Understanding Mission: An Ancient Work

In my last post, I shared the importance of clearly defining the mission of God with the people you are leading. We will not be able to get people on mission, unless everyone understands what God is doing in our world through the gospel. In the next three posts I want to share a few things that we are beginning to teach our church to help us better understand how we relate to and participate in mission.

At Redeemer, we want to be a family that understands that mission is an ancient work, we want to approach mission reactively and proactively, and we want to accept that mission happens in seasons. Lets start with Ancient Work.

ANCIENT WORK

From the moment that Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden, it could be said that God’s missionary work began. It started when he pursued Adam and Eve in the garden and provided them with clothes to cover their shame, continued to a promise that through Abraham he would bless the nations, culminated in sending Jesus into the world and to the cross, and now sits with the church that has been tasked with making disciples of all nations. God’s commitment to his glory in all the earth is the foundation of our understanding and engaging of mission. What we must first realize and digest is that mission is God’s work and it is an ancient work. We must be certain that God is committed to accomplishing his purposes and he will bring it to completion!

I think that the enemy wants to make mission feel weighty to us. He wants us to feel burdened and overwhelmed by the task of making disciples of all nations. Are you familiar with this feeling? I once went on a short-term mission trip to Tokyo, Japan and while I was there I became overwhelmed with the reality that there were millions of people in this country that had never heard the gospel in their lives. As I tried to share my faith with people I remember thinking— there is no way I can lead these people to Christ…they believe in other gods and are clueless when I try and talk about Jesus. The truth of the matter was that I was right. There was no way I could do it. But God on the other hand, has promised from the beginning of time that he will accomplish his purpose of making disciples of all nations and he is doing it and will complete it (Ephesians 1:10)!

We must learn and believe that mission is not up to us. It is something that God has been doing throughout redemptive history and he is simply calling us into. Mission is more about our obedience as disciples than our production of disciples.  We must value missional obedience more than we value missional activity. This means that sometimes we will labor and see no fruit—but that is okay because God values our obedience. Other times we will immediately be thrown into a harvest—and we rejoice because we know that God has been doing something great and we got to share a small part in it. When we view mission as an ancient work of God, rather a new work of man, it isn’t burdensome or overwhelming to us. Instead, mission becomes about journeying with God, enjoying God, and joining God in his work to redeem and restore brokenness—and that is beautiful!

Some Questions to Consider

1. Do you feel overwhelmed or burdened when you think about living on mission? What is making you feel this way? Sin, lack of equipping, wrong perspective?

2. Does the task of making disciples in your neighborhood or city seem impossible to you? Do you need to repent of thinking it is your work(a new work) rather than the Spirit’s work(an ancient work)?

3. How does the truth that God is at work and has been at work in your city relieve you of missional stress and pressure? (Our job is to investigate where we can join HIM in what he is doing. A good missionary is a good investigator!)

4. What do you (or your MC) need to do in order to investigate where you can join God’s ancient work in your neighborhood/city? Do you need to spend time praying, listening, learning stories of people who live in your area? How are you going to do this?

5. Do you value obedience over production? What if God asks you to labor for 5 years in your neighborhood without any “results”— would you be okay with that?

Understanding Mission: What is it?

One of the things that I have learned over the last few years of leading and planting missional communities is that getting people to understand their missionary identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) is challenging. This challenge can often be credited to our western culture that has taught us that we exist for self. This leads us to naturally worshiping comfort and convenience– two of the biggest obstacles to missionary work (see Jesus and the rich man or any other new testament passage for that matter). So, as we have all experienced both personally and corporatley, sin and heart idols oppose missional efforts.

But there is one other major challenge to helping Christians learn their missionary identity— a lack of understanding the mission of God. There is a good chance that there is confusion among the people in your church or MC right now as to what God is working to accomplish in the world. If you don’t believe me then ask your people next time you gather, “What is the mission of God?” and have them write down their answers. You might be shocked at the different responses you get! Therefore, it is hard to call people to be on mission together, if you are all on a different page about the mission God is on.

So…What is the mission of God?

The way we answer this question will ultimately form and shape the mission of our churches. Therefore, we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goal as God’s family of missionary servants. We also want to be careful and make sure that we are leading a church that is about what God is about.

As we think about the mission of God we want to do so with the whole of scripture in mind. We want to think about the Bible as one big story about God and what he is doing in the world. It could be said that the entire bible can be summed up in four words—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. God created man and woman in his image and gave them the command to be fruitful, multiply, and cultivate the earth. What we see in creation is God’s desire to fill the earth with his image and glory (Genesis 1:26-31). You don’t have to read much further into the story to see the fall. Adam and Eve choose creation over the creator. They choose to disobey God’s one command and in doing so sin and death fills the earth rather than God’s image and glory (Genesis 3). This is bad news for everyone. But the story doesn’t end as a tragedy; God shows his great love for his children and begins to write an epic story of redemption. He promises to create a family that he would use to bless the nations (Genesis 12:1-3). He promises a savior that would come from this family that would bring rescue and salvation through his death and resurrection. In Christ he is creating a new family, his church, which he has empowered through his Spirit and is using to bring good news to the world (John 20:21, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). And he has shared with us how the story will end—with a new heaven and new earth. Total restoration. Worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation filling the earth with God’s image and glory.

This is the mission of God: redeeming and restoring a broken world full of sin by replacing it with his image and his glory once again.

He is doing this through transforming his people in Christ and using them to bring renewal to our cities and world by making disciples. God’s mission won’t stop until the earth looks just like heaven. What a beautiful day that will be!

Now that we have defined the mission of God, we need to begin to understand our role in it. Over the next few weeks I will be posting a 3 part series titled Understanding the Mission of God that aims at giving practical handles to how we should relate, think about, and participate in the mission of God.