We want the church to remember that there is something worse than death and something better than human flourishing. If we hope only for renewed cities and restored bodies in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.
A "missional fog" has descended on the church, turning everything into mission and neglecting the spread of the gospel and the multiplication of disciples and churches.
Watch the video. Do the exercises. Read these three excellent articles. The only way through the fog is to stay close to what Jesus did, what he trained his disciples to do, and what the risen Lord continued to do through the church in Acts.
- Twelve Theses on the Church’s Mission in the Twenty-first Century — Andreas Kostenberger
- Mission: A Problem of Deﬁnition — Keith Ferdinando
- What Makes Mission Christian? — Christopher Little
UPDATE: A good book on Biblical foundations for our mission. The Kindle version is on sale for $6.77.
While you're there... on sale for $1.59.
NT Wright is probably the leading New Testament scholar of our generation. He's certainly the most prolific. After examining the Ressurection of Jesus here's what he concludes is central to the church's mission:
Thus the church that takes sacred space seriously not as a retreat from the world but as a bridgehead into it will go straight from worshipping in the sanctuary to debating in the council chamber— discussing matters of town planning, of harmonizing and humanizing beauty in architecture, in green spaces, in road traffic schemes, and (not least in the rural areas, which are every bit as needy) in environmental work, creative and healthy farming methods, and proper use of resources.
If it is true, as I have argued, that the whole world is now God’s holy land, we must not rest as long as that land is spoiled and defaced.
This is not an extra to the church’s mission. It is central.
Politics, town planning, architecture, green spaces, traffic flow, environmental work, farming methods, proper use of resources? Really. Central? This is what Jesus did? This is why he died and rose again? This is what he sent his disciples into the world to do?
Turn the fruit of the gospel into the gospel itself, and we lose the gospel.
What did Jesus do? What did he train the disciples to do? What does the risen Lord continue to do in the Book of Acts? Keep that central.
Ask five missiologists what the mission of Jesus looks like today and you’ll get six different answers. One of them will have two opinions.
Every profession is a conspiracy against ordinary people.
Who’s word guides us today in pursuing God’s purposes in the world and for the world? The traditions of men or the example and teaching of Jesus and the story of what the Risen Lord did through his followers in the Acts and the Epistles?
Missional is a tired and weary term.
What counts is not endless missional conversations, books and blogs. Jesus’s teaching and example counts. The teaching and example inspired by the Risen Lord through the Holy Spirit counts. All else is speculation. The chasing of wind.
Follow the stories.
Lately I’ve been thinking (with a lot of help from John Frame) about the living word of God as the foundation for movements that multiply disciples and churches everywhere.
The God of the Bible is a God who speaks, and when he speaks things happen. He speaks to us personally in ways we can understand. He speaks with authority as our Creator and King.
Faith is hearing the word of God and doing it.
Jesus was both perfect God and perfect man. He was the Word of God speaking the very words of God with authority. He is the Son of God submitted totally to the Father’s will.
Jesus speaks what his Father teaches him (John 8:28; 10:18; 12:49–50; 14:10; 15:15). His words are God’s words. As a man he lived in surrender to the Father’s will. He obeyed the Father’s word (John 5:36; 8:42). He did nothing on his own authority. He only spoke what the Father gave him.
Jesus obeyed what the Father told him directly and he obeyed the written words of God in the OT. He acted and spoke in a way that fulfilled Scripture (Matt. 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 26:54).
He broke with some Jewish traditions and interpretations of the OT, but Jesus treated the OT as the authoritative words of God. The whole of the OT bears witness to him.
Obedience to his word is the criteria for discipleship. Those who hear his words and obey are like the wise man who builds his house on the rock. His mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21). True disciples are not ashamed of his words (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).
Our love for Christ is shown by our obedience to his commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:7, 10, 14; 17:6, 17).
More to come on how this relates to movements of multiplying disciples and churches.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between the dynamic word of God and the rise and fall of movements.
A few years ago I was struck by the way Acts is built around summary statements about the word of God multiplying, spreading, and growing in strength. In a multiplying movement, the word was doing the work.
I've been reading John Frame's Doctrine of the Word of God. Here's a few ideas I gleaned. More about their implication later.
God speaks. When he speaks things happen. The universe comes into existence and his sustained by his word. His words are more than sounds. Through speech, God creates, sustains and shapes reality. Jesus the Word is the embodiment of everything God is.
God speaks to us as one person speaks to another. God speaks so we can understand. This is how God has revealed himself to us in Scripture. His speech and man’s response is what drives the story of redemption forward.
When God speaks, he speaks with authority as our Creator and Lord. Our response should be to obey him from the heart.
God creates the first man and woman through his word and gives them the mandate to fill the earth and subdue it. He speaks and sets a limit on their autonomy. They are not to eat of the fruit. God’s word is at stake. God speaks with clarity and authority and expects them to obey. They need no other reason than his command. Obedience brings blessing. Disobedience brings judgment.
History is the story of our response to God’s word.
Faith, in both Testaments, is hearing the word of God and doing it.
God spoke to the first man and woman with clarity and authority. They chose not to obey. They placed themselves above God’s word. They wanted to be their own gods. Judgment came, mixed with mercy.
The story of the Bible the story of God who speaks clearly and personally, and people who respond with obedience or rebellion.
Faith, in both Testaments, is hearing the word of God and doing it.
To love God is to hear his word and obey it (John 14:21).
Related: The God Who Speaks (1)
A few years ago I was working through the Book of Acts when I struck by the repeated references to the Word of God. Not just a written text, but an active player in the story. In Acts, the Word grows, spreads and multiplies. Wherever the Word goes new disciples and churches begin popping up.
The Apostles are not the main characters in the book of Acts. The Word is. Luke ends his account with Paul under house arrest, facing trial. Yet despite Paul’s confinement, the Word continues to spread unhindered.
Luke doesn’t tell us what eventually happened to Paul. Acts isn't about Paul, it’s about the spread of the Word bringing salvation, discipleship and churches—everywhere it goes.
Since then I’ve read Acts with new eyes. It’s the living Word of God that propels his mission forward. God is at the centre. He is a God who speaks and his speech is not just words, but a living Word that makes things happen.
This is at the heart of what it means to multiply disciples and churches.