Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

Part 5 of series: The Mission of God and the Missional Church
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In my last two posts I summarized the mission of Jesus. In a nutshell:

1. Jesus was sent by God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news.
3. Jesus was sent to enact the good news.
4. Jesus was sent to form a community of the good news.
5. Jesus was sent to consummate the good news through His death and resurrection.

By dying upon the cross for our sin and by rising from the dead in victory over sin, Jesus fully activated the good news. We can now be reconciled to God and live forever in unbroken fellowship with God. We can begin already to experience the new creation, even as we wait for the complete renewal still to come (2 Cor 5:16-21). Yet the once-never-to-be-repeated work of Jesus in dying and rising did not finish His ministry on earth. That ministry was to continue through the community of His disciples whom Jesus sent to complete His work.
The writer of Acts of the Apostles, the same Luke who wrote the third gospel, begins His account of the early Christian mission in a most curious way:

Dear Theophilus: In my first book I told you about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he ascended to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1).

Luke says that his first book, the Gospel of Luke, shows us “everything Jesus began to do and teach.” Acts of the Apostles, therefore, must be the chronicle of that which Jesus continued to do and teach through those who believed in Him and were filled with His Spirit. The book of Acts of the Apostles might better be named: The Acts of Jesus through His Apostles.
The end of Matthew’s Gospel makes this same point in different language. As the disciples of Jesus gathered around Him after His resurrection, He said:

I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:18-20).

Jesus sent His inner core of disciples into the world for the purpose of making more disciples. These new followers of Jesus would not only believe in Him, but also would obey all the commands Jesus gave to His first disciples. The second generation of disciples were to make more disciples, who would make more disciples, who would make more disciples, and so forth until all nations are filled with disciples of Jesus. (In the picture to the right, the Blues Brothers are “on a mission from God,” or missio dei in Latin. HT: Tall Skinny Kiwi)
We who believe in Jesus are somewhere down this chain of discipleship, perhaps a hundred links or more from the original command to make disciples. As disciples or apprentices of Jesus, we are called to do that which He commanded to His original team, such as:

Go and announce . . . that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received! (Matt 10:7-8).
Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34).

But, whereas the first disciples were to minister only among their fellow Jews while Jesus was on earth, after the resurrection they – and we – are sent out to all nations. Jesus explained this sending quite succinctly: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).
We who follow Jesus are a sent people, even as Jesus was sent into the world by His Heavenly Father. We are a community sent on a mission together: to keep on doing the ministry of Jesus so that all people and all creation might experience the reconciliation of God. God has designed the church of Jesus Christ to be a “missional” fellowship. The word “mission” comes from the Latin word missio, which means “having been sent.” Since we have been sent to do God’s work, we are a “missional” community together. (For a thorough treatment of the church as “missional,” see Darrell Guder and Lois Barrett, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.)
Christians have often used this language differently, to identify as “missionaries” those whom we send to far away places to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Thus, these so-called missionaries are doubly sent, having been sent by God and by the church. But this language has sometimes obscured the fundamental missional calling of the whole church together and every individual member. If we think of ourselves primarily as sending others away to do “missions,” then we may forget that we also have been sent by God into our particular segment of the world to fulfill God’s mission right where we are.
For example, I rejoice in the fact that my own church has a long history of support for many “missionaries” who serve throughout the world. We have always cared deeply about “missions,” thank God! But at times we have overlooked our own mission right on our doorstep. From God’s point of view, we have been sent to Irvine, California to be a disciple-making community. We have been sent to continue the ministry of Jesus, to proclaim and to demonstrate the good news that God’s reign has come through Jesus, and to invite people to be reconciled to God. If we support “missionaries” without being “missional” ourselves, then we have fallen short of God’s call to us. (For this reason, we have tended to leave behind the word “missionary” in favor of the more accurate “mission partners.”)
In my next post I’ll speak more about how God equips and empowers us for His mission in the world.

Part 6 of series: The Mission of God and the Missional Church
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In my last post I showed that Jesus sent His followers into the world to replicate His own mission of making disciples. We who follow Jesus are to make more followers of Jesus.
It’s easy to accept our charge to do the ministry of Jesus without really thinking about what we’re doing. “OK,” we might say, “That’s just fine. We’re to do the ministry of Jesus. Great!” But when we stop and think about it, we have accepted an astounding and overwhelming mission, one that is seemingly impossible. If we take seriously our sending by Jesus to do His work, our hearts should pound and our knees should knock. How, in heaven’s name, are we to do what He did? Given our manifest human limitations, not to mention our sinfulness, how can we do the works of the divine Son of God?
Doing the ministry of Jesus is a bit like climbing Mt. Everest. This mountaineering adventure is so demanding that it almost exceeds human capabilities. The vast majority of people who attempt to climb Everest never make it to the top. The physical challenges associated with scaling this peak include miles of strenuous hiking, thousands of feet of climbing, negotiating glaciers and treacherous ice fields, and fighting the most extreme weather conditions on earth. Perhaps most difficult of all is the lack of oxygen near the summit of the mountain’s 29,028 feet. This region is called “the Death Zone” because of the harrowing conditions, especially the dearth of oxygen. If you and I were flown to the summit of Everest right now, we would pass out in a few minutes, and die shortly thereafter. There simply isn’t enough oxygen there to keep our bodies working.
Most climbers must use bottled oxygen to survive the ordeals of climbing Everest, though an increasing number of people climb without it. How is this possible? Through the wonder of acclimatization the human body is able to adapt to extreme oxygen deprivation. If you take enough time at high altitude, your body will adjust to the limitations of the air. So, climbers of Everest hike to base camp at “only” 17,000 feet. There they must wait for several weeks, making only short forays to higher altitudes. If they wait patiently, eventually their cardio-vascular systems will be empowered for the challenge ahead. But waiting is the key. If they rush ahead, the climbers will fail, and most probably die. Even bottled oxygen won’t help them. (Picture to the right: Tenzing Norgay, who, along with Edmund Hillary, participated in the first ascent on Everest.)
In a similar vein, the risen Jesus instructed His first followers to wait before beginning their mission of spreading the good news:

And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven (Luke 24:49).

No matter how enthusiastic the first disciples might have been, no matter that they had spent three years with Jesus and had conversed with Him after His resurrection, they were not yet ready for the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical challenges of proclaiming the good news of Christ to all nations. They had to wait in Jerusalem until their preparation for ministry was complete.
Yet, unlike climbers being acclimatized on Mt. Everest, the disciples were not waiting for some natural process to ready them for their assignment. They needed “power from heaven” and nothing less. Without God’s own power, given through the Holy Spirit, no one can successfully do God’s work on earth. In a sense, the wind of the Spirit is like the bottled oxygen that enables climbers to reach the top of Mt. Everest. And, though a few can scale this peak without additional oxygen, we cannot ever succeed in our mission without the Spirit. But don’t despair! If you have put your trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, then you have already received the Holy Spirit. You have an unlimited supply of God’s oxygen! Unlike the first disciples in Jerusalem, you do not have to wait for anything. We have been empowered. We have been sent. We are ready to go.

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