I have been saying for since the end of 2004 that I believe these first four months of 2005 are a vitally important time in the life of our spiritual journey together. We began the year talking about “revolutionary
discipleship” (what it means to be a Christ-follower). During Lent, we looked at a few of the “habits of growing disciples.” And last week, we talked about being “Easter People,” people who have experienced Christ’s resurrection power in their lives.
I believe that everything in recent months (and perhaps, recent years) has brought us to this point, where we will more fully devote our attention to being people of mission, invitational people who invite others along on the journey of following Christ.
You may recall this quote from Reggie McNeal’s book, This Present Future, that I read two weeks ago. It’s a good segue into this series:
Member values clash with missionary values. Member values are all about church real estate, church programming, who’s in and who’s out, member services, member issues (translated: am I getting what I want out of this church?). Missionary values are about the street, people’s needs, breaking down barriers, community issues (translated: am I partnering with God’s work in people?). One of these value sets will triumph over the other. They do not coexist peacefully.
So, for the next few weeks, I want to do some intensive and focused missionary training. I am not an “expert missionary.” Like you, I am a disciple/learner/apprentice, a Christ-follower sent on the mission of inviting others to come along on the journey, the mission of forming disciples. This is simply an opportunity for us to grow together. As a “lead missionary” (a leader of missionaries), my goal is to equip Christ-follower to be missionaries.
My goal is not to guilt you into embracing missionary values and see yourself as a missionary. Rather, my goal is simply to invite you to joining the Jesus revolution, participating in a missional community (a community of missionaries) in the Juniata Valley and beyond.
I want to begin by talking about God’s heart for the world, which I think has to be the starting place. As we begin to see the world through God’s eyes, we will be more likely to see ourselves as missionaries to the world.
Glimpses of God’s Heart …
- "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
- "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as
some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not
want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to
repent." (2 Peter 3.9)
We get another glimpse at God’s heart for the world in the person of Jesus Christ. There’s a great example is Matthew 9.35–38. There, we see God’s heart when Jesus “felt great pity for the crowds (i.e. he was “moved with compassion”) because the people were like sheep without a shepherd." Jesus, the Good Shepherd, loves the world and wants to be our shepherd!
Because there’s such a huge harvest to be gathered, Jesus tells us to pray for help, to pray for laborers (workers, farmers) — people that God will “send out” into the fields. I love the language in The Message: “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” I invite and encourage you to join me in praying that God will send out workers (missionaries) into the harvest here in the Juniata Valley and beyond!
Missionaries: Sent ones
God’s values must become our values, and God’s values are missionary values. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are missionaries — people who are sent on a mission! But it’s not just any mission, it’s the mission of spreading the revolution, of forming disciples of Jesus Christ!
Ecclesia (“church”) means “called out ones.” As member’s of the church, we are not “called out” to live in isolation, to be a club (even a spiritual club), we are called out for mission! Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20.21).
Whenever I think of our mission, I think of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matthew 22.35-40; Matthew 28.18-20). I also like what Peter says: "But you are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done." (1 Peter 2.9, emphasis added)
I recently read The Story We Find Ourselves In (by Brian McLaren). In it, there are some great words on mission and the missional community. Here are a couple quotes …
“So Jesus brings together this community of men and women who are called out from the crowds to be disciples, and then these disciples will be sent back into the world on a mission of expressing Jesus’ message of God’s kingdom, and helping others become disciples who will in turn help others, and so on. I guess that’s the way the revolution spreads.” (127)
“Jesus was sent into the world to express, in word and deed, the saving love of God. We, as a community of faith, are similarly sent into the world to express, in word and deed, the saving love of God. Jesus was sent here on a mission, and he said, ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ We have the mission, or … God’s mission has us.” (133)
Pope John Paul II was a great example of someone who ran the race till the very end. He was an 84 year-old guy who simply never quit! Even in recent days, he defied the advice of his doctors and recommendations of his advisers and attempted to speak to the people from his window. Even though he was unable to do so, he at least demonstrated great tenacity.
If you and I are going to be faithful to God in our mission, I believe it requires a life of commitment to God’s mission on earth. God calls and invites us to let God work through us in our world!
Maintain a heart connection with God
The journey gets difficult at times, but the key is for us to maintain a vital connection with God.
“If you’re drinking deep enough from the well, you’ll be wet enough to avoid burnout.” (Bishop Jane Allen Middleton)
God works through us. When we maintain a vital connection with God, it’s not us doing the work; it’s God working in and through us!