Here’s the final part of our theme over the past week or two. Scanning through Part 1 and 2 would obviously help clarify Part 3 of a message I preached at a World Missions Conference in our city a fortnight ago.
BASIC 5: GOD’S PEOPLE ARE ‘A MISSIONAL [INCARNATIONAL] PEOPLE’ [MK. 1:17b-18]…
As Jesus commits himself to Simon and Andrew, they commit to follow him: v. 17b-18, “‘I will make you fishers of men (people).’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” [addendum to sermon: a beloved missiologist used to ask his students, ‘Where is God?’ They would suggest all kinds of answers like ‘in eternity,’ ‘he’s omniscient,’ etc. The lecturer would listen, and then add ‘God is going into his world’]. Jesus was and is on a God-given, incarnational world mission. A little later in Mk. 6:6ff we read how Jesus, having apprenticed the Twelve from village to village, sends them out ‘two by two’ [true ministry always happens ‘ex-community’] with divine authority into Galilee and beyond: “‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff… Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town…’ Those first disciples obeyed their Master and “went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (v. 12-13) as confirmation of Christ’s kingdom message.
Later, John in his gospel-account, records how the risen Jesus appears to his disciples, greets them with a repeated ‘shalom’ and then makes the all-important statement (Jn. 21:21), “‘As the Father has sent me (that’s definitive), I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…'” (v. 22).
Bonhoeffer wrote that Jesus came to make us ‘human.’ God wants to see human-beings, not ghosts who shun the world! [some Christians I know seem so super-spiritual they kind of glide a meter above the ground, they speak a ‘Christianese’ only they can understand, etc]. While we are clear that God never condones a ‘worldly’ (selfish, materialistic) spirit, he doesn’t call us out of his world but in fact sends us into that world he intends to redeem. Jesus’ is calling today for many, many ‘non-worldly,’ Spirit-indwelt ‘market-place disciples’ (who begin at home). [while not part of my message, the following appeared in my notes: I have often told the story of how God called me at age 63 to work with the poor and young. I had read a statistic somewhere that 80% of the world was poor and young. So I launched out in faith. You may object that that in today’s materialistic world very few seem interested in hearing and knowing about Jesus. A bit of advice, look for people on the ‘fringe’ (as Jesus did), and start ‘being Jesus’ to them. It could involve shack-dwellers, the elderly, hungry children, prostitutes, etc.] Returning to Bonhoeffer’s call, our youth today are looking for human Christians, real people, authentic people, relational people, whom they can follow! [as I looked at the youth in the front rows, they were nodding their heads in enthusiastic approval: two talked to me afterwards about informally mentoring them]
Are we incarnating Jesus? Are we a missional people? [additional to my sermon: I have never understood so-called ‘organic churches/house churches’ that only look inward]. Quite literally, in a post-modern society you may be the only ‘Bible’ people would ever read (cf. 2 Cor. 3:2, we are God’s letter, ‘known and read by everbody’).
So there you have 5 ‘drawing-board basics’ for God’s Church in a time of crisis. At the end of the day, it’s not about returning to ‘basics’ so much as returning to a person, Jesus.
By way of application I have to make the point that many who have listened to me today may be tempted to respond by deciding to ‘try harder,’ i.e. in prayer, witness, etc. That route is doomed to failure! May I persuade one and all to focus rather on ‘the mystery of the Christ within you’ (Lk. 17:21, ‘the kingdom is within you’) (Col. 1:27, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’): read about it in Jer. 31:33-34, Eph. 1-2, Col. 1, Phil. 4), and then live it out to the glory of God!