Am I called to missions?

Well, I’ve come to the end of the semester and we are finishing up our Missions class.  It certainly has had a profound impact on me these last 13 weeks.  And I suppose the most obvious question is:

Am I called to be a missionary?

missI think, through my previous posts, that I have fleshed out the difference between Mission, Missio Dei and Missions.  The question I am dealing with here is the latter.  Misison and Missio Dei are really the same idea and as Christians we are all called to God’s mission.  (For more see this post).  But for me I have to ask whether or not I am called to missions, that is going to the unreached people of the world, or at least going one-two cultural barriers away.

 

And the answer…drumroll please!

I don’t know.  But I really appreciated how Dr. Childers’ ending class.  He gave us a realistic picture of what becoming this sort of missionary might look like.  And usually, it is a long process.  So where do I go from here?

Prayer, as always.  But beyond that I think it is actually getting my feet wet.  I’d like toprayer go on a short term mission sometime soon and get to experience what this might look like.  In God’s providence I’ve made some new friends who are missionaries and perhaps a day is coming where I could visit them and perhaps even bring others with me.

This is an important question for us to consider.  There are vast scores of people who have never heard the gospel and we ought to be burning to bring it to them, whatever that looks like.  But a couple issues arise.

(1) Perhaps the most penetrating is that you cannot commend what you do not cherish.  There it is plain and simple.  The best motivation for bringing the gospel to others is our vast love for it.  Because we have been so radically changed and freed, why wouldn’t we want to bring that great news to others.  So an obvious answer is to dig deeper into the gospel ourselves.

(2) At least living in America, there is the constant threat of comfort and dare I say it, entertainment.  We can become all too easily distracted here.  TV, Movies, Video Games…we could go our whole lives without ever really thinking of other people.  This is the danger of living in America, but it is not beyond the life-changing grace of God that comes in Jesus Christ.  I’m praying for this, for myself, a constant vigilance against the American Dream.

With that I close this blog series and pray that God would work in my heart, and that he would work in yours, to be open to whatever work God might call us to, wherever he might call us, and whenever he might call us.

Thank you, Dr. Steve Childers for beginning to open my eyes and grow in my heart a Holy Passion for the Nations.

-justin

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So what is Mission?

Indians-dancing-at-Mission-HN000275aWhen I hear the word missions My mind almost immediately conjures up images of distant and remote tribes needing to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but is this the biblical image?  Is it only the most dedicated Christians who go over seas?  Can you be an authentic Christian without a radical commitment to missions? These are a few of the pertinent questions that need to be answered if we are to adequately understand what the bible means by mission.

Mission isn’t what we do, it is what we are

Missional is a term used today to describe a lifestyle of Christianity.  You may have even32534 heard the phrase being on mission.  These are not new concepts.  They have a new attractiveness because as Christians in American culture we have forgotten what it means to be a Christian.  John Piper urges us that we can’t be committed to Christ without being committed to his cause.  He says that a persons “commitment to missions is the measure of the authenticity of your theology.”1

I’ve struggled with this identity of doing verses being a lot for the last few years.  We so often want to make missions about something we need to go do.  But the true understanding of mission is that it is what we are by virtue of knowing the God of the Bible.  John Stott says “God centered theology is always missional because God is a sending God.”2

God has been sending from the beginning.  He sent Adam and Eve to cultivate and create culture (Gen 1:28-27, 2:15-17).  He sent Noah and his family in to the Ark.  He sent Abraham to the promise land.  He sent the Israelites out from Egypt and back to the Promise Land.  He sent Israel to be a light to the Nations.  He sent His son to save the world and the Son and the Father send the Spirit to bring about his Kingdom.  God is a sending God because God is a giving God.

mission-signMission is simply knowing God and being so changed, so radically transformed and awed by his beauty and greatness and splendor that you can’t help but tell others about him.  I’ve heard it explained this way.  When you first fall in love with someone, don’t you talk about them all the time.  Don’t you want other to meet them, to get to know them the way you do?  This is how it is with God.  When we know him, i mean really know Him, we love him, and when we love him we pray prayers like the Psalmist did.

So if we are not feeling a radical commitment to mission and we believe that we are Christians what do we do?  Run to Him, run to the Cross, run to Jesus  and plead with him.  That you might know him more, that your heart would be changed.  Dive into hisjesus word and be transformed.  Pray that the Spirit might come in to your heart to change you.  The problem is we all to easily take our eyes off of Jesus’ glory and turn them in on ourselves and we live anxious lives worry about our needs, rather than trusting God’s grace, goodness and provision, and giving ourselves to others just as he did just as he did.

 

1John Piper, RTS MIssions Lectures

2 John Stott, Missions Class Notes

The enduring faith…

We read a fascinating article earlier semester about how Christianity has outgrown each of the cultures that it has thrived in over the last 2000 years.  The Article discussed 5 major eras: Jewish, Roman, Viking, Saracens, and Western.  What emerged was a fascinating picture of just how unique and universal Christianity is.

Jewish Era (0-60 AD)

It is always important to remember that the first Christians…all of them were Jews.  With the outpouring of Pentecost the faith started to spread far and wide.  With conversion of Paul, who was to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) and with the monumental events of Acts 10-11, with Cornelius’s conversion and the Gentile inclusion, Jewish Christianity was in crisis.  Was Jewish custom, culture and Law to be required of Gentile believers?  With the history-changing decision at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Christianity forever severed it’s full Jewish heritage and truly became a religion of all peoples everywhere.  Jewish culture, law and tradition could not keep bound the radical message of Christianity.  Christianity had been de-judaized and the message adapted to the Roman World.

The Roman Era (60-400 AD)

And so Christianity spread well beyond the borders of Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea, indeed it was going to the ends of the world.  Rome, in that day, was the center of the world.  And as the Christian population grew over four centuries it became a formidable force.  And with Constantines’s Edict of Toleration in 313, persecution ceased and hardships eased.  Christianity would soon become a state religion and would be synonymous with Rome.  But this proved to be detrimental to its identity and its mission.  With Christianity popularized all of a sudden there were hundreds of thousand nominal Christians.  In order to continue its expansion to the ends of the earth and not be bound by imperial boundaries Christianity needed to be de-Romanized.

The Barbarian Era (400-800 AD)

As Rome officially fell in 476 AD, the Roman world became more susceptible to attack and it was eventually overrun with Goths and Barbarians from the North.  And what happened was that “within a short time, the conquerors were conquered by the power of the gospel, as some of the barbarians who invaded embrace the faith of those whom they had overthrown.”1  With the Intitution of Church on the rise, monasteries start to spring up all over the place.  The Celts were perhaps the most influential monks of this era as the brought their message far and wide.

The Viking Era (800-1200 AD)

And then came the ferocious and swift attacks of the Vikings.  Their tactics allows them to cover great distances with speed and they reeked havoc on most of Europe.  Yet little by little these captors were attracted to and turned by the Faith to become believers themselves.  It was also during this time that Islam rose to a World Religion.  Muslims soon controlled most of the Middle East and were heading north and west in expansion.

The Saracens (Muslims) (1200-1600 AD)

With the disaster of the Crusades, Christianity’s vibrancy looked dim.  With the Reformation came new life and vibrancy to Christianity.  When Luther had translated the Latin Vulgate into german vernacular he essentially de-latinized the gospel, and it was again available to the common tongue.  This had huge ramifications on the Faith.  And would help spawn a new age of missions.

The Age of Great Advance (1600-2000 AD)

The way was now paved to take the gospel far and wide and pillars such as William Carey did just that.  And the gospel was taken again to non-western nations.  This trend is continuing even today as a majority of vibrant Christianity has now shifted to the south and to the East (South America and China).  And so what we are witnessing now is the de-westernizing of the gospel.

So throughout each era, and throughout each culture, Christianity has survived and even has thrived.  Why?  Because the message of the gospel is truly radical and truly boundless.  It can speak into every culture in every time, because it is a timeless work.  The Word of God is not bound by any man, by any culture, or by any institution.

 

*Blog post based on the Article “As the Waters Cover the Sea: His Glory Expands to the Nations” by Robert A. Blincoe from Pathways to Global Understanding, YWAM Publishing; Revised edition (December 12, 2007)

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The importance of worldview…

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Do you ever wonder what it is, under the surface, that is driving all of your actions?  Your fears, your beliefs, your decision making processes?

In short, it is your worldview, and we all have one.  Our worldview answers these four questions:

  • What is real?
  • What is true?
  • What is right and wrong?
  • What do we do?

Notice the last one: what we do.  It is important to first understand that we do have a worldview, then to understand what our worldview is, and finally to see how our worldview plays out practically in our daily lives…because it does!

evolutionFor example, if you believe that evolution is the sole reason we are here, devoid of meaning or ultimate cause and/or driving force, then ultimately you end up with a life that is meaningless.  And if you believe that your life is meaningless it gives you permission to whatever you want, because you are living for now.  And in the end it ends in despair, because deep down inside we all know, we all want to believe that we were made for a purpose.  Frederick Nietzsche is perhaps the prime example of this line of thinking.  He believed in what is called nihilism which basically teaches that we come from nothing and to nothing we return, therefore all of life is meaningless.

Nietzsche was famous for declaring that God was dead, and was admired by many, but263px-Friedrich_Nietzsche-1872 how did he life end?  Most people don’t think about that.  Nietzsche died in an insane asylum declaring that he himself, was the crucified one.  In the end this is no way to live.

This worldview can allow you to do atrocious things to others because ultimately they are meaningless as well.  Communist and atheist, because they don’t believe in God and don’t believe in meaning, this allows them to perform all sorts of human atrocities.  So we can at least admit that religion isn’t really the source of all the world’s atrocities.

Most of us don’t think through the implications of what we believe.

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In other major world religions, Islam, Judaism and some forms of Christianity, who do affirm a God and do affirm a day of judgment is coming.  Your can life become abouttrying to do more good than bad, so as to earn there way into heaven rather than hell.  But this can end up putting you on the performance treadmill which results in a life of constant anxiety and bondage.

But only Christianity presents a truly unique worldview.  Christianity does affirm God, does affirm a Judgment day, does affirm the existence of Heaven and Hell.  But only Christianity teaches that God became a man, and died for our sins and earns for us the right to go to heaven, freeing us from all the burdens of performance and from the despair of meaninglessness.  Christianity, among al the world views, present us with the most cogent, and attractive way of living.  Because we can live lives as truly free people.  Only Christianity has a mechanism for change in our hearts that truly results in a transformed life.  In a life that allows you to freely love God and love others without need for recompense.

In order to bring the gospel of grace into others lives, we need to understand their worldview.  Because Jesus is the truth, he speaks into every situation, and every worldview at it’s most fundamental level and offers a better way.

Three Aspects of God’s Mission.

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What is God’s Mission?  Well, three verses can give us this answer, they are Genesis 1:27-28, sometimes called the Cultural Mandate, or Creation mandate, and Matthew 28:18-20, known as the Great Commission, and finally Mark 12:29-31 (Deut 6:4-5, Lev 19:18) known as the Great Commandment.  These three together give us the most comprehensive picture of, not only what Christians ought to be doing, but what all of humanity ought to be doing.  Let’s take them in succession.

The Cultural Mandate

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  – Genesis 1:28

Vitruvian-Man-Leonardo-da-VinciHere we see the most overarching purpose of humanity, as given by God.  Humanity is to be fruitful and multiply, that is make babies, fill the earth and have dominion over all things.  Fill it with what?  People, ideas, arts, cities, technologies, ingenuities…etc.  Have dominion over it?  That is rule over it, take responsibility for it, steward it well.  The interesting thing is that this is known as building culture, and we have been doing it ever since God issued this command, albeit imperfectly, as a result of the fall.

We are constantly creating culture.  In America, we prize ingenuity, creativeness, the entrepreneurial spirit.  One only has to look as far as Apple, or Google, or Amazon to see one aspects of God’s command playing out.  But they same principle pays out in the average home.  We are constantly improving things.  We upgrade our kitchens, our bathrooms.  We take care of our lawns.  We buy new furniture.  We upgrade our phones, our computers.  Computer Programmers are constantly creating new ideas and new apps.  This is a great thing.

Now of course, because of sin there is a dark side to creativity.  As with anything, it can be used to promote great good and the betterment of society, or it can be used to promote sin and destructive ways of living.  The internet is one great example of this.  It is a beautiful and very useful thing, but things such as pornography destroy people’s sex lives and sexual identity.  This then leads us into the second part of God’s mission, the great commission, which encompasses the redemption of all things.

The Great Commission

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus sends out his disciples into the world, empowered by the greatest creative beingGreat-Commission in the universe, the Holy Spirit.  The essential task of the disciples is to go…and as they are going to make disciples, that is spirit-filled followers and lovers of Christ, baptizing them, that is inclusion into a church community, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded them.  We’ll come back to this last point.

Now essentially what happens when a person is converted, or regenerated, or born again, or born from above is that he is reconciled with God, through Christ’s vicarious live and atoning death.  But there’s more.  Jesus not only dies for sins, but he rises again to new life, to live to God and he sends his Spirit into his people and they are made into a new creation, forever united to Christ (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 6:1-4).

Now what was lost in the fall, namely loving and trusting obedience to God and his cultural mandate, can again start to be re-created.  For the first time, a new believer, can obey God from the heart (Eph 6:6, Rom 6:17).  The believer, now no longer has to find his identity in how much he accomplishes, or how much honor he brings to his family, or how obedient he is to society.  He finds his identity in Christ alone, and is given His perfect life.  This at last frees him, to truly live a free life (Gal 5:1, John 8:32).  He can now bask in the sovereignty and love of God and fearlessly follow his will, trusting in God for everything.  This is an amazing thing.

He can at last start to fulfill the Cultural Mandate in a way that is God honoring, and even when he fails his failures are covered by the blood of Christ.  And he knows that when Christ returns, he will complete the work.

Now then, how are we supposed to live?  God has told us what to do, but how are we supposed to do it?  To this we turn to the third part of the Great Commission and the third aspect of God’s Mission, the Great Commandment.

The Great Commandment

29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

lovegodpeople1When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he said that it was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  If one were to ask how you could boil down all that Jesus taught us to do, you might give this same answer.  And so when we ask what it means to obey all that Jesus has taught us, we can conclude that it is at least encapsulated in this great command.

And here again we see the connection with the reality of redemption.  It is only when a person is reconciled to God and given his Holy Spirit that he is truly able to love in a way that is selfless, because he doesn’t need the love or approval from people.  Because he has God’s love, the most important love and the deepest need of all or our souls, he is free to truly love others.  John  teaches us that, we are only able to love because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19).

And so the great mystery is revealed.  When one is asked what we are to be doing the answer is two-fold.  We are too be making disciples of Jesus and we are to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.  We are to fill it with God-honoring, Christ-exalting, spirit-filled image bearers of God.  And we are to be the type of people that deeply love God and deeply love others.  And this is only made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s presence.

We cannot separate these three aspects they are intricately related.  All of these fall under the rubric of the Missio Dei. (mission of God)

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A conversation with Islam

islam_christianityToday in Missions class we did something truly remarkable…and truly unorthodox.  Our teacher invited in a devout Muslim to engage in discussion.  Honestly this was my first real engagement with a Muslim since my friend Azeem in high school.  What transpired was truly helpful as we got to peer into the mind of a Muslim and how he thinks about the world and we also learned about the nature of Islam.

As he was sharing and answering questions I found myself able to see where these different world-views really bump up against each other, that is, where in our practical life that it makes a difference what you believe, if you live it out.  With regard to Islam there are at least three major distinctions that came out of today’s conversation.  The Nature of God (trinity), The Nature of Sin, and the identity of Jesus.

1.  The Nature of God, The Trinity

I suppose this is a no-brainer.  But Islam lives by the motto, “there is one God and Muhammad is is prophet.”  A muslim would tell you that there are three great God-02Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and that they are all monotheistic.  While there is some obvious truth to that, Christianity is more of the fulfillment of Judaism.  That is, gentiles have been grafted into God’s covenant people via faith in Jesus’ work.  Islam, in some ways seems to be a reaction to Christianity and specifically to the nature of the Trinity.  It is a mystery, no doubt, how Christians believe God is one, yet three persons.  But we must leave it at that, a mystery, by its very nature is unexplainable.

Islam, would also have no conception of the Holy Spirit and His work.  Basically, in Islam, it is all up to the individual to decide, even so spurred on by education and the teachings of Islam.  At least, in Reformed Christianity, turning to God and choosing him is only possible after the work of the Holy Spirit coming in an changing a persons heart.  In Islam, you are left to just yourself, in Christianity God comes into your heart to save you and change you.  You are never left to yourself.

One final element in the nature of God is his transcendence.  In Islam, God is utterly unknowable in a personal way.  There are 99 attributes of God, or names of God, some of which are justice, mercy and compassion.  But there is no such personal relationship as there is in Christianity, where through the Son, we are made sons of God.  Only a Christian can call God father, and know him in such a personal an intimate way.  All others religions may know him as Creator, or Sovereign for example.  But only in Christ are we said to be his children.

2.  The Sin Nature

sinThis is also a major difference between the two religions, and, in fact, Christianity may be the only religions that teaches the idea of not only original sin, but its consequence, total depravity.  A muslim  would teach that people are born pure and are only held accountable after they reach puberty and understand the rules.  Christianity however, teach that from Adam’s sin on down to our present day that we are tainted with a sin nature, in that we sin by both nature and choice.

According to Christianity, we are all born into sin, and are unable to choose and love God and thus incapable of doing good, and eve if we do ‘good’ we are unable to do it with God honoring motivations and intentions.  Now I realize, that this also is offensive to the secular mindset and so Islam may have some advantage there.  But the beauty of Christianity is that we are sinful, and dark and evil, yet God’s grace through Jesus is all the more astounding and our change at regeneration and through the rest of our life all the more magnificent.  But Islam does believe in a Judgment Day, which isn’t so acceptable in the secular mind, but your life is spent trying to do more good works than bad and banking on God’s mercy on you on the judgment day.

But for the Christian, God’s mercy and grace has already been given in Christ, by his perfect life (which by the way is the requirement), so we can live our life in full assurance of the blessings of the age to come.  Islam, can offer no such assurance, only a hope.

3.  Who Jesus is

Here is a really tricky one because if you were to ask a Muslim if he believes in Jesus hejesus-resurrected-ray-downing would say yes, of course he does.  The real question is, “which Jesus do you believe in?”  They do believe that Jesus was a prophet and he is highly honored as such, but they do not believe in the Jesus presented in the gospels.  They do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, God incarnate, come to die for the sins of the world and rise for her justification.  When pressed on what the gospels do teach, they would say that the Christians scriptures have been corrupted and attribute a lot of the confusion to Paul’s teaching.  But when one looks into the nature of the scriptures, their creation, preservation and propagation, we find a different story.  The gospels are reliable.  And so the bottom line is that, though they say they believe in Jesus, it is not the same Jesus.

Conclusion:
So it was very helpful to see some of these distinctions between our religions and make no mistake they make a difference in how you live your life.  Granted that even as a Christian we struggle mightily with sin and truly loving people and loving God, but we can always look to the Cross and rest assured that we truly are his, because as Jesus uttered on the Cross…”it is finished.”  We are able to live free lives, free from the fear of punishment and consequences of Sin that will come on the last day.

You cannot Commend what you do not Cherish…

Is there any more concise way to sum up the Christian life?

John Calvin was right, we are Idol making factories and the Idol we most fashion exasperatedand we most bow down to is our self.  Oh, that we (I) would be free from the tyranny of self.  We so often are preoccupied with what we need to do, what we ought to do.  We run around as Christians -as those who have been freed from the Law, freed from to-do lists, free from performance treadmills -as though we were still bound to the law as a slave, as thought we need to earn our worth and status, as though our performance determines how well we are doing.

The reality is the Christian life is so much better.  Author and Pastor, Tullian Tchividjian puts it this was,

“To stop obsessing over if we are getting better, is what it means to get better”

Oh how quickly we turn from the source of all joy and satisfaction and turn to our own efforts.  I want to be free of this.  And the truth is the less we are focused on our self and the more we are focused on the glories of King Jesus, the more we will actually fulfill His desires for us and for others.

That’s why this quote is soooo crucial.  You want to talk about mission?  Missions? Evangelism? Community Groups? Church Structures?  What is the only thing we really need to do?

Fall more deeply in love with Jesus.

When we bask in the freedom of the gospel, in the magnitude of God’s grace towards us, we cannot be unchanged.  We begin to cherish Jesus and cherish his mission because we have been so deeply changed.  And this is a gift in and of itself, a work of the Holy Spirit.

And so how can we become more missional?  How can we become more concerned with the lost?  Is it by more programs or more money diverted to these causes?  Perhaps, but there is a deeper solution still, and it is no secret.

cakeThe solution is to know, love and enjoy God more.  From this will stem a true desire for God and for his purposes in the world.  Only when we truly cherish God can we commend him to others.  It’s like sharing a great movie with someone, or sharing a delicious piece of Cake.  We say, hey man you gotta try this…it’s delicious.

That is the heart of mission, that is the only true, enduring and lasting motivation that will indeed bring God’s kingdom on Earth!

Six Marks of a Movement

6In Steve Childers’ Missions last week we completed our broad sweep of missions throughout the history of the Church.  In this overview emerged six marks that reveal a healthy God-honoring, mission  focussed, gospel centered movement.

1. Personal Conversion
In the movements we looked at that made a significant impact personal conversion was always stressed.  We need to make sure that we don’t have a group mentality but that each member of our church has in fact been converted.  What we are battling against is nominal Christianity.  We want people that love Jesus and want to perpetuate His message of grace.  That only happens when one is truly converted, and that only happens when one receives the Holy Spirit.  Craig Ott puts it this way “Mission passion fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit is the locomotive pulling the train of Christian mission.”1

2. Taking sanctification seriously.
Or taking one’s walk with God seriously.  If one is converted and indwelled with the Holy Spirit he cannot remain stagnant because the Holy Spirit isn’t stagnant.  Overtime one’s love for God and His mission will grow.  Along with that obedience will grow and joy and trust in God’s character.  When we don’t encourage this sort of lifestyle we cut the legs out from under a deeply rooted faith that is necessary to propel us into risky endeavors to bring the gospel of grace to the ends of the earth.

3. God’s Word to us
The Bible both recounts all of redemptive History and speaks directly to our hearts.  This maybe seen as one’s devotional life, but the fact is the word of God is nourishment of our souls.  When we are regularly in it seeking to hear from God and be changed it will keep us balanced on the gospel.  It will speak to our hearts in moments of despair.  It will fuel the fire for missional zeal.  And it will remind us that God is in charge and because everything we want and need we already have in Christ, it will free us to serve him with everything that we are.

4. The Kingdom of Priests
Here the emphasis is that role of laity is active not passive.  Each believer is indwet with the Holy Spirit and is responsible to learn His voice, trust His leading and not quench Him.  The church is not the Lead Pastor or elder team, the church is each and every member.  The Pastor and elders are in place at God’s discretion to love and lead the body in Godliness.  Their job is to equip the saints for the ministry (Eph 4:12), we are those saints!

5. Societal and Cultural Transformation
If the people are being radically changed individually then this will inevitably lead to cultural and societal renewal.  When the values of a people are changed it is reflected in all areas of life.  We should be intentional about this as well, this is part of the ministry of the saints.  Some will be uniquely wired and gifted to impact different elements of society.  This should be encouraged within our churches.

6. Mission is stressed to the ends of the Earth.
There is no way around it.  You cannot claim to love God and not love the things He loves.  God loves people, He loves them so much that He sent His son to die for them, so that they could be His people.  God’s heart is given to us by the Holy Spirit.  It may take time, and that’s ok, but eventually the Holy Spirit will reveal His work in his church by there being an intense passion for the lost of the world.

Whatever your context is these are penetrating questions, yet very simple.  History can teach us so much about the present if we will take the time to learn from those who have gone before us.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, are these six things manifesting themselves?

 

1. Ott, Craig (2010-05-01). Encountering Theology of Mission (Encountering Mission): Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues (Kindle Locations 149-150). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Theology, Spirituality, and Mission

fruit-bearing-580x333What makes a healthy Christian?  In my Missions class this week we learned that these three are vital to a healthy lifestyle:  Theology, Spirituality, Mission.

 

Spirituality could be defined as being deeply devoted to Christ Jesus and the spiritual disciplines to grow in His grace.

Theology could be described as a love of learning and a life of learning.  We ought to always be hungry to know more of God.  Jesus says in John 17:3 that ‘knowing God is eternal life.’  We will spend an eternity getting to know an infinite God.

Mission can be seen as a great passion and zeal for those not yet saved.  God’s grace never stops on us, but changes us and then flows through us into others.  This looks like a lot of things, one of them being a love for the lost and a deep passion that others would know the God you know, and experience His grace and be saved.

This is a very helpful way to break down the Christian life.  When a movement gets going these three things are always present.  All of these must be kept in a healthy balance, if one is lacking then our walk will be lacking.  But when these three are held in tandem and practiced the result could only be joy.

Yet the truth is all of us will have propensities towards one of these.  Are you heady andring do you love theology?  Do you love to study and beef up on knowledge?  Then Theology is your bent.  Do you constantly think about evangelism and winning others to Christ and discipling people?  Then your bent is mission.  Do you love to pray to God and sit and meditate on his truths?  Do you yearn for others know God more deeply and thoroughly?  Then your bent is Spiritual.

The great truth is that God has wired us all differently, yet when we come together harmoniously, not out of envy, we operate as a healthy body, and healthy things grow. Ephesians 4:15-16 gives us the best description.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. “

Let us strive, then to this end, together.  Keeping an eye on all three of these important elements.

 

Should we even do mission?

coexistSome would claim that trying to convert anyone to a religion is “arrogant, bigoted, or intolerant”1, others reject any single universal truth claim, still for others, missions is viewed as a form of imperialism, or that missions destroys cultures.  Some look to the Crusades and claim that it is because of missions that so much blood has been shed.  Others see any form of fundamentalism (including Biblical Christianity) as extremist and dangerous. Finally, some may even claim that there are already too many Christians in the world, why in the earth would we need more.

Criticisms and challenges abound against the idea of Christian Missions.  I might even add to the pile from within the Christian community as Missions being hard, or dangerous, or that there is already enough to worry about in my life, who has time to worry about missions.

Craig Ott in his book Εncountering a Theology of Missions confronts these claims head on.  He claims that the idea of mission(s) is rooted far more deeply than just a particular culture, religion or people.  He asserts that Mission arises from the very nature of God.  He says that, “Mission must start with the very person, plan, and character of God himself as revealed in the scriptures.”  (This, of course, assumes that the God revealed in the Scriptures, is the real and true God.)

Ott says that mission is fundamental to who God is, because God is the creator of everything and therefore is a universal God.  There is nothing that is outside of his godcontrol or authority.  If we are to believe in God, this undoubtedly would be the sort of God we’d have to believe in, or else He isn’t much of a God.  Therefore, God is not just the God of a particular people or religion, if He is God, He is the God of everyone and everything.

The God of the universe then, is also an intentional God, and has a particular plan for His creation.  Because His authority and control extend over everything, so to then does his plan, and thus it is a universal plan.  What is His plan?  That His creation, climaxing in the creation of humanity, would be His people, and He would be their God.  The only problem is, humanity has rejected both God’s authority and control.

Therefore God’s response, isn’t to blot out humanity from the face of the earth, which He has every right to do if he is in fact Creator, but rather His plan is to pursue humanity and go to great lengths to demonstrate His love for them by becoming a man Himself, identifying with all our struggles, resisting temptation, joyfully obeying God in every moment of His life, and then taking upon Himself on the cross the banishment and punishment that we all deserved by turning from Him.

Through this single act of Judgment and Mercy He opens a way for us to be reconciled to Him.  He sends His own spirit into our very beings to change us at the most heartfundamental level so that we too could joyfully respond to and obey God, the creator.  This is only made possible when our eyes are opened to see the truth for what it is, we have turned away from the only source of life and chosen death.  We are sinners in need of a savior and that savior is Jesus.

Although Christianity has been called the most exclusive religion, it is simultaneously the most inclusive religion.  For through Christ, the way is open to every ethnicity, nation, color, language and people on the face of the earth.  God’s open hand extends to the end of the earth.

Why did He do it?  Love.

“Mission has its origin in the heart of God. God is a fountain of sending love. This is the deepest source of mission. It is impossible to penetrate deeper still; there is mission because God loves people” – David J. Bosch.

God is bringing about His original intent that humanity would be His people, and that He would be their God.  God by His very nature is a sending God.  God, the Father, sends the Son.  God, the Father, and God the Son, send the Spirit.  And God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, send the church.

Once you grasp the universal scope of God’s mission, you cannot be unchanged.  God has a purpose and it is issuing from His deep heart of Love.  Ott gives us five practical implications of a proper understanding of God’s mission:

  1. Assurance That Mission Is God’s Prerogative and Undertaking
  2. We Can Confidently Proclaim the Gospel to All People
  3. The Person of Jesus Christ Must Remain Central to Both the Method and the Message of Mission
  4. Mission Must Be Undertaken in Dependency on the Power of the Holy Spirit
  5. We Can Be Encouraged and Inspired to Renew Our Commitment to Mission

 

*Credit for this content is mostly due to Craig Ott in his book, Encountering a Theology of Mission, Chapter 3, “The Justification of the Mission”.  This was reading done for Steve Childers’ Missions class.