We Are The Church (Part 4)
What do you think of when you read or hear the word ‘mission’, what images come to your mind?
You might imagine small huts in remote jungles of South America or see a row of African woman wearing colourful robes, lined up for a photo – kind of like the ones we see on the news when they show us stock images over a story about tribal Africa. Or maybe when you hear the word ‘missions’, you see yourself filling in another offerings envelope at church!
For some of us, the word mission mighty just suggest a place that’s geographically far away from where we call home. Now, I believe, to a degree, that this imagining might be based on ways of thinking from some decades ago; and the reality is that we’re now a bit more savvy to what mission actually is. Possibly though, I might not be too far off the mark when I think that some of us in the Church jump to those images I listed above in our minds when we talk about mission and believe that, in fact, missions are really just something for the missionaries.
But missions – maybe best thought of as ‘living on mission for God’ – is not only for the few who leave or sell all their possessions and move to a faraway land. According to God’s Word, missions is for every believer. We don’t need to work in a church or travel to another country to be a missionary. Every Christian can and should be a missionary, regardless of our vocation or our location; everyone everywhere needs to hear the Gospel, that is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
14 But how will people call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher (messenger)? 15 And how will they preach unless they are commissioned and sent [for that purpose]? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” – ROMANS 10:14-15 (AMP)
In this Chapter of Romans, Paul, the author of this book, has been explaining to his readers the basics of salvation.
He gives us answers to questions we all have at some point:
What is salvation? Salvation is a right relationship with God by grace through faith (Romans 10:4–8).
Who is salvation for? It’s for whoever will believe Jesus died and rose again and will confess Him as their Lord (Romans 10:9–13).
How can salvation be shared? Someone has to go tell people about the Gospel (Romans 10: 14).
In verse 14 Paul turns his theological discussion into an appeal to his readers, that’s those reading his letter back then, to us reading now.
He asks a simple, but profound question: How are people going to believe the Gospel if they never hear it? To believe it, they have to have the opportunity to hear it, and someone has to take it to them. In verse 14, the Greek word, ‘kérussó’ which has been translated into “preacher” literally means a “herald,” a “proclaimer”, or as it says in the Amplified version I quoted from, a “messenger”.
No one can hear a message without a messenger sharing it. All of us who are Christian are called to proclaim the Good News that we’ve seen and heard – and experienced – for ourselves. That’s every one of us, no exceptions, no timeouts, no comebacks, and no excuses! Our primary purpose, as believers, is to share Jesus with the world so other people can get to know Him too.
In the movie, Forrest Gump, there is a scene where Forrest and his platoon are under severe attack in a heavy combat zone. In this scene, you are shown Forrest repeatedly risking his own safety to save the lives of his friends, especially his good friend, Bubba. No one could ever call Forrest selfish. Throughout the movie, we see Gump just giving what he had. In this clip (which you can find HERE) he risks his life to help those he cares about.
This is a very powerful illustration of how serious our task is in reaching those who are lost, those that through sin are metaphorically injured and dying – if not literally so. But like Forrest does with Bubba and his platoon, we’ve just got to keep going back into the war zone, back to save the lost kids that God loves, despite the cost to ourselves.
This is God’s purpose for keeping each one of us on Earth and not taking us immediately to be with Him in Heaven once we become His. Our mission is to keep going back to find our Bubbas and to share Jesus with them so they might be rescued from sin and into a relationship with God. We all have been given a mission by God to advance His Kingdom and get back His lost children.
Most of us will never become a world-renowned evangelist. 98% of us will never be called to full-time – salary reliant – vocational church ministry. But we are all called, to share whatever it is we do have: be a witness of Jesus and to testify of our own experience with the living God, to proclaim what we know is true in order to do our part in rescuing a fallen world.
God’s mission comes back to primarily using the local church to find the lost and advance His Kingdom. It says in verse 15 of Romans 10 that no one will go and share unless they are sent to do so. So who does the sending?
The answer is that it’s us, the local church, the ground-level operatives who live right here among the natives. It’s our job to send one another, to train one another, to encourage one another to keep getting up and going back out there. And to help one another discover our gifts and our unique ways of proclaiming the Good News, the news that has meant life or death for every one of us who believe. When we do, we will find that the ancient prophet quoted in the verse from Romans was right: we indeed have beautiful feet when we are running with a beautiful message.
Ballet dancers clearly pay a high price to be the best at their art. I’ve watched some videos online where the dancer’s feet are so worn, beaten, and to be frank, the toes look wholly bent out of shape. Professional dancers, I read, often refuse to let other people see their feet outside of the dance studio. All that suffering and preparation so that they gain mastery of the art of movement is pretty cool. I’m not a ballet fan, but I admire and respect the lengths they go to which enable them to perform their craft to an amazing degree.
Here’s a thought, maybe professional dancers have an alternative standard of beautiful feet – the more worn, the more battered, the more honour they feel they have brought to their performance.
God paid the ultimate expense – the life of His only Son – in order to achieve the restoration of His lost children to Himself. I think that we should also be willing to get our feet “messy” (by going and sharing the Good News). Messy feet are truly beautiful by God’s standard.
I love the statement a ballet dancer says at the end of THIS clip, “Dance with your heart and your feet will follow.” If we choose to love the lost like God loves them and if we allow our heart for the broken to line up with God’s heart, then our feet will follow, and we will want to do all we can to bring them into His Kingdom. There is a cost to living with God’s mission placed above our own selfishness.
Many Christians around the world put their lives at risk just by owning a Bible. For those in closed countries, such as Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Sudan for example, to share the Gospel with a neighbour might mean punishment, imprisonment or even death. At times, I think, some of us in the UK Church can get a little stressed when we feel that doing anything to reach the lost might risk our convenience, our comfort, or our ‘busy’ schedules. Our challenge, together, is to embrace God’s mission over our own selfishness and put aside our fears and distractions.
When I have stepped out I have discovered that the reward of partnering with God is worth the cost. On a personal level, I’m not sure I do this enough, and I want to do more. I hope we all recognise the same challenge – we can all do more. A Christian life is not primarily about us; it’s about God’s mission and that is scary, but it is selfless.
If you’re a Christian, can I ask you to take a moment to think back to your own salvation story?
When did you hear about God’s unrelenting love for you and the cost He paid to get you back? What if no one had gone out of his or her way to share the Gospel with you? Invited you to a local church gathering, or a small group. How would you have known about Jesus and how He gave his life in order for you to find yours? What would your life be like now had you never heard and, therefore never had an opportunity to believe
In your life and mine, someone must have let go of their “me” to make room for God’s mission. Someone must have let go of their “me” to teach or invite you to that Christian foundation class such as Alpha or Christianity Explored. To serve at that youth or community event you were at, to welcome you into their home for dinner, to pray with you in a time of need – and that was the entrance of your encounter with God.
We’re surrounded by people who are living without God, today. As believers, it’s our responsibility, our privilege, our calling to pray for them to be saved, to share with them, to invite them to a local church gathering, and to tell them our own testimony of a real God who really loves us.
You don’t have to be a professional in order to tell someone what Jesus has done for you.
Ask God to open your eyes to see the people around you in life who need to know Him, who need the hope that can only be found in Him. Start practising sharing your testimony with anyone who will hear it. Begin praying for those in your own family, in your workplace, in your neighbourhood who you know need the gift of salvation. Pray for God to give you an opportunity to share Jesus with them in a real way.
Then, take it when it comes.
“Go on a mission trip. Walk next door.” – Evangelist J John (Twitter post, November 2016)