"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 in ways that 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 world evangelism efforts. 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. From that course's content, Taylor wrote a three-volume history of the first fifty years of Nazarene world evangelism. He also authored a hefty textbook titled Exploring Evangelism: History, Methods, Theology.1 A significant part of that book is given to global evangelism through the centuries.
During a sabbatical semester away from the seminary, 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 missions work in 20 countries. Taylor used notes he made on the trip to write a book. That Nazarene Missions International mission 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. (More on mission drift)
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 becoming a mausoleum that may seem beautiful on the outside but is essentially lifeless inside.
That image calls to mind the words of Revelation 3:16: "So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of my mouth." It also evokes the strong words of Jesus to Jewish religious leaders of His day: "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." -- Matthew 23:27.
There is an antidote. As some unknown author wrote, "The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a missionary diet."
What Mendell Taylor said has been echoed by others:
Mendell Taylor's powerful phrase, "The Church must send or the Church will end," is a stirring reminder of God's mandate for His Church to engage in world missions. At the core of the Church's essence is God's call to spread the Good News everywhere. Sadly, churches are not immune to the problem of mission drift that often affects organizations. When churches drift away from their central purpose, they will find themselves ineffective and lifeless. In short, churches must see themselves as senders, commissioning and supporting missionaries to obey Christ's Great Commission.
-- Howard Culbertson,
1Note: In addition to books dealing with evangelism and missions, Taylor also wrote two devotional books: Every Day With the Psalms and Every Day With Paul.