“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” II Corinthians 5:17-20
I want to consider what I believe to be the primary task of the church. It is the most dangerous, demanding and exhilarating task that the church has been given. It is the task of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and of helping people to faith in Him. It is what is called the missional task of the church. Let’s be honest in admitting that this task no longer exhilarates us. It doesn’t stir us and challenge us. Most of us give very little for the accomplishment of this task. We are so unlike the New Testament church. The New Testament church did not have beautiful buildings, educated and trained leadership, modern ways of communication, literature, or elaborate organizational structure. Yet those small bands of Christians literally turned the world upside down.
Why is it that the missional task of the church exhilarates us so little? I believe one reason is that we do not fully understand why the missional task of the church is the primary task of the church. We do not have an adequate rationale, an adequate basis, an adequate understanding as to why this task is at the very heart of the church. Some would tell us that the reason we are to be missional is because of the Great Commission. Of course we believe in the Great Commission. But unless we have a deeper rationale for evangelism and missional activity we will grow weary in hearing the Great Commission. In fact, we have already grown weary hearing it. How many of our church members hear this command of Jesus and it doesn’t even faze them?
Some would say the reason that we are to be missional is because of the great need, the sin and lostness of our world. Certainly we need to recognize the needs of our world. Our hearts needs to be broken. But unless there is a deeper motivation and rationale for evangelism and missional activity, even the awareness of the great need is not enough. In fact, the awareness of need can be overwhelming and depressing. If a person serves the Lord for a lifetime, when their life is finished, the need and lostness of the world will be greater than when they started. An awareness of the need is not enough rationale for the missional task of the church.
What then is the reason that this task is at the heart of the church? I believe that God’s Word (II Corinthians 5:17-20) explains why we must make the missional task the primary task of the church. The missional task is primary because God Himself is on a redemptive mission in the world. Verse 19 says, “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.” Centuries ago God in his wisdom, sovereignty and infinite love set Himself on a course of redeeming sinful man to Himself. God purposed it in His heart and began to act in history to reconcile and save sinners to Himself. He chose Abraham for that purpose. He gave Abraham a son named Isaac. He gave Isaac a son named Jacob. He gave Jacob twelve sons. These twelve sons went down into Egypt. God sent Moses to deliver them. God gave them the law which was a way for them to know Him. And then through the centuries God worked with those people. God gave prophet after prophet. And then in the fullness of time God sent his only begotten Son into the world who lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, rose again and ascended to the Father. Then God sent the Holy Spirit to anoint the church and baptize the church. When the time came, God gave the Scriptures, the written Word, so that we could know Him. And then down through centuries God has acted in people, in circumstances and events. God has set Himself on a mission to redeem sinful man to Himself. Therefore if we are to be about the same thing God is about, we too will be about reconciling sinful man to God through Jesus Christ. It has been said, “The origin of missions is ultimately to be found in the heart of God.” A church that is not consumed with the task of reconciling sinful man to a Holy God is missing the primary purpose of the church and has misunderstood what God is about in Jesus Christ in the world. It is failing to understand God’s intention because God’s intention is to reconcile man to Himself.
Also, the missional task of the church is primary because God has entrusted this word of reconciliation to us. God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself is the work of reconciliation. That’s the gospel. That’s the good news. Verse 19 says that this message, this word, has been committed to the church. The word “committed” means that we have been put in trust. God has committed it to us. He has put this word of what He has done and what He is about in our trust. The Apostle Paul often spoke about being entrusted with the Gospel. He said in I Corinthians 9:16: “When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” He said in I Thessalonians 2:4, “We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.”
The missional task of the church is primary because we are Christ’s representatives. It is because God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and because God has entrusted us with that word that we actually become representatives and messengers for Him. Verse 20 says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” This is one of the most incredible truths in the entire Bible. God has set Himself on a course. God has done something for this world in Jesus. The truth of what God has done has been entrusted to us. He has chosen to use us as His instruments. He actually uses us. We are His representatives, and He speaks through us that people might understand and accept God’s reconciling mission in the world.
This is the basis for the missional task. I do not know why, but God has chosen to use us as instruments of reconciliation. He has chosen to use the church and I believe that we should take that privilege and responsibility very serious.
What about your church? What is God’s vision for your church? What is it that God wants to accomplish through your fellowship of believers? Can your church answer that question? Churches should examine themselves and look at the steps that they take and make sure that they are walking down the path ordained by God. Each congregation should focus their attention, energy, and resources as a church on one primary vision of being a missional church. A missional church is a church that seeks to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Acts 1:8 is the blueprint. “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
A missional church is one that prays for the whole world. It’s a church that not only preaches the Gospel and carries the Gospel to the world, but it is a church that has in its heart the world and lifts that world to God in prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 is the blueprint for missional praying. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
A missional church is a church that shares its resources with the world. All of the resources that have been gathered and given to the Lord are to be shared with his world. They should not be kept only for the local church but should be given to the world. And it is the same for human resources. Churches should give their members to the world. II Corinthians 9:7 is the blueprint for this kind of missional giving. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
We should all pray that God would grow missional churches. Pray that God would create awareness among the people in our churches of this privilege and responsibility. Pray that God would rise up countless numbers of people who would take seriously the responsibility of ministering, serving and witnessing beginning in their local communities and then to the world. Pray that God would challenge churches to specific, attainable goals in missions giving. Pray that God would stimulate an attitude of expectancy, an environment of confidence, of belief that with God all things are possible. Pray that God would bring to our churches people from all over the word that have had different kinds of experiences and are being used by God in ways that are totally different than what they experience in their own community. Pray that God would move the leadership of our mission organizations to teach missions and pray missions as never before. Churches need to strategize and plan every activity in their church around the one primary goal of taking the Gospel to the world. I believe it is in the heart of God and in the will of God to use His church as an instrument in His hand and an instrument of reconciliation.
I also believe that it is in the will of God to use individuals as His instruments. It is the will of God to use you and me as instruments in His hand. You and I as individuals must take seriously the fact that God wants to use us as His witness. God wants to use you as a witness. God wants to use you in your business, in your classroom, in your community. God wants you to witness out of your own life and experience and out of you own love for Him. And as you do, He uses you and you become a part of an ongoing, reconciling mission in the world. You become a part of a task that God has set Himself on. You participate in it. Would you make yourself available to Him?