Values: Mission (Part 3a)

Over the past few weeks, we've talked about our values. We've talked about the gospel, and we've talked about community. Through the gospel, God creates a new community called the church. But why did God do this? Why did he call us to be his own? What on earth are we here for?

Paul says the church exists to glorify God; to live, "for the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:12; see also Isaiah 43:6-7; 1 Peter 2:9). We are to live in such a way that God's reputation is enhanced and his character is made visible. That’s the church’s purpose. But how does the church glorify God at this moment in history?

On this side of eternity, the church glorifies God by completing the mission he has given her. What is the church's mission? To make disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:18-20).

To understand the church's mission, we must examine Jesus' life and ministry. Jesus is the glory (John 1:14-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6) and image (Colossians 1:15) of God. He is the perfect worshiper (Hebrews 2:10-14), and the radiance of God's glory (Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus glorifies God! During his earthly ministry, how did Jesus glorified God? By accomplishing the mission his Father gave him (John 17:4). What was that mission? Jesus speaks of it in several places. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says that he came, "to give his life as a ransom in place of many." In Luke 19:10, Jesus says that he came, "to seek and save that which was lost." Jesus glorifies God by purchasing our redemption; by saving the lost and reclaiming them for the kingdom of God.

Before Jesus returns to heaven, he gives the church a mission. He says, "as the Father sent me, so I send you" (John 17:18; 20:21). The Father sent Jesus into the world. Similarly, Jesus send us. But there is one crucial difference between Jesus' mission and ours. God sent Jesus to accomplish the work of redemption. Our mission, however, is to testify; to bear witness to his work (see Acts 1:8). Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We exist to bear witness to Jesus, that the lost might be saved.

Everything we do should ultimately propel us outward. Fellowship is important. Praising God is important. Solid, biblical teaching is important. But all of these should (in one way or another) contribute to the mission.

The church exists for mission. But the mission cannot be accomplished apart from the church. Within healthy Christian community, people see the love of God embodied in the lives of his people (John 13:34-35; 17:20-23). Chester and Timmis say this;

Christian community is a vital part of Christian mission. Mission takes place as people see our love for one another. We all know that the gospel is communicated both through the words we say and the lives we live. What Jesus says is that it is the life we live together that counts....The world will know that Jesus is the Son of God sent by God to be a Savior of the world through the community of believers.[1]

We cannot accomplish the mission in isolation. The church gives people a framework to understand the love of God. Apart from the church, no such framework exists.

As a community, we are called to do good works (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12) and proclaim good news (Acts 1:8), that people might be saved and built up in Christ to the glory of God.

That's the church's purpose, and there's much more we could say said about it. But let's table the "what" question and tackle the "how" question. How should we, as a community, fulfill our mission? What does it look like in our context? Frankly, I'm not sure. The answer (or answers) to these questions must arise from within our community. We'll grapple with these questions on Monday within our groups. In the meantime, here are some simple, practical suggestions, courtesy of Jonathan Dodson:

Missional is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. It is our life. Mission should be the way we live, not something we add onto life: “As you go, make disciples….”; “Walk wisely towards outsiders”; “Let your speech always be seasoned with salt”; “be prepared to give a defense for your hope”. We can be missional in everyday ways without overloading our schedules. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Eat with Non-Christians. We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal invite others. Or take your family to family-style restaurants where you can sit at the table with strangers and strike up conversation. Cookout and invite Christians and non-Christians. Flee the Christian subculture.

2. Walk, Don’t Drive. If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox, convenience store, or apartment office, walk to get mail, groceries, and stuff. Be deliberate in your walk. Say hello to people you don’t know. Strike up conversations. Attract attention by walking the dog, taking a 6-pack (and share), bringing the kids. Make friends. Get out of your house! Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet, and some people.

3. Be a Regular. Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, eating out, and coffee, go to the same places. Get to know the staff. Go to the same places at the same times. Smile. Ask questions. Be a regular. I have friends at coffee shops all over the city. My friends at Starbucks donate a ton of left over pastries to our church 2-3 times a week. We use them for church gatherings and occasionally give to the homeless. Build relationships. Be a Regular.

4. Hobby with Non-Christians. Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try City League sports. Local rowing and cycling teams. Share your hobby by teaching lessons. Teach sewing lessons, piano lessons, violin, guitar, knitting, tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun. Be yourself.

5. Talk to Your Co-workers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form mom groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids. Work on mission.

6. Volunteer with Non-Profits. Find a non-profit in your part of the city and take Saturday a month to serve your city. Bring your neighbors, your friends, or your small group. Spend time with your church serving your city. Once a month. You can do it!

7. Participate in City Events. Instead of playing X-Box, watching TV, or surfing the net, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.

8. Serve your Neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, building a cabinet, fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve!

Don’t make the mistake of making “missional” another thing to add to your schedule. Instead, make your existing schedule missional.

Dodson's last point is significant. Mission is not a special subset of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. And (as Chester and Timmis say), we fulfill the mission by filling ordinary life with gospel intentionality.[2] We are called to live ordinary lives (e.g. attend ordinary events, cultivate ordinary friendships, work ordinary jobs, etc), but infuse all of life with gospel-focus. The question we must ask ourselves is not, "how can I add more things to my busy life?" But, "how do I need to adjust my life so that I'm aligned with God's mission?"

Here are some recommended resources:

[1] Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2008); 58.

[2] Ibid., 63.