“Mission church” is a good example of faulty nomenclature. Not only is it faulty, it is misleading and damaging. It is misleading in that such terminology assumes there can be churches which are not “mission churches.” It is damaging for the same reason. There really shouldn’t be any difference between churches in the so-called “mission field” and churches where the Christian population is thicker, like my home town of Abilene, Texas.
In Abilene, with a church of some kind on every major street (many of them churches of Christ), you still can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who needs to hear the good news. So does that make Abilene a “mission field?” I would argue that it does. Does that make Abilene churches “mission churches?” In theory, it must. In actual practice, however, few churches in Abilene conduct themselves as such.
I think we will all agree that not all mission fields are in other countries. Churches in the U.S. send missionaries to places in this country where the Christian population is thin, such as the Northern tier of states. My definition of a “mission field” is any place where there is a mission to fulfill. So, what constitutes a “mission field?” It must be a place where people need to hear the gospel. In fact, I walked through the door of my Abilene home today to run some errands and backed out of the driveway into the “mission field.”
In these first years of the new millennium, we find ourselves moaning and groaning about the fact that churches of Christ in the West are not growing. We actually have this in common with the evangelical denominations including the Southern Baptists. Thirteen years ago, Dr. Flavil Yeakley, Jr. wrote,
The good news is that Churches of Christ are not declining as some reported. The bad news is that they are not growing and have not been growing for over 13 years. It is not that we do not know how or that we do not have the necessary resources. We have the man power; we have the money power; we have the brain power; and, most of all, we have the power of God. All that we need is the will power.
Now, another 13 years later, The Christian Chronicle has featured a series of articles asking, “Are We Growing?” In one of those articles, Rich Little and Charles Cook, had this to say: “There has been a disconnect between the doctrine of evangelism and the practice of evangelism,” said Rich Little, a minister in Naperville, Ill. “While we passionately believe we should reach the lost, we are not passionately seeking them.” Charles Cook, now working with Sunset International Bible Institute’s new branch school in Singapore says, “We primarily convert only our offspring, and only a small percentage of these are remaining active in the church as grownups. Not until the whole church again catches the evangelistic spirit … will we experience growth and retain our young people.”
Mission churches grow because their leaders understand the mission and diligently pursue it. Missionaries and their senders understand they are sent to make disciples. Unlike their counterparts in plateaued and declining churches at home, they know they are not sent to build buildings and hold “worship services.” Every person they meet, every situation they encounter is seen as a potential opportunity to make disciples and gather them into fellowships; God-powered growth results.
“Swelling” will not do. Real growth only occurs when a lost person is saved, discipled and added to the body of Christ. The process is simple: we become salt and light by living lives that adorn the gospel which is consistently planted and watered. God then causes the growth. That’s the way Jesus and the apostles did it. That’s the way we must do it.
 This is most certainly not true in developing countries. It is estimated that at least two thirds of members of churches of Christ live in Africa, India and other “developing nations.” But this illustrates the point: mission churches grow because of intense outreach.
 The Christian Chronicle, “Are We Growing?” Accessed 25 May, 2008 at http://www.christianchronicle.org/article611~Population_outpaces_church