February 22, 2015.
Last week we began a series that addressed two different paradigms that churches can have, through which they look at the world and the lost. Of these two paradigms, only one is put forth by Jesus. It seems that in our culture today, however, the opposite one is most often the default mode for our churches, and it is this that we need to consider. But enough with the negatives, we looked at those last week! Now let’s look at the characteristics of a missional minded church and do our best to embrace each of them.
1. Sees each person as a soul.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored,and you have entered into their labor.”
We all do it. We go throughout our day mostly self absorbed. We rush to school, to work, to practice, to wherever really, and are focused on the task at hand. Even when we aren’t focused or busy, how often do we see other people? Yes, we have friends and family who we talk and interact with, but I’m talking about really seeing them. Have you ever looked at someone and saw a soul instead of merely a body? Have you ever thought, “I wonder if they have heard the good news?”
Often in our culture we take it for granted that people know about Jesus. Even as America turns more more to a post-Christian society, we tend to think everyone has at least heard about Jesus. And, on a surface level, that may have some truth to it. But I would dare say that there are much less people who have actually heard the good news than we think have. They might have heard of a guy named Jesus, but that’s it. Or maybe they had a bad experience with a ‘church-goer’ in the past and haven’t truly heard the gospel.
When Jesus called His apostles, He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In the passage above, Jesus is teaching His disciples an important lesson about how they should see people. The disciples were focused on finding food in a town they didn’t want to be in, with people they didn’t want to talk with (Samaritans). When they came back, they were even astonished that Jesus was talking with a Samaritan woman. The disciples had only seen bodies, not souls. Jesus tells them to lift up their eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest. They didn’t even have to plant the seed, because someone else had already done that for them!
How many fields do we blindly walk through today? How much of the Lord’s work of growing goes unnoticed by His reapers? Let that question sink in. We know that it is not you or I, or any man who grows the seed in the hearts of people (see I Corinthians 3:7). We are the planters, waters and reapers. We are the laborers in His vineyard. Thus, when we don’t see the harvest, we are blind to the Lord’s work! The fields are not going to pick themselves.
A mission minded church- a mission minded Christian, for that matter- looks to see the harvest. We should all be missionaries, regardless of where we live. Though I’m sure we have heard it said many times, ‘You don’t have to go to a foreign country to do mission work,’ do we really believe that? Do you ever actually view yourself as a missionary? I believe you should.
What does it really matter, in the end? Have you thought about it that way. In the end, what will matter. Will it matter that you got through your work day smoothly, getting home at a decent hour, or that you shared the gospel with a co-worker and got home 30 minutes later? Will it matter that you didn’t inconvenience someone with an unpopular opinion at school, or that you planted a seed so that maybe they wouldn’t hold the world’s popular opinion before the Judge on the last day? In the end, what really matters? A comfortable life, or a saved soul?
A missionional paradigm looks to see the fields that are white for harvest, and knows that the harvest starts now.
2. Has a vision.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
Perhaps you have heard the passage above many times used in discussions about faith and salvation, or about helping your fellow man. But what if this verse goes beyond that? See, it is not enough to simply recognize a problem and talk about it, though this is certainly a good first step. We can’t just talk about a problem- we have to take action.
Many times have I sat in a bible class where we all came together and talked about everything that’s wrong in the world and what Christians are supposed to do, only to get done with the class, feel better and, in essence, simply say, ‘Yeah, that was good! See you next week.” A missionional paradigm doesn’t do this. A missional paradigm has a vision.
I have seen great things accomplished when a church as a group develops a unified vision for reaching the lost. Suddenly the things we talk about in class start becoming reality. Instead of just saying we need to spread the gospel, opportunities are made in great ways to bring the good news about Jesus to the lost. Ask any successful businessman- a vision is a key component to their success.
When Jesus came to this earth, He did so with a purpose. He didn’t come and just figure out everything when He came to it. The prophets testified to the mighty plan of God that was set forth from days of old. Jesus makes many statements in the gospels that are along the lines of “This is what I came here to do.” (i.e. Matthew 5:17-18, 9:12-13, 18:11-14, 20:25-28, Mark 1:37-38, Luke 4:17-21, John 6:37-40, etc.) Jesus had a vision, a mission. A purpose. We too should have a vision.
If you want to get something done, set a date. Make a plan. But always, make sure you are surrendering to the will of the Lord (see #4).
3. Is known by their love and unity.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Again, this is a passage that is well known. But did you catch the context? Jesus is talking about glorifying His Father just before He gives this ‘new’ commandment. Notice how glorifying God and loving one another are connected here. When we love one another, the world takes notice. When the world takes notice, we have the opportunity to show them the gospel.
Inevitably, when we have true love for one another, this will guide us into love for the lost souls of the world as well. This is because true love is from above, and the love of the Father is a love for the world (John 3:16). Christians should be known for their love, as this is in an of itself a way of glorifying God. And glorifying God is the drive behind a missional mindset.
The other side of love for one another is the bond of unity that comes from this love. Without unity, we will never be able to win the world for Christ. The New Testament speaks a lot about unity and the importance of it. John 17 records Jesus’ high priestly prayer that asks the Father that we all might be one. The subject of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth opens with a plea for unity. A house divided against itself will fall (Matthew 12:25). This is an important point that we need to recognize if we are going to have a missional mindset. We must place a high importance on unity and love for one another if the world is to see Christ through us. If we can’t get along with ourselves, why would those in the world want to be a part of us? If we act like the world, then we are no different from the world, and there is no reason to become a Christian.
We are not of the world. Let us prove this through our love and unity with one another.
4. Surrenders to the will of God.
“If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.”
In context, Jeremiah is lamenting over his given task. He was called to be a prophet to a people who did not want to hear his message. He had a hard message to give, one that was very unpopular, and was even physically persecuted because of his words. But he was sent by God, and even if he tried to hold his message in, he could not help but let it burst forth.
This is how we should be. The missional mindset surrenders to the will of God, even when that means that we have to go through suffering and persecution. Even when that means we are going to spread the gospel in a different way than we planned. Take the apostle Paul for example. The Lord had told him that he would go to Rome and testify there (Acts 23:11). Seems simple enough, right? But then you start reading through the latter chapters in Acts and you see the story unfold of how Paul actually got to Rome- through many trials, tribulations, and even a shipwreck! Do you think Paul ever doubted along the way if he was actually going to make it to Rome without dying? Perhaps not. But I think I would have.
Surrendering to the will of God is not easy. But if we are to do His will, then it is a must (for obvious reasons). We know that His will is for us to spread the gospel. We know it is His will that all should come to the knowlege of the truth (I Timothy 2:4). But surrendering to this will might not look exactly like we would like it to. It might mean suffering, or hardship. It might mean being placed in awkward situations. Or it might simply not be as grandiose as we would like it to be. If the Lord wants you to work at a small company and just talk to the people there about Christ, then that’s what you do. Or if He wants you to travel far and preach the word in a place that doesn’t know much about Jesus, that’s what you do. The important thing is that you are following the will of God.
A missional mindset surrenders to the will of God, being lead by the Spirit. When the apostles were being persecuted at the onset of the church, Peter and John specifically were arrested, set before the council and threatened not to speak any more in the name of Jesus. What did they pray for? Safety? Peace? Deliverance?
“ And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
No. They prayed for boldness, that they might go out and continue to speak the world. Then they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a very convicting passage for me. It shows where their mindset was, and how important it was to them to spread the good news. We must surrender to the will of the Lord at all costs, and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit.
A missional paradigm is one that is ready and willing to completely submit to God, trusting to follow Jesus wherever He would have us go. Will you follow Him?
Obviously these are not the only characteristics of a missional paradigm (as exemplified by the fact that I think I had three other ones last week that I accidentally deleted and forgot…), but I do think they are a good start. Be thinking of other characteristics of a mission mindset and how you can apply them to your own life and introduce them into your church family. Jesus has given us a singular mission. Let us put that at the forefront of our priorities and not let the business of life blind us to the fields that are white for harvest.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Suggested Reading: Matthew 5, Acts 2, Romans 14, James 2.
Let your light shine before men.