"The Church must send or the Church will end." -- Mendell Taylor, church historian
Mendell Taylor’s “sound bite” on the Church’s obligation to send missionaries sounds poetic. It should. Taylor liked saying things so they would stick in people’s memories.
Taylor was a church history scholar. However, his interests extended beyond centuries of doctrinal development (as important as that is) and church squabbles (as fascinating as those can be). In addition to those things that church history buffs sometimes concentrate on, Taylor seemed drawn to the church’s missionary outreach and global expansion. He was a founding professor of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City where right from the start he taught a History of Nazarene Missions course. Out of that course’s content, Taylor wrote a three-volume history of the first 50 years of Nazarene world evangelism. He also authored a hefty textbook titled Exploring Evangelism: History, Methods, Theology. A significant part of that book is given to global evangelism through the centuries.
During a sabbatical semester, Mendell Taylor made an around-the-world trip. It was not a pleasure jaunt on board a cruise ship. Rather, it was a five-month long trip to visit Nazarene work in 20 countries. Taylor used notes he made on the trip to write a missionary book. That NMI reading book was titled 50,000 Miles of People, Places and Practices.
The observation that “the Church must send or the Church will end” reflects what Taylor saw in church history as well as what he personally observed. Taylor had read the Bible. He had studied church history and he knew current trends. It was clear to him that God meant for His Church to be a sending institution.
Taylor knew that if the Church was not sending people to reach the lost around the world, it would be ignoring a key part of its raison d’etre, its reason for existence. Mission drift happens to organizations. When groups such as churches distort or drift away from their original mission, they often wither and die. That is the principle that Dr. Taylor was expressing.
Taylor’s pithy sentence “the Church must send or the Church will end” is more than just a well-formed phrase. It is the truth. The Church must send or it will die. At best, a church that is not involved in sending risks turning into a beautiful mausoleum which may be pretty on the outside but is essentially lifeless inside.
-- Howard Culbertson was professor of missions and world evangelism at Southern Nazarene University, in Bethany, Oklahoma, U.S for 25 years. Culbertson, who formerly served as a missionary in Italy and Haiti, has published numerous articles, books, and chapters in books on missions.