I’m going to share with you some of the most helpful information about revitalizing a church that I’ve ever learned:
When God revitalizes a church, he takes them through 5 types of renewal. These NEVER happen out of order.
That’s a pretty bold statement but I’ve found it to be true. The five types of renewal are:
1. Personal Renewal
2. Relational Renewal
3. Missional Renewal
4. Structural Renewal
5. Cultural Renewal.
In this article I want to address the third renewal, Missional Renewal.
You’ve heard of The Great Commission, right?
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”Matthew 28: 18-20
But did you know there are actually five Great Commissions? In all four Gospels and in the Book of Acts, Jesus gives some variation of this sending of the disciples out on mission. You can look up the other four and read them in Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8. It’s repeated to emphasize that disciples of Jesus are a sent people.
Now, to be clear, this sending out on mission was to be done on the foundation of personal and relational renewal. In Acts 1:4-5 Jesus said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In other words, don’t try to do the mission without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit – personal renewal. And then just prior to his death and resurrection, Jesus couldn’t have been clearer about the need for relational renewal for the sake of mission saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
So, with a real love for God and a real love for one another we are commanded to really love non-believers and do whatever it takes to reach them and bring them into God’s Kingdom so they can be Jesus’ disciples too.
The question then is how do we do that as Anglicans in 2019 and moving forward? It seems to me that Jesus’ words in the Great Commission in John 20:21, some two thousand years ago, are still very applicable for us today. He said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” As he was sent, we are sent. As he did, so we should do. As he, so we:
4 Ways We Can Be On Mission As Jesus Was On Mission
1. Leave Our Comfort Zones. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1-2,14a) To accept the Father’s mission and be sent to save us, Jesus had to leave heaven and come to our dark world. Can you imagine what it was like for Jesus to leave, to willingly leave all the beauty and wonder and, no doubt, comfort of that eternal existence? As he was sent, so we are sent. For us to accept Jesus’ mission to be sent to lost sinners and bring them into God’s Kingdom, we also must be willing to leave your comfort zones.
One of those comfort zones might be the four walls of the church. As he, so we. Jesus didn’t stay in heaven and hope that we somehow found our way to the Father. He left heaven and came to where we are to reveal the way (John 14:6). Too often our strategy for mission is to stay in the comfort of our worship services and Bible studies and hope that sinners somehow find their way in. I recently attended a Greenhouse Movement gathering and one of the speakers referred to us being “Fishers of Men” but too often, for Anglicans, that meant laying a net out on the beach and putting up a sign that says, “FISH WELCOME” hoping they’ll jump in! Fishermen (and women) have to actually go out into the water and let down the nets! Likewise, we must get out of our church comfort zones and go to where sinners are as Jesus left heaven and came to us. As he, so we.
2. Love Sinners. Why did Jesus come on his mission to save us? Love. John 3:16 is pretty clear. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” He loved sinners enough to come to us and then he practiced that love by associating with and dying for sinners. My favorite example is in Mark 2 after Jesus chooses the tax collector, Levi, to be his disciple. The Bible says, “Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’” (vs 15-17 NLT) It’s easy for us saved people to slip into being more like the Pharisees and see sinners as scum rather than as Jesus did. He looked at sinners with love and entered into life with them to bring them salvation not condemnation. As he, so we.
3. Practice Demonstration, Proclamation, and Transformation. Jesus’ mission seemed to be a balance of these three:
– A supernatural demonstration of the reality of God’s Kingdom
– A proclamation of the good news of God’s Kingdom being available to all who believe
– Transformation of life as his disciple for those who believed.
As he was sent, so the disciples were sent and as you read the Book of Acts, they seemed to have that same balance in their mission. In Acts 2 you see the gift of other languages (demonstration), Peter’s bold address (proclamation), and about 3,000 people saved and the church formed (transformation). It continues in Acts 3 with the healing of the crippled beggar and so on.
As he was sent, so we are sent. As we go out, it seems to me that we also, in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, should demonstrate the reality of God’s Kingdom to sinners somehow. Show that it’s real! This could be anything from acts of love and service to supernatural miracles. But demonstration alone is not enough. There must also be a proclamation using words to explain how to enter God’s Kingdom through repentance and belief in Jesus. Finally, there must be transformation offered through assimilation into the church and being made a disciple. As he, so we.
4. Be “Yet” People. Jesus’ ultimate mission was to sacrifice himself on the cross for the sins of the world. Yes, he willingly left heaven to do that because he loved us sinners. But it wasn’t easy for him. In fact, he would have rather there have been another way. But there wasn’t. So, he did it. Remember in the garden he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (NIV) As he was sent, so we are sent. If we’re honest, most of us really don’t want to be sent on mission and do evangelism. It’s hard even for people who are gifted at it. It would be nice if there was another way than for us to have to do it. But there’s not. So, we must. We, the church, are “plan A” for the Great Commission to be fulfilled and there is no “plan B.” So, as he, so we and let us accept that, to be “sent” people, we must become “yet” people and when we’d rather not, let us pray as Jesus did, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” And Go! As he, so we.
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization & Coaching. For more resources/articles on Church Revitalization go here.