I've been pondering lately how differently some of us in the youth ministry blogosphere think about the definition of "mission." I see blogs describing mission trips as opportunities to go out and preach the gospel and convert others to Christianity. Where I come from, we don't call that mission or outreach. We call it "evangelism." And I think it's fair to say that we in the progressive Christian sphere don't put near as much emphasis on "evangelism" as our more conservative brothers and sisters-- at least not the kind of evangelism that involves asking people "Are you saved?" and then explaining to them why they need to be. We tend more towards the St. Francis model: "Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words." In other words, I'm more likely to want to show rather than tell people what a life lived centered in Christ looks like.
Mission then looks more like Paul's desire to become servant to all --demonstrating the truth of Christ's teachings by feeding the homeless, caring for inner-city children, spending time with the elderly, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, growing a neighborhood garden, and so on. Mission and outreach involve the hands-on work of building the kingdom. I wonder, in the long run, if these sorts of efforts are actually much more effectively evangelistic than any Christian tract, bumper sticker, or street preacher ever will be.
Let me be clear: I know that evangelicals also put a great deal of focus on hands-on mission work. I'm just interested in the different ways we think about these terms "mission" and "evangelism." Your thoughts? --Brian