Last week we turned an important corner in the life of this church with our Sacred Assembly. Today, I’d like for us to consider the mission of God’s Church – and more specifically this church, Southside Bible Fellowship.
By way of introduction, God has a MISSION, a MEANS, and a METHOD.
1. What is the MISSION of God?
God’s mission is the manifestation of His own glory.
“For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
What is God’s glory? God’s glory is the shining forth of the perfection of all of God’s attributes.
God’s supreme desire is that He might be known and enjoyed above all things.
God seeks to be recognized as supremely worthy, supremely splendid, and supremely valuable. God’s glory is sensed when we feel the reality of His presence, goodness, and superiority.
2. The MEANS of God’s mission is Jesus Christ and the work He did on the cross.
We call this the gospel. God creates, calls, rescues, redeems, saves, restores, restrains, and grants — all to the end that we may find our true comfort, joy, and delight in Him.
The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures, from Satan, sin and its effects to the Father and each other through the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension — and future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit for God’s glory and the Church’s joy. (We see summary statements of this throughout Scripture – both Old and New Testaments.)
To be “gospel-centered” means to both see and live out this narrative as the central theme, or singular story line, of the Bible. It is central. It is singular.
The gospel stands at the center of God’s redemptive plan, and in it we see Him most clearly for Who He is and what He has done.
3. The METHOD of God’s mission is you and me – the Church. In a nutshell we (the Church) are all called to live as missionaries in our current life station and cultural context.
Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – all our social networks.
If you were preparing to be a missionary in Malaysia what activities would best prepare you?
We are to begin the discipleship process BEFORE conversion. (This is where most churches get it wrong…think about it – we start discipling our kids before they’re converted…)
Having identified God’s MISSION, MEANS, and METHOD I would like to spend the rest of our time considering the mission of the church – and specifically this church – SBF as we enter into a new season of ministry…
The mission of the Church universal is: To glorify God by making disciples through embodying the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God’s mission and the mission of His Church are inseparably linked. If God’s mission is to be glorified through the redemption and reconciliation of a people, the Church’s mission must orient around the glory of God and seek to glorify Him through redemption and reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The mission of the Church is highlighted in these verses. As those who have been reconciled to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are now ambassadors of reconciliation to a lost and broken world. We plead, urge, implore, reason, pray, serve, preach, teach and gather to see God glorified through reconciliation.
We also see the mission of the church in the more familiar Matthew 28:19-20:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
A suggested mission for SBF: To glorify God through making disciples. We will accomplish this through:
- Gospel-centered worship
- Gospel-centered prayer
- Gospel-centered community
- Gospel-centered service
- Gospel-centered mission.
1. Gospel-Centered Worship
All of life is worship. Every thought, word, desire, and deed involves the ascribing of worth and value – glory. Each attitude, affection and activity is an expression of our allegiance, whether to our Creator or His creation. God is alone worthy of our worship.
Worship is related to every area of our lives. We are called to eat, drink, speak, think, and work to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31 – “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”). Worship cannot be narrowed down to a particular time and place as if God does not claim authority over certain aspects of our lives. There are no neutral desires or deeds; everything is an expression of worship.
Gospel-centered worship is to be pursued in every facet of our lives as we consider how all encompassing the gospel is to us. Gospel-centered worship is nurtured through:
The gathering of God’s people in a weekend worship service. Within this venue, we worship God by remembering the gospel through preaching, teaching, singing, praying and celebrating the ordinances of baptism and communion. Each presents an opportunity for the church to receive, remember, respond and rejoice in the work of our great King.
Gospel-centered worship also means that we orient our lives (between Sundays) around learning how to worship God and bring Him glory through our thoughts, words, and deeds. Again, 1 Corinthians 10:31 becomes our holy objective – “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 145:1-21, Isaiah 43:6-7, Colossians 3:1-17
2. Gospel-Centered Prayer
Turn with me to Exodus 33:15-18 –“Then [Moses] said to [God], “ If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
What we have here is the greatest request we could ever make of God. It transcends any other request that we could ask of God.
It’s an unrelenting desire to engage the presence of God.
If you want to know the real you, listen for what you pray for involuntarily. Listen to the spontaneous prayers that irrupt from your heart.
Moses’ prayer is a reflex of the heart. It reveals what he REALLY wants.
What is it that you involuntarily pray for? What is the unrehearsed outburst of your soul…
God loves it when we address Him in prayer as the END and not simply a MEANS. If you’re like me it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing God as the MEANS to our true desires instead of seeing God as the END of all our desires. We seek God for jobs, for relationships, for good health, for material things – and all those are good yet the ultimate value is God Himself.
The prayer that most delights God is the prayer that makes Him our most passionate desire.
Jonathan Edwards concluded the most essential difference between a Christian and a moralist is that a Christian obeys God out of the sheer delight in who He is. The gospel means that we are not obeying God to get anything but to give him pleasure because we see his worth and beauty. Therefore, the Christian is able to draw power out of the contemplation of God (i.e., prayer). The moralist will usually only come and petition God for things…
Gospel-centered prayer, is making God the END and not the MEANS — rather than anxious petitioning.
3. Gospel-Centered Community
We worship a triune God, Who has eternally existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In identifying the tri-unity of God, we recognize that God is communal. The Godhead has perpetually dwelt in perfect harmony, unity, joy, and love. Bearing the image of God, we are called to reflect this reality. We are called to be communal creatures imaging the community of our Creator.
Though each Christian has a personal relationship with God, that relationship is not individual or private. The Christian faith is not intended to be lived in isolation. We were made for community – relationship with God and with each other.
The local church is not merely a place that we attend but a people to whom we belong. The Bible calls us members of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) with the expectation that we contribute to the body for the glory of God and the good of His people.
Gospel-centered community is a radical call amid a culture of mere attendance and casual involvement. It involves mutual love, care, consistency and authenticity as we seek to adorn the person and work of Christ with our lives. Where these elements are lacking, we have moved away from gospel-centered community and into the realm of social clubs.
Gospel-centered community is primarily expressed through Community Groups that meet during the week, or Sunday School classes that meet before the service on Sunday mornings. Groups are not perfect and those who participate in them will find them messy at times. However, our hope is that group members will be radically committed to reform from within. This takes time, prayer, effort, patience, love, trust and hope.
Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 3:12-13, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
4. Gospel-Centered Service
Gospel-centered service is motivated by the reconciling work of God and seeks to extend His grace and mercy to others for His glory and not our own. It is an expression of love and stewardship of grace marked by humility, generosity and hospitality and empowered by a passion for the glory of God.
Service can and should be pursued in various ways by all recipients of varied grace. Those who have been impacted by the gospel have countless opportunities – both formal and informal – to serve others by greeting at the doors of the church, following up guests who will be visiting our church, volunteering to work with our children and youth, teaching, singing, serving communion, giving financially to the needs of others, opening their homes to their neighbors, etc.
John 13:1-20, 1 Peter 3:8-11, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15
5. Gospel-Centered Mission
We are used to thinking of mission in terms of funding and sending missionaries to work in other countries to share the plan of salvation with unreached people groups.
If there is an unreached people group in the United States, it is New Englanders. A recent Gallup poll placed the six states of New England in the top ten least religious states in the nation.
Those in New England who attend evangelical churches hover between 1- 3% of the population. There is a higher percentage of evangelical Christian churchgoers in Mormon Utah than in New Hampshire!
Gospel-centered mission is the recognition that each one of us is sent by God as a missionary into our own sphere of relationships – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – where we boldly promote the gospel through collaborative expressions of mercy and generosity.
We serve a missionary God: The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends us.
Let me just say that I am more of a fan of mining the vein of our current relational sphere than I am into organizing what we’ve known as “street witnessing.” And I am more of a fan of initially engaging our relational network through learning how to listen. In our culture at this moment in history, we will earning the right to speak through first of all learning how to listen.
2 Corinthians 5:11-2, Matthew 28:18-20, Mt. 4:19; John 20:21; Acts 16:20; 17:6, and to make disciples of all nations Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8