When it comes to the church it is important to be orderly. To be even clearer it’s important to get things in the right order. The proper order seems to be along these lines Trinity -> Mission -> Church.1 This means several things. The Trinity, being an eternal community, created us with a capacity to participate in that eternal community in some way. We rebelled and left. God has been on a mission to reconnect and reconcile with us. As part of His mission he created the church.
As I’ve mentioned orderliness is important. But why? Because the church is the most temporary of all three. The Trinity is eternal and Their mission has been around at lot longer than the church. The mission goes back to the garden.
Here is often what this looks like when we start with the church before the others. We wind up looking for a mission that supports our church and a God that fits us. When we look around our sanctuaries on Sunday morning and see gaps in attendance and empty pews we can often be tempted to think “What’s it gonna take to get people in here?” Our mission then becomes finding ways to get people to attend our church.
Contrast this with how Christ looks at the people in your community. He sees fields that are ripe and ready for harvest and his problem is low attendance in the worker department. He is wondering how he is going to get the workers in your church outside the building and working in His fields. If the church’s energy is primarily to draw in instead of push out we will wind up in a tug of war with God. Struggle long enough and He might let go of the rope. If He lets go of the rope the church collapses in on itself. Having conversations with itself. About itself. Coming up with answers to questions no one outside it is asking. A church outside the mission is no church at all. Emil Brunner says it like this “The church exists by mission as fire does in burning.” Have you ever seen a fire that doesn’t burn? Then you have never seen a church that is not on the mission. It may be labeled a church. But it is not a church.
The Mission of God is the single greatest health factor in church life. It is what keeps churches feeling young, healthy and strong. When you allow the Mission of God to have control very powerful things begin to happen. First and foremost the Mission of God aligns your heart with His heart. You love what he loves and hate what he hates. There is unlimited energy and vitality in that.
Second by giving ourselves fully to the Mission of God we have God as a partner in our efforts. As with hearts, when energy and efforts align with God it can make for some light lifting. Third, the Mission of God creates its own energy. The Mission of God has the transforming power to change former enemies into friends of God. These new friends of God, once part of your church, will bring new energy, fresh thinking, and excitement to your lives together. Ever notice how much fun it is to have a new Christian in a Bible study? The same thing happens – it’s just that it can happen church-wide. Ever notice that new Christians can be the best evangelists? If you enjoy the new energy they bring imagine what would happen if they brought their friends?
Finally, the Mission of God makes things grow. Yes it’s true that churches on the mission of God see growth. The early church saw people added daily. Of course we can’t enter the mission for the purpose of growing the church. As soon as we do we have the order wrong again and are right back where we started. In fact, if you enter the mission because of any of the benefits described above you are in danger of being disorderly. However, it is evidence of a truly great God that He makes His orders such a pleasure to follow!
1 From the book The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. They state that Christology informs our missiology which informs our ecclesiology. In other words Christ D Mission D Church.
Rev. Jared Siebert is the Director of Church Development for The Free Methodist Church in Canada
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