Understanding the Mission of the Church – Part 1
For much of my Christian life I used to think that Christian mission was to make converts. More specifically it was the telling or preaching of the gospel in such a way that people got saved and became Christians.
The trouble was that this view made me feel like a door to door salesman who was trying to sell a product that no one wanted.
I was determined to push past my discomfort. I spent a week with an evangelist in Wales street preaching. It was the most uncomfortable week of my life. The rejection, the heckling the shame I took home from my failed experiment. It tapped right into my insecurities which were looking for acceptance. My response to this was to conclude I was not an evangelist that this must be the job of specialist people.
I want to take a fresh look at the mission because I have discovered that what I thought was mission was not the mission that Jesus gave to the Church.
1. Israel’s Expectations: the rule and reign of God
Our mission is intricately connected to Jesus’ mission. Jesus’ mission flowed out of Israel’s mission. Jesus didn’t start something new.
In order to understand the mission Jesus passed on to His disciples it is important to realize that Jesus didn’t create something new. His own mission which He played out in His public ministry and then the mission He passed onto His disciples was the fulfilment of the Israel’s hopes.
Israel were looking forwards to a day when God Himself would return to dwell amongst and within his people, and that through this means the long-awaited new creation of peace and justice would be inaugurated for the whole world.
The Roman hope:
Interestingly, in many ways Israel’s expectations paralleled Rome’s hope of universal peace and harmony to the world. Around the time Jesus was born their prophets and sages pronounced an event of global proportions which would come through a divine-human figure sent by the gods whose rule and reign would bring blessing and prosperity.
Their success caesars pronounced their own divinity and sought to bring about the fulfilment of their prophetic hopes at the end of a spear.
Jesus fulfilled the prophetic hopes of Israel of God becoming King of the whole world, albeit in an unexpected way.
Israel’s stories normally confronted, not other Jews, but the might of pagan empire. No one expected God to fulfil these expectations the way Jesus did. He never lifted a sword in anger. Moreover, He died at the hands of the pagans.
The Resurrection Vindicated Jesus as God and that the kingdom of God had started
a. The resurrection was a sign that Jesus is God
Messianic ecxpectations: God’s anointed who would usher in the rule of God and who would ultimately deal with God’s enemies.
Jesus viewed as a Messianic failure:
1. He attacked the two greatest incarnational symbols of Israel: the Temple and Torah claiming that they were being now located in Himself. This suggested that He was God.
2. He was crucified at the hands of Rome.
The Jews had thought that Jesus’ outlandish claims about God’s Temple and God’s Torah had been judged because he had been killed at the hands of Rome.
The early believers, pointed to Jesus’ resurrection that His claims were true. His resurrection however vindicated that God was in what Jesus said and did, and therefore, Jesus was the embodiment, the manifestation, the incarnation of the one God of Israel.
In other words the Early Christians proclaimed that God had come in the person of Jesus.
b. The resurrection was proof that the Age to Come had arrived: Universal peace and harmony was here
But there was another claim that they made from the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was viewed as the fulfilment of the Jewish hope of the age to come.
It was the one sign they looked in anticipation for. It was to follow the great and terrible Day of the Lord when God would judge the earth and deal ultimately once and for all time everything that stood in opposition to him: sin, sickness, evil and rebellion.
Why is this important to us?
The Church viewed the resurrection as central to its mission of announcing that Jesus is God and that the Kingdom of God had started.
“Jesus is risen, therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen, therefore Israel and the world have been redeemed. Jesus is risen, therefore his followers have a new job to do.
And what is that new job? To bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical, earthly reality… Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of Gods new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” NT Wright
How does this show up in mission related activities?
Mission needs to encompass some broad themes: Evangelism, Discipleship, Justice, and Beauty
Other Sermons In This Series
March 09, 2018