Some thoughts God’s nature and on the processes Jesus used: Part 2
"Mission is finding out what God is doing and joining in." John V. Taylor (attr.), Mission-shaped Church, CHP, 2004
“The church is sustained by mission as a fire is sustained by burning” Emil Brunner
We are the SENT ONES!
Jesus was sent by the Father. The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus, all three person of the Trinity send us! As such we are disciples and learners in the way of God. “Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” John 20: 21
The gathering of the ‘learners’, the disciples = Church
We are sent as disciples to make disciples and as we make disciples/followers of Jesus we find that the ‘sent ones’ are in form of community together, called the church. "And (Jesus) appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him and to be sent out..." Mark 3:14
Forming communities that centre their lives around God’s mission is an expression of church. Some have called this a missional church. Now one definition of a missional church is from Alan Hirsch who says: ‘So a working definition of missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organises its life around, its real purpose of being and authentic organisation principle of mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church. (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 82)
What we are saying is this: It is Jesus who calls us to himself and then shapes what we are here to do. What we are here to do shapes the means and ‘vehicles’ through which this happens. To use theological language: Our Christology shaped our missiology that shapes our ecclesiology.
The church gathered: We are the recipients of grace, life and power for fellowship with God and God’s mission:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
The people who are called by Jesus are then the gathered community that forms their life around Jesus. This gathered community in fellowship and worship gathers for the purpose of connecting with God and God’s people and so draw deeply from the ‘river of God’. This is the church gathered. As with the river that flows into and through us as pictured in Ezekiel 47, we are recipients and transmitters of this life, mission and power. According to Dallas Willard, we are not generators of the power, we are simply recipients and transmitters. We have received this life and power from God and then we transmit it to others. ‘The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus.’ (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 82)
The church sent: We are the transmitters of grace, life and power for fellowship with God and God’s mission:
“It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world but the God of mission who has a church in the world.” Tim Dearborn, Beyond Duty: A Passion for Christ a Heart for Mission, Marc, 1998 in Mission-shaped Church, CHP, 2004, p85
Having received or been refreshed in the ‘flow of the river’ these lives are then poured out in service to the world God loves. “The church is called to engage in God’s mission following the way and example of Jesus Christ.”
According to Hirsch “Not only is our purpose defined by the person and work of Jesus, but our methodology as well… It is Christ who determines our purpose and mission in the world, and then our mission must drive our search for modes of being-in-the-world.’ (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 143) We see Jesus not just as the purpose, but also as the method.
Missional movements have seen and continues to see growth in numbers and influence:
We have seen the move of the Spirit through various movements: the Reformation, the Wesleyan movement, the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, and many more.
‘Take, for instance, the Methodist movement, which was founded in the eighteenth-century Britain by John Wesley: Following a life-changing encounter with God, Wesley began to travel throughout Great Britain with a vision for the conversion and discipling of a nation and the renewal of a fallen church. He “sought no less that the recovery of the truth, life and power of earliest Christianity and the expansion of that kind of Christianity” (Quoting George Hunter III in ‘To spread the Power: Church Growth in the Wesleyan spirit). Within a generation, one in thirty people in Britain had become Methodists, and the movement was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In the opinion of Steven Addison, a missiologist who spent much of his professional life studying Christian movements, the key to Methodism’s success was the high level of commitment to the Methodist cause that was expected of participants. (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 103). Alan Hirsch adds: “Wesleyanism was at its most influential when it was a people movement that was reproducing like mad. It eventually centralised, and as people sought to control what was happening, it lost much of its power to really change the world.”” (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten ways, pg 139)
Missional movements are in need of continuous renewal:
“The church is by nature missionary to the extent that, if it ceases to be missionary it has not just failed in one of its tasks, it has ceased to be church.” J. Andrew Kirk, What is Mission?: Some Theological Explorations, Darton, Longman and Todd, p30
Again, according to Alan Hirsch, the Methodist “cause declined to the degree that the movement had moved away from its original missional ethos or evangelism and disciple making and degenerated into mere religious legalism maintained by institutions, rule books, and professional clergy.’ (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, pg 103). There is a recent strong call back to being a transforming and disciple making movement.
We have found that the DMM (the Disciple Making Movement) and Fresh Expressions are two of many moves of God to realign people and congregations around God and God’s mission. We have even seen whole denominational core teams intentionally seeking this. We celebrate this and know that God is very gracious. May more and more of us connect with I believe God is doing.