Saturday, 27 January 2007

Authentic Mission will be motivated by love.

Christian Mission springs from the very heart of the Godhead. Regarding the ‘love of God’ as perhaps the overriding motive for mission it contains at least three elements all of which are significant.
Firstly, God’s love for us,
Secondly, our love for God which is proved by our obedience to God "If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14.15), and
Thirdly God’s love working through us to others.
The love of the missionary God is seen in the tremendous act of the Father giving up his only begotten son in the incarnation, and his son being willing to come and live a life of self sacrifice and ultimately to die on the cross for mankind e.g. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son (John 3.16).

John also states that ‘we love because he first loved us’(1 John 4.19). If our response is to truly love Christ in return, Jesus tells us we will obey his commands and God will live in us. God therefore expects disciples of Christ to be motivated by the love of God. His love has been poured out in our hearts (Rom.5.5) and Jesus who commanded us to love one another, also promised that if we obeyed him the world would know that we were his (John 13.34-35).

The love that Jesus spoke of was much more than just an emotional feeling which would come and go, but was an act of the will and also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal.5.1) It was also what compelled Paul in his mission (2 Cor.5.14). Christ had also told the disciples ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’(John 20.21) As disciples we are obliged to follow his example.

In a similar manner our love for God must be shown in ‘incarnational mission’, that is identifying with the people we seek to reach, entering into their worlds, their pains and their sorrows. Like Christ we must seek and save that which was lost.

Having an holistic approach ( a mission not only of words of which evangelicals emphasize,but also with good works, acts of kindness, fighting for justice for the weak and disenfranchised) to mission and being motivated by the love of God would certainly limit the abuses towards those we seek to reach.

The Crusades and Inquisitions are a blight on the history of the Church and for that we must hold our heads in shame, but also the imperialistic and triumphalistic attitudes of the present day Church are equally a denial of the love of God. It is here that the definition of evangelism as 'one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread' is apt. We have nothing that we have not received freely from God. Freely we have received let us freely give.
If we are motivated by this love surely our natural response will be to share it with others and join with Wesley's heart cry:

Oh that the world might taste and see
the riches of His grace
The arms of love that compass me
would all mankind embrace

Friday, 19 January 2007

Those involved in authentic mission will sooner or later experience at least a little of the pain and suffering of Calvary

George Verwer the founder of Operation Mobilization writes:
'We seem to have a strange idea of Christian service. We will buy books, travel miles to hear a speaker on blessings, pay large sums to hear a group singing the latest Christian songs- but we forget we are soldiers.’

Suffering has always been part and parcel of Christian mission. The founder of Christianity died on a cross, virtually all the apostles were put to death, and the Christians in the early church until the conversion of the Emperor Constantine were often thrown to the lions or burned at the stake for the amusement of the onlookers.

Throughout Church history it has been the same when the Church tries to reach out in an enemy environment. Jesus had warned his followers that it would be so:
‘They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict’.
I think of the hymn :
'Must I be carried to the skies on a flowery bed of ease
when others sought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas'?

The mission of Christ was certainly no ‘flowery bed of ease’. It was foretold by Isaiah that Christ would be a suffering servant ‘a man of sorrows and one acquainted with grief’ He was denied and betrayed by his friends before being beaten , tortured and then finally suffering and dying on the cross . Before his death Jesus told his disciples:

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour. (John 12 .23.)

Today in many parts of the world Christians are going through terrible persecution. China, India, Sudan and Vietnam to name a few. The Marechale ( see picture below) the eldest daughter of General Booth of the Salvation Army wrote from her prison cell in the 1880’s:

'Jesus was crucified .. Ever since that day, men have tried to find an easier way, but the easier ways fail. If you are to win thousands who are without Christ, you must be ready to be crucified: your plans , your ideas , your likes and your inclinations. Things have changed , you say you have liberty now. Is there? Go and live Christ’s life, speak as he spoke, teach what he taught, denounce sin whenever you find it, and see if the enemy will not turn on you with all the fury of hell… Christ wasn’t crucified in a drawing room. He was no easy chair business… Do you shrink from being bated, misrepresented and spoken evil of ? it is time you were crucified..'
At one stage in my work among among teenagers things were starting to get messy. Though we found it a testing time it was still small beer compared to those suffering in other countries. I had my tyres slashed and some of the other leaders wanted to leave. It was then that certain scriptures (like the ones below) came alive to us. I certainly hadn't needed them for quite a while.

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance’ (James 1.2.)

'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.'2 Cor4.7

These became food and drink for the leaders. It was then I realised that God was perhaps doing more in us than he was doing with the youth. The enemy hates what we do and will oppose it.
If things go well all the time, if we never face any opposition perhaps we are not doing the Kingdom of darkness any damage. Will we give up when things get hard? Will we take it as a sign that God isn’t in it. Paul warns the younger Timothy who was prone to timidity in 2 Timothy 4:2‘Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction’.2.Tim. 4.2

We shouldn’t be surprised when Satan tries to prevent us reaching out to the lost. He will try to cripple us with fear. He will try and make us take the easier option so we don’t have face the flack or the jibs or the gossip.
Let us take Paul encouragement to Timothy as our own.
2 Timothy 2:3‘Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’

Authentic Mission will be empowered by the Holy Spirit

A person can be Incarnational but not be empowered by the Holy Spirit. So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.( Zech 4.6)

So it is with the mission of God . At Jesus’ baptism before his ministry started Marks writes that :

'And immediately, coming up from[a] the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove'.(1.10)
Later Jesus was to declare that the Spirit of the Lord God was upon him because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor’ (Lk. 4.18-19) When he was full of the Holy Spirit Luke records that he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil then he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.

During his ministry he told the people that ‘But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.(Matt 12.28)
It has been said thst 99% of the work of the Church would carry on without the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Do you think that is true? How much do we do in the Church which is not Spirit empowered. Need it be so? Of course not. After Jesus’ resurrection he told his disciples to Luke 24:49 )
“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
IN Acts 1.4-5 Jesus says to them:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Should we have the Baptism of the Spirit or be Spirit Filled. It is better to be filled with the Spirit today than Baptised in the Spirit Last week or last Year or Last decade. I believe what is important is that we are continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
· In the Lords prayer which is very much a missionary prayer Jesus tells us to pray that his will would be done and his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
· To pray this is essentially to pray for His rule and reign in our own lives, in the Church and in the world. This can not be done without expecting the Holy Spirit to fill us to the uttermost. Again Jesus told us to drink of him that out of our bellies would flow rivers of living water. In some early versions of the Lord's prayer it read ' Thy Spirit come' as opposed to 'Thy Kingdom come'. Yet if the Kingdom is the reign of God they would still mean the same thing.
· It must become a daily prayer.
· D.L. Moody who was asked why he always asked God to fill him with the Holy Spirit. He said because he leaked. We all leak.
· We can’t be satisfied with experiencing the Holy Spirit ten years ago, or five or one. We need to hunger and thirst for God today.
· Corporately and individually we need the power of the Holy Spirit to reach the world. William Booth another evangelist whose passion was to reach the world wrote this amazing hymn.
O God of burning, cleansing flame, Send the fire
Your blood - bought gift today we claim, Send the fire today
God of Elijah, hear our cry, Send the fire
And make us fit to live or die, send the fire today
To burn up every trace of sin, to bring the light and glory in
The revolution now begins, Send the fire today
It's fire we want, for fire we plead, Send the fire
The fire will meet our every need, Send the fire today
Give us strength to always do what's right,
And grace to conquer in the fight
for power to walk this world in white, Send the fire today
Look down and see this waiting host
And send the promised Holy Ghost
We need another Pentecost, Send the fire today
To make our weak hearts strong and brave, Send the fire
To live a dying world to save, Send the fire
Lord, we're here tonight and we're on Your alter, Send the fire
We give our lives to You today, Send the fire
Send the fire today!

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Authentic Mission will be Incarnational

The Son of God did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven, remote from human sin and tragedy. He actually entered our world. He emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. He took our nature, lived our life, endured our temptations, experienced our sorrows, felt our hurts, bore our sins and died our death. He penetrated deeply into our humanness. He never stayed aloof from the people he might have been expected to avoid. He made friends with the dropouts of society. He even touched untouchables. He could not have become more one with us than he did. It was the total identification of love. John Stott

Examples of Incarnational Mission
1. Moravian Christians selling themselves into slavery in order to reach the African slaves with the gospel.

2.Hudson Taylor the founder of the China Inland Mission grew his hair long, dyed it black and dressed like the Chinese in order to identify with the Chinese.

Paul writes: 19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. ….21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law…, so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.1 Cor. 9.19-22

If our mission is to be Incarnational it also means getting inside the heads of those we seek to reach. To reach Mormons or Muslims or the Youth of today we must try to understand what they are thinking – what their fears are ,what their felt needs are, what their problems are, their heart pain and even the history of their group or cult if it’s the J.W’s or Mormons. We must built bridges in order to connect with them. If we have problems relating to our own children we must be the ones the bridge the gap, not them.I remember meeting an evangelist with an eyebrow ring, I judged him in my heart thinking 'who does he think he is: a Christian shouldn't have one of those.' It was me that needed changed. He was from a very privileged background but he was trying to reach the youth of Norwich as Director of Youth For Christ.I had much to learn from him.

Dare I say to reach modern youth we may have to listen to their C.D’s and read their magazines and find out what makes them tick? To reach Post-moderns we must also read their books, listen to their music and feel their angst. WE HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM THEM!

Has the Post-modern Church a message for the world? If it hasn't we might as well give up our lives now. 'As the Father sent me' said Jesus ' so I send you'.