Mission thoughts from Moore College.
women who were sent from the empty tomb to go and tell others. In Luke it’s the broader group of disciples. In Matthew it’s the Great Commission of chapter 28. There’s different colour, different details but the same basic idea: Jesus, the sent one, sends his followers out to the world – to the tribes and nations. This is where we get the English word “mission” from. It comes from the Latin word for being sent. This is the heart of what mission is all about. You won’t find the English word “mission” in the Bible (apart from once in Acts 12), but if you’ve ever wondered where in the Bible it talks about mission – and mission to the nations – you need to look out for the “sent” or “sending” words. In the New Testament, the book that has more of these words than any other is John’s Gospel. So, let’s see what it tells us about mission – mission to the nations. WHO IS SENT IN JOHN? If you look at the different groups or individuals who are “sent” in the pages of John’s Gospel, you will find that it refers four times to disciples (John 13:16; 13:20; 17:18 and 20:21), and three times to the Holy Spirit (14:26; 15:26; 16:7), but 41 times to Jesus. So, do you see that whenever we talk about being sent, or about mission, we have to remember that it is all about Jesus, and all refers to Jesus? God the Father is the sender. He has sent the Son and intends to bring all things under the Son’s feet. This is the essence of mission. There are four categories of reference in John that describe Jesus as the one sent by the Father. There are verses that talk about: 1 his unique identity (5:37-38; 12:44-45); 2 his saving/bringing life (3:17; 6:44); 3 speaking or teaching God’s word (12:49; 14:24); and 4 doing God’s will/work (4:34; 10:35-38). So, in what ways are we sent just as Jesus was sent? We’re certainly not sent as the unique one, or the one who saves and brings life! However, we are sent to do God’s will (John 13:15-17) and to speak or teach God’s word (John 17:18-22). WHAT MISSION IS ABOUT Lots of things go on in the name of mission, but what we see in John’s Gospel is that bearing witness to Jesus – speaking and teaching the word of God – is what it’s all about. If mission does not have speaking about Jesus at its core it is not Christian mission. So, what about all the other things that go on under the name of “mission”? How do all of the other good things that Christians might do fit into this? Only those who live according to God’s will are credible witnesses. Lives of obedience commend the gospel, adorn the gospel, may even win a hearing for the gospel but they are not the gospel – and they are not mission unless those who are sent are sent to speak. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be involved in all kinds of other good things locally and all over the world. Working for justice, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, advocating for the powerless, providing education and shelter and comfort and mercy – all of these are great things and the right thing to be doing as we are able – whether or not they result in an opportunity to evangelise. However, if we talk about all of those things as mission, we miss the point. In John’s Gospel, this is the mission: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes SouthernCross
in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). God sending Jesus is what it is all about – and he sends you and me, too, to tell the world about Jesus. To be witnesses. To testify to the truth. In Matthew’s Gospel, instead of the sending “mission” word, the focus is on “making disciples”. But do you see that the point is the same? “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20). How do you make disciples? Baptising, bringing to faith and teaching – growing to maturity. But notice that the teaching is about obedience. Teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded. And what was the last thing that Jesus commanded? Go and make disciples of all nations! That means that every single Christian has a part to play and a responsibility to bear in making disciples of all nations. HOW CAN I “MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS”? Doesn’t that just seem too big? Too complicated? A specialist’s job? One of my great frustrations with people like me is that we too often turn what should be the normal Christian life into something you need to be trained or qualified to do. I’m not talking about being a church leader or preacher – I do think you’d better get some good training for that. I mean disciple making. Jesus’ approach to disciple making was to call 12 men to follow him. They followed him around, watched his life and listened to what he said. There were crowds of others too, who followed him
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