In the late 1980s, I was serving in my first pastoral position in a wonderful church filled with people who loved Jesus and were committed to being a biblical community that impacted their community with the good news of Jesus Christ.
One of my responsibilities was to serve on the evangelism committee. We were tasked with the responsibility of developing ministries that would extend our gospel impact into the surrounding community.
I discovered that I really didn’t have the faintest notion how to invite people who did not know Jesus into authentic community where they could discover Jesus through relationship with God’s people. My main goal was to help “them” become like “us.” I had been indoctrinated in propositional evangelism and kept searching for programmatic answers to relational issues. But, not surprisingly, people weren’t interested in being treated as projects or targets.
While my approach may not have been the best, my intentions were good. After all, people do need to hear, understand and respond to the claims of Christ.
Mission at the heart
Theologian Emil Brunner once said, “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.” In other words, giving evidence to Jesus’ teaching, death and resurrection isn’t a department of the church, it is the heart of the church. It is the work of every Christ follower.
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann said the church can only really be understood in the context of mission. And in a recent Tabletalk interview, author and speaker Ed Stetzer said, “Mission is rooted in the identity of God himself. God is on a mission, and Jesus is the embodiment of that mission. Jesus identifies himself as being sent more than forty times in the gospel of John. Then, near the end of the gospel of John, he says, ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21). The church is sent on mission by Jesus. It’s not that the church has a mission, but rather that the mission has a church. We join Jesus on his mission.”
If God’s mission has a church, then our national CCMBC body, consisting of some 250 churches, is a mission agency. And Canada is our primary mission field.
For the past 15 years, I’ve heard pastors, theologians and sociologists say we’ve entered a post-Christendom era. They say the church is dying. They say that what we’re doing isn’t working. They say mega-churches are finished, that seeker-sensitive services are obsolete, and so on.
I’ve also noticed that some things haven’t changed. Wherever faith communities are filled with people who love Jesus, who take responsibility for their personal life with Christ and who gather to discern God’s will and obey the Spirit’s leading, God works through them to draw people to himself.
The question isn’t whether we’re missional, seeker, organic, big, little, urban or rural. The question is whether we’re a biblical church that seeks the face of Jesus, listens for the Spirit’s leading, lives in obedience and shares the good news in an authentic, relational and compelling manner.
Motivation for mission
Over my decade and a half of ministry, I’ve watched Christ followers from every generation celebrate passionate faith and mission. I’ve also watched Christ followers promote institutional Christianity in the most legalistic fashion.
Until our hearts are pierced by the gospel and we come face to face with our personal need for Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we will continue to do good deeds in the name of Christ without the Spirit of Christ. All mission must be “birthed” at the cross and empowered by the Spirit.
God’s call on the church is simultaneously simple and difficult. He doesn’t expect us to be cutting edge, creative or ingenious. He expects us to discern God’s will and obey his leading.
God has given each body exactly what it needs to fulfill God’s call on that church at a particular time in history. If God has a new assignment for a church, he will lead you to the resources you need if you walk in obedience to his leading.
God has given our family of churches everything we need to fulfill his calling on us as a group. But that also implies we must be willing to share what God has given us for the benefit of others – different churches and those who do not know Christ.