Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Mission has a Church

We who are Christians in America often talk about “missions.”  The word brings to mind  missionaries laboring lovingly in foreign lands among people with difficult language and strange customs.  

And the overseas missions movement has produced incredible fruit as the rapidly growing number of Christ followers in places like China, Africa, South America, and India attest. The movement has been so successful that Christians in these regions are now sending missionaries back into Europe and the United States!

But let’s bring our focus back to the reason for missions....the original mission.  Let’s read again the words of Jesus: will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8 ESV)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20 ESV)

There are some key pieces in the above for Christ followers who call Anchorage, Alaska home:  First, what we do will be Holy Spirit empowered.  Second, we will be witnesses in Anchorage (=Jerusalem), Alaska (=Judea), North America(=Samaria), and all the world (=end of the earth).  Last, we are to make disciples. Converts are not disciples, although they can become so.  In other words, the mission is more than helping people find Jesus.  The mission is to reproduce the Jesus-following life in people in all nations - starting with our own city.

I read something recently that has impacted me quite a bit: “It’s not so much that the church has a mission but that the mission has a church. Church follows mission, not the other way around”. As we see above, Jesus articulated the mission before the Church was born on the Day of Pentecost.  

The point is this: we are all individually on mission, not just the church acting as a group sending missionaries. This means we are all missionaries (witnesses in the language of Acts).  A few of us will serve as overseas missionaries, but most of us should see ourselves as missionaries at our schools, our jobs, among our friends, and everywhere we come in contact with humanity.  America is steadily becoming “de-churched”, and most of us have the mission opportunity to help people find Jesus.

Mission can be as simple as being filled with the Holy Spirit and “leaking” the fruits of the Holy Spirit on those around us (joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, etc).  It can be sharing the Good News with a friend at the right time.  In Anchorage City Church mission projects, it can be serving homeless people at Beacon Hill or our Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, or feeding the hungry via the Food Shelf.  It can be helping prisoners reenter society, or helping young people graduate through New Direction, or serving Alaska communities by training leaders, as Beyond Borders does.  You can even start your own mission project! The possibilities for being on mission with the love of Jesus are many.  

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior at Christmas, it is a perfect time to commit ourselves again to missio dei, the mission of God.  Jesus came to redeem us, and because of that we have the amazing privilege of being on mission to share that amazing story of redemption with those that God places in our paths.  

This was originally published in December, 2011 in City Life, the newsletter of Anchorage City Church. It has been modified slightly for this blog.

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