Over the last several weeks we have been learning about our identity, purpose, and call as the church. So far in our “Who are We?” series we have learned that we are what we confess (in Romans 10:9-10), we are greater than the sum of our parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), we are exposed by what we do (Galatian 6:7-10), and we are a product of what we are willing to invest for the kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). Today we are going to learn that in answering the question “Who are we?” we must consider that we are people of mission. When I say “mission” I’m talking about the mission of God that is articulated in places like Matthew 28:19-20-“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Though the mission is clearly articulated in the scriptures (see also Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Rom. 10:13-14), many believers today do not live as though they are a part of this glorious enterprise. Instead, many live like they are on retreat. Many so-called Christians today trade adventure for passivity or sacrifice and service for comfort and security. Instead of playing offense, they are perfectly satisfied exclusively on defense. However, when Jesus told Peter, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18), he envisioned hell as powerless against a robust offense, he assumed courageous action would be required, and he intended for mission to be at the forefront of the church and her people.
Therefore, in an effort to remind us of what our mission is, explain how our church is supposed to carry it out, and inspire us to action, we are going to peruse several verses today (carefully expositing each one). These passages will define and explain each of the components of our mission as a church (to see people Know Christ, Grow in Christ, and Show Christ to others). This reminder of our mission will have us looking beyond our walls to see those who are yet to be a part of the kingdom of God and considering how we can reach the lost with the gospel of Christ. Consider this quote by William Tyndale: “The church is the one institution that exists for those outside it.” But what about discipleship? What good is discipleship if it does not result in disciples making new disciples? What about fellowship? What good is fellowship (really) if those outside the church are not being invited to experience it? What about preaching? What good are the messages preached if they are not applied in our everyday lives and shared with those outside the church?
It is my prayer that as we reexamine our mission, we will turn our gaze outward and might be equipped through God’s word to extend our worship experience outside the walls of this church in the real world among those who are without a relationship with Jesus. After all, this is our mission. This is our adventure. This is our calling.
I. PHASE #1: KNOW (The Seed falls on Fertile Ground)-John 20:26-31
Phase 1 of the mission is KNOW Christ. In John 20:26-31. we read the account of someone who was not easily convinced that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Although we could make a compelling case that this account only teaches how we shouldn’t doubt, I believe that it also teaches us how God is pleased to provide more than enough evidence of Himself to doubters and skeptics in order that they might be know something about Him. Thomas, as a result of this encounter with Jesus Christ, knew Jesus in the purist sense—in a deep and meaningful salvific kind of a way. “My Lord, and My God” is the exclamation that highlights the climax of John’s Gospel as He works to show Jesus is indeed God Almighty in flesh.
Knowing Christ is a theme throughout the New Testament that must be echoed in churches today, in this church today. If we want to be a church that is on mission, we will concern ourselves with bringing people to encounter Jesus Christ and experience His love so that they might Know Him in the same way Thomas came to know Him. This is the first phase of the mission.
John’s account continues with “Therefore, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these things have been written…” (John 20:30-31a). What was true of Thomas and true of everyone who comes to know Jesus is that they have responded positively to some sort of revelation. Revelation is, quite simply, anything that speaks of God’s character or will. In this passage, John speaks of “many other signs Jesus also performed,…” These signs that Jesus gave to the disciples were ways in which He divulged more about who He was, giving the disciples a chance to respond to that information. Today, many things testify to who God is in unique ways. The Bible says creation itself speaks of His glory. The talents and gifts of people also testify to the creativity and diversity of God Himself. While many phenomena are a revelation of God that has been made known to man, the greatest means by which God has divulged His character and will is the Word of God itself and Jesus Christ who is the WORD of God incarnate. John writes, “but these things have been written…” The inspired and perfect Word of God is the greatest resource of God’s attributes and will. It is the primary source by which all things are judged and understood.
However, what is the purpose for God having made himself known to the world?
John 20:31 continues with “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name…”. Revelation has as its purpose the salvation of men. God reveals Himself in order that people may KNOW Him for who he is. This phase of the mission has as its purpose the salvation of men through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:17-“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of (that is from, about, concerning) Christ.”
Phase 1 of the church’s mission is to share the revelation of God—His Word about Christ—with others so that they might hear, understand, and believe the message of the gospel (KNOW Christ). The same transforming power that changed Thomas’ life is available to change the lives of those doubters, cynics, and disenfranchised that you know. Part of your adventure and this church’s mission is sharing the message of salvation with them! It is more than our mission, it ought to be who we are—sharers of the gospel message!
II. PHASE #2: GROW (The Seed Begins to Germinate and Develop)-Acts 2:42
Phase 2 of the mission is GROW. Growing in one’s relationship with Christ is paramount to seeing the mission completed. Remember, Matthew 28:19-20 does not say “go into all the world and make converts.” It says, “go into all the world, making disciples.” A beautiful picture of this is illustrated for us in Acts 2:42—“ They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The verb “continually devoting” is important. It means to do something with intense effort with the possible implication of difficulty. The tense and form of this verb suggest that Luke is talking about a devotion that becomes a part of someone’s character and takes place continuously. Also, the connotation of this verb does not describe a passive activity (i.e. sitting in a service of some kind and listening to what is being presented and leaving unchanged). It describes vigorous action that leads to growth. The growth of the church or the individual believer is not the responsibility of some third party like a pastor or priest—it is the responsibility of every follower of Christ.
The first direction of intense effort and focus required in growth/discipleship is on the apostles teaching. For those in the Book of Acts, these were the words preached and spoken of by the twelve who ministered with Jesus. However, for you and me, the teaching that God decided to preserve in the Bible is the primary source of information that leads to growth and development in Christ (the same word that saves is the word that sanctifies). The teaching of the apostles for these new believers and for us today provides the nourishment and nutrition required to mature and grow in one’s understanding. Much like soil feeds a plant, the teaching of the apostles fertilized the hearts of their listeners.
The second direction of intense devotion is toward fellowship. Fellowship is an association involving close mutual relations and involvement. We read about this type of association in Acts 2:43-47.
CR: Acts 2:43-47 –“Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
It is this type of fellowship that warms the heart of each believer and allows one to grow by association. Much as the sunlight gives a plant warmth and the ability to grow, fellowship involves a bunch of light-bearers coming together to encourage and love each other in a way that fosters growth.
The breaking of bread and prayer that follows fellowship renames or defines what the fellowship is/consists of. It was customary for New Testament believers to gather and eat a meal. This was their primary means of entertaining and experiencing life together. One thing that often accompanied such meetings was the sharing of the Lord’s supper. Ultimately, fellowship and/or the breaking of bread simply means doing life together in spiritual community. Participating in this kind of community is crucial for proper spiritual growth.
Along with doing life together, prayer was understood to be an essential element to corporate meetings and integral to Spiritual growth. If the Word brings the nutrients, and fellowship is the sunlight, then prayer is the life giving and refreshing water that is necessary for the believer to grow in Christ.
“Prayer is where the action is”-John Wesley.
“The most important thing a born again Christian can do is pray”-Chuck Smith.
In Acts 2:42, commitment to the Word of God, community, and prayer, were understood as the only proper response to knowing Jesus. The picture of growth portrayed in this passage is spiritual and relational. All of these considerations make up the second phase of the mission and ought to preoccupy believers in the great mission to which God has called his people. Scenes of meaningful fellowship punctuated by Bible study and prayer ought to fill the motion picture of our lives as we see those who know Christ grow in Him. We ought to “do life” together, recognizing that our mission is “our” mission—not yours, not mine, ours, and that any great adventure worth having is one that is shared with like-minded people and any mission worth accepting is for the benefit of others. Phase 2 is growing in Christ together. More than just a phase of our mission, it ought to be who we are—disciples. However, this is not where things end.
III. PHASE #3: SHOW (The Seed Flowers, and Spreads its Seed)-Col. 1:28
Now that we understand Phase 1 and Phase 2 (knowing Christ and growing in Christ), this leaves only the third—SHOW Christ. Understanding phase 3 takes us to Colossians 1:28. When one considers how insignificant of town Colossae was and how small the church that met there would have been, you might begin to wonder why this letter from Paul was preserved in our Scriptures and important enough to include in the Bible. The truth is, although this letter was addressed to an unlikely destination, the problem they were dealing with in Colossae was very disturbing to Paul and the message of the Gospel. Heresy and false doctrine had already begun to infiltrate the church and Paul wanted to confront this head on before it got out of hand. This is why, after introducing his letter, the apostle concludes his opening remarks with this exhortation—“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28).
The plural pronoun here refers not just to Paul, but to the church which shares the responsibility of showing Christ to others. While most people will readily insist that Paul and certain others are more gifted to proclaim Christ to others, some fail to realize that they are also included in this phase of the mission. After all, are we not all a “priesthood of believers” (1 Pet. 2:9)? Are we not all gifted by God for the purpose of showing him to others (1 Pet. 4:10)?
Showing Christ well involves two things: teaching and admonishing. While many think of “teaching” or “admonishing” in a formal sense, one need not limit these terms to popular connotations. Rather, anything that provides instruction or warning to the lost of this world is included in the call to show Christ to others. This includes, but is not limited to serving people in love, encouraging those around you, taking initiative to have conversations, and the like. This also involves discovering and using the gifts God has given every one of us. The truth is, there are as many ways to teach and admonish as there are people. Notice the repetition of “every” in this verse. You would think that Paul was trying to get something across. Showing everyone around us who Christ is by anything and everything we say and do is how we show Christ to others.
The purpose for this mission is so that every man and woman might join God’s mission/great adventure and be taken through these phases themselves to maturity in Christ—“so that we may present everyman complete in Christ” (1:28). The end product of this process is maturity. Much as a flower matures and gives forth seed of its own after it blossoms, Christians who know and grow do not reach maturity until they show Christ to others and scatter seed of their own into the lives of those around them. The process began with believers responding to revelation by knowing Christ on a deep and meaningful level in phase 1, and ends with these same believers communicating that revelation in all wisdom to those around them so that others might join in on this glorious process in phase 3.
These are the three phases of the mission of Crystal Spring Baptist Church. These are the activities that ought to galvanize us to action in the great adventure to which we have been called. More than phases of our mission, these ought to be characteristic of who we are.
No matter how you label these three phases or what type of illustration you use to explain them, ultimately, the mission of this church is the mission spelled out throughout the New Testament. It is not something cute that I or somebody else cooked up to sound religious. It is not a meaningless phrase or slogan that looks good on paper or in a poster. It is the process every disciple is designed to complete. We have examined three passages in the Bible that have spanned the Gospels, Acts, and a letter from Paul that explicitly define a biblical understanding of evangelism, discipleship, and service both for the individual and the church. What will you now do about it?
Many are content with just knowing Christ and coming to Church on Sunday Morning and leaving unchanged. Some are comfortable Knowing Christ and even praying with others and attempting to grow in His likeness. However, very few are willing to complete the final phase of the process we have described in an actively show Christ to others. May we choose today to be a church of the few. And may we begin praying for those we know right now who need to know Christ, grow in Christ, and show Christ to others.