Owning the Mission

What does it mean for a church to be missional?

The church exists "that together [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15.6).  Just as we exist as image bearers of God, so the church exists to reflect his goodness and to call people to worship him as we make disciples and proclaim the gospel.  Unfortunately, our view of the church can get so distorted that it seems as though God exists for the church.  The mission of the church becomes to expand the church rather than to expand the mission of God.

"Missions should not be a hobby of the church."

 

Ed Stetzer, a leading missiologist in the church today, argues that this is a consistent historical mistake of the church.  To paraphrase Stetzer, missions should not be a hobby of the church.  When we understand the mission of God, we realize that it is the mission that has a church, not the other way around.  God has a mission - to call people to worship and exalt the Son through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God is the sending agent and the church is the active outworking of the mission.

We cannot be content with the status quo of passive participation in the work of the church.  The work of the church is the mission of God.  In response to the grace we have received, we get to share the good news and radical truth of Jesus and what he has done.  It is, therefore, the great joy of the Christian to be an active part of that mission, proclaiming the gospel and living out its redeeming truth for the fame of Jesus.

Our church may have a clear, innovative, Holy Spirit-inspired vision for how God is calling us to proclaim his kingdom, but if we collectively have no ownership of that mission, we will be hard pressed to achieve anything.  God is not limited in accomplishing his plans by our lack of ownership, but he has chosen, for his glory and our joy, to employ us in his work.

Ownership inspires passion and leads to action.  Yet, for the Christian, ownership does not come from believing in a good idea but from faith in the good news.  Our ability to own comes from the fact that we are owned by Christ.  We inherit ownership from our Father.  Thus, we don't need to manufacture ownership as much as we need to awaken to the reality that is our mission.  We are agents of the King.  It is already ours; we need only to exercise that ownership.

Ownership needs to permeate every fiber of the church as a sponge that is saturated with water.  No matter where you touch it, the sponge releases a flood of power.  When the church is saturated in the mission of God, from the preacher to the janitor, the mission overflows out of everywhere.  Lives are changed through the witness of the church because no matter who you encounter, a flood of the gospel is released.

So when you think about your church, is it the church you attend or is it your church? Let me challenge you with what may not be an obvious statement.  Agreement does not equal ownership.  "I like what you are doing" is dramatically different than "I believe in what we are doing."

 

Ownership is marked by joy-filled sacrifice that sees kingdom work as a "get to" because of what Christ has done, rather than a "got to" out of Christian duty.  Ownership looks like people serving the church and the city with a passion for the gospel.  It looks like people cheerfully and sacrificially giving out of love for Jesus to see the work of the gospel move forward.  Ownership looks like people participating in the messiness of community and being inconvenienced for the sake of another's sanctification.

I long for the day when we realize that we get to participate in the mission of God, and when we stop borrowing and start owning the mission for ourselves.  As disciples of Christ, we are too easily content with agreement in our own lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Let's call one another to ownership and see how that changes everything.

 

Adapted from Brad House's Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support (Crossway, 2011), pg. 66-74.

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