Reading these verses, can we agree that Jesus had something in mind for His church? In every recorded instance of His last words, Jesus called those who believe in Him to action, to service, and to mission.
For years, as Southern Baptist we have identified ourselves as mission-minded. Basically this has meant that we support the Cooperative Program we do and should do. Through our gifts, we support mission in North America and around the world, (OMC). In recent years, we have taken another step in our mission’s involvement with Mission Trips. In the last 5 years, we have sent people to Mexico and Mississippi. Again, we do and should do (even more) of this. However, in the context of scripture, it would seem that Jesus intended believers to be home missionaries. This means, wherever you and I go, whatever we do, and whatever we say, we are His ambassadors, His spokesperson, and His representative. In simplistic terms, this is what is meant by “becoming a missional church.” Do you see yourself as a missionary? A missionary is one who is on a mission. Are you on a mission to help bring people to God?
Now some are saying, “I don’t think I signed up for this.” Yet, I will submit that at the point we place our faith in Christ, He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us and as surely as the believers in Acts were filled and became missionaries at home, so the same happens today. It is divinely expected.
In his study, “Your Church: Experiencing God together,” Henry Blackaby calls the local church, a “World Missions Strategy Center.” This means we support missions with our money and we see ourselves as missionaries for the Lord in this place.
If this is the case, why has the church been so silent about it for so long? Aren’t the old ways good enough for us? When we say “the old ways”, we are really alluding to the way things have been done in our lifetime, (100 years or less). Let me offer us words which may help us to understand how it was that the church got off track—and maybe we haven’t had a chance to get things right.
We read, study, and know what the Bible says in the book of Acts about the early church. They began in the upper room with the anointing of God. Quickly they grew to a multi-staffed, mega church of over 3000. They had no buildings to care for, no budget to speak of, and literally were rotating meeting places between the temple complex and small groups in homes. They had nothing of what we think is important. They simply began as a movement. This people who claimed to know Jesus were considered renegades, rebels, even heretics because they based they entire existence on the premise that Jesus was alive and made a difference in the lives of people. They met daily, but everyday they were going about their normal lives and in the process other people were being drawn into the group. The only thing these believer had going for them was that even their opponent could see that “they had been with Jesus.” This was the apostolic church. They had no publicity except word of mouth & impact of lives. Church in this manner went on for approximately 300 years.
In the 4th Century, the emperor Constantine had an experience in which he claimed to be saved. The result was that he decreed that all in his Kingdom must be baptized and that all the pagan temples be turned in to church buildings for Jehovah God. For the first time, people who were simply born in the Christian empire claimed the right to receive the blessings of the church and expected to have the rights and privileges equated with this status. Some historians call this Christendom. Does this sound familiar? It is no surprise that the under Christendom, the church has lost its sense of mission. Since everyone born in the Christian nation was basically considered Christian, why did we need to be missionaries?
Can you see how this has impacted us today? This is why the average church member believes in “missions” on the ‘home & foreign’ field, but fail to see themselves or their church as missionaries in the land.
During the Apostolic age, believers were considered aliens and outcast, but Christendom changed that. The church which started as a movement, became a monument.
Here is a word for us: Christendom is crumbling and because it isn’t built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, it will not be rebuilt. If there is to be a tomorrow for the people who claim Christ, it will be because believers look intently and honestly into God’s word and, once again become the movement which rocked the world. This will require us to make some changes, both personally and collectively. The changes are difficult because they deal with deeply ingrained concepts developed over a lifetime. Yet, looking at God’s word, gives us some help. Let’s look at our Acts passage and find 4 steps to make this change.
1. Appropriate our authority.
2. Accept our assignment.
- Many of us can quote 2 Corinthians 5:17 and yet we stop our reading there. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-20) As an individual we have been given an assignment from God. We are His Ambassador. An ambassador does not set policy or purpose—they merely fulfill the responsibility given to them by the one whom they represent. Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so send I you.” Think about the sending authority and the assignment.
- Jesus says, “As the Father sent me.” This was not an ambiguous order. Jesus the Son knew what He had to accomplish. Then, “So send I you” is not spoken to preachers, leaders, and those we call missionaries; it is spoken to you! One problem of Christendom is that we refuse to accept our assignment. In military terms, we are either insubordinate or AOL!!
- Remember the “Mission Impossible” shows? Your mission, should you choose to accept it. However, God simply expects us to be on mission for Him every day. It hasn’t occurred to God that a redeemed person would refuse to share life with those who do not have it. This requires us to;
3. Adjust our approach.
- To be missional is to understand our culture & respond like a missionary would respond. Look at the screen and let’s answer a few questions; How is our culture changing? It has changed from churched to unchurched. Increasingly, the church has become isolated from the world rather than engaged in the world. How does the Christendom church respond? It loses its relationship to the culture & develops a maintenance mentality, kind of a “circle the wagons” concept. How does the Missional (apostolic) church respond? It keeps a Kingdom & Gospel focus to transform & engage the culture. The Missional Church like the apostolic church is designed for those yet to come. This is a radical adjustment to the approach of modern day churches and believers.
4. Act on our answer.
- The story is told about three gold prospectors in California during the gold rush. They struck a rich vane of gold!! They had to go into town and stake their claim. The three agreed not to tell anybody about their stake. None of the three told anyone anything. Yet, when they returned to their gold mine, they were followed by throngs of people. Why? Because of their body language, the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces. It gave them away.
- This represents the heart of the missional church and community. Will you act on your decision?