and locations.” However, as designed by Ross and Missions Pastor Ben Taylor, this event was more than just a project. It was created as a catalyst for Bellevue members to answer the call to live on mission within their community, serving and sharing the Gospel as a part of their ongoing lifestyle. Ross shared his hope for the trip, saying, “Beyond Mission Memphis, we wanted people to see how easy it is to be on mission for Christ–every day, every week, for Him–the way that we are supposed to be.”
Looking back on Mission Memphis, we must ask, did the event accomplish the goal? Did Bellevue pursue the specific task laid out for us through the Great Commission?
Ross shared three things he believed would qualify this missions trip as fruitful. He wanted to “know of people who had been saved, felt the love of the church, and had their needs met.” Surveying volunteers after a week of service, the results showed that the trip was fruitful. As story after story poured in, it was evident that God was working through His missionaries in Memphis.
A team rolled into the south side of Memphis on Monday morning to serve at Peppertree Apartments–one of the under-resourced communities in our city. After months of prayer and planting relational seeds, the team found Peppertree residents open to hearing the Gospel through a Vacation Bible School, door-to-door evangelism, and a women’s Bible study. A Mission Memphis participant named Brent explained the importance of sharing the Gospel in all communities throughout Memphis. “Jesus said to go all over the world and share His message. We need to be out here sharing Jesus with whoever will listen.” Even by Tuesday afternoon, the team had interacted with several people who chose to invite Jesus into their life. Through Mission Memphis, the message of Jesus was shared, and the souls of our neighbors were brought into abundant life.
Hannah Elise, a volunteer at Highland Heights, shares the love of Christ by prioritizing relationships. She had the unique experience of returning from a mid-term missions experience abroad to then serve with this missions trip within her hometown. Hannah Elise revealed, “Whether you’re here in Memphis or beyond, ministry is based on relationships. Your goal is to know and love on the people.” At Highland Heights, Hannah Elise shared the love of Christ by showing up and leading her Vacation Bible School students through crafts. Sometimes, it takes just showing up to love those in our city.
Roz, another volunteer, conveyed the physical needs being met through Mission Memphis. She served on sorting day for the School Supplies Giveaway and was honest about the genuine needs they were meeting. “Backpacks are expensive, and we are meeting this physical need.” However, Roz did not lose her eternal perspective throughout the cumbersome task of sorting through thousands of donated school items. She shared that we can “open hearts and minds to the Gospel by meeting a physical need.” With 497 children registered to receive backpacks, Mission Memphis met the physical and financial needs of our neighbors. Through meeting tangible needs, doors were opened to meet spiritual needs–this week and beyond.
On paper, Mission Memphis was a fruitful event. The Gospel was shared, the Church ministered through the love of Christ, and physical needs were met. However, it remains to be seen if Mission Memphis will be a catalyst for lasting change within our community. Will Bellevue embrace Memphis as their mission field and take the Gospel to the four corners of this city? A final thought from Ross may inspire, “We think that the Lord will use Mission Memphis as a watershed moment for ongoing missions in the future.” It is Bellevue’s prayer that this is so, but it is up to us as followers of Jesus to rise to the occasion. So, church family, where does spiritual awakening begin? It starts in us!
Learn more about investing in your city’s redemption by visiting bellevue.org/missions.