To be sent back into the world is one of the critical realizations a true Christian must experience.

Lately I have been using Robert McAnally Adams’ Christian Quotation of the Day for my morning devotional guide. Today’s from H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture ends “for they are forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and practice all the things that have been commanded them.”

First, do human beings respond as God calls them to Him? If so, do they then go as commanded into the world?

But then, where? and what exactly are we to do? These are the questions of centuries of church distinctions and theological search.

To be sent back into the world is at least as challenging now as ever. There hardly exist any places today that allow us to use a one-size-fits-all approach to mission. All the cities of the world fill with diverse cultures. Increasingly, the old monocultural approaches to mission carry at least a whiff of exclusivism, and more often reek of bigotry.

People and their cultures hardly stay where we expect them to be. We turn around and there they are. Surprise! showing up in places they’re not supposed to be.

So, the call to be sent back into the world “to teach and practice” is challenging. Languages, foods, social conventions, histories, and all else used to be the specialized training of missionaries which the church then sent off. Now, urban Christians live next door to those once living far off. The battery of tests once administered to determine if a person qualified for mission experience don’t seem to mean much. Whether or not we qualify, the mission field now opens to us all on our block.

This changes the church’s curriculum. How should it look? Cultural competency, recasting again our understanding of Christ’s command to love, and a new commitment to mission that chooses to serve others as it continually rejects self-serving absorption.

“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” Jesus prays to his Father (John 17:18). Jesus calls us to him. And then, beckons us, with a gesture of the hand and a smile, to follow him: the man for others.