Sunday, January 4, 2009

Unstoppable Mission

We launched our new series today, "Unstoppable." Little did I know the series title would refer not only to the power of God in us to serve him and his cause, but also to the freezing rain that fell on Jackson this morning--a weather phenomenon that did manage to stop many of our people from venturing out.

Since most of our church was unable to make it to worship this morning, I wanted to give a brief recap of the service here on the ol' blog.

We first talked about football teams, who work and prepare the entire season for this part of the year--the postseason. Everything they've worked for comes down to this moment. This is what they've given their heart, their time, their effort, their lives for--it is the purpose for their playing, to win "the big game." Christ has also given us a "big game," a purpose for living, something to give our hearts, our time, our efforts, and our lives for; it is the unstoppable mission of the Church, summed up in Acts 1:8:

"You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Lots of people claim the name of Christ, but they don't accept his mission. They call him "Lord" with their lips, but they don't allow him to set the course for their lives. So how can we know if we are on-mission? If we are accomplishing the unstoppable mission of Jesus, three things are true about us:

1. Everyone Is Included
The scope of the mission is colossal--local and global. Every single person that God has created is included in the scope of the Church's mission. To reach the ends of the earth, we partner with others who extend the mission of PCC in regions beyond Jackson County. We have PCC outposts in Indonesia, Peru, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Mexico, and elsewhere.

But we are responsible for our own area in which God has placed us, so for us, the mission includes 100,000 people in Jackson County who have no church family. So often we write people off by saying, "Oh, he'll never come to Christ," or "She doesn't care about spiritual things." Sometimes, we write off our whole society: "Nobody cares about God anymore; everybody's just doing their own thing." But we are not permitted to do that--everyone is included in the scope of Jesus' unstoppable mission.

2. Everyone Is Needed
Because the scope of the mission is so large, every single person is needed. Everyone who claims the name of Jesus ought to have a ministry. Ministry is not reserved for professional clergy--that was never God's design for his church--and no church in the history of the world that has experienced success has been organized that way. Ministry is for all Christians everywhere; if you're a Christian, you're a minister. (see 1 Cor. 12:12-27)

The pastor's job is to equip the church, to prepare them for their ministry, so that the whole body of Christ will be built up (see Eph. 4:11-12). Christ has given each of his followers a spiritual gift, and it was given so that it would be used. Our ministries at PCC are designed to advance the mission--every single ministry is missional. We promise not to waste your gifts and talents; now, will you make the same promise--not to waste your gifts and talents?

3. Everyone Is Changed
The Greek word for "witnesses" is martyrioi, from where we get our English word "martryr." To have a story to share, to have something to tell, we have to have a genuine experience of God in our lives. That means dying to ourselves and surrendering to God's plan and direction (see Mark 8:34-35). The function of the Holy Spirit in our lives is that we are changed into different people.

The reason for the Holy Spirit, the power that he brings in our lives, the change that he produces in our lives, the spiritual gifts that he gives us, and the whole divine plan--is so that we would be witnesses! A witness tells the story of what they have seen and experienced.

This is what we call "Real Story," one of our Core Values, our Key Three. The Core Values work together in a single process. As we tell our stories, we invite people to enter into this Real Community of faith. As they gain exposure to what the Christian faith is all about, they come to the point of surrender to God and experience a new spiritual life, an experience of Real Spirituality. When they have an authentic relationship with God, it produces in them the necessary ingredients for them to share their Real Story, and the cycle starts all over again.

Real Story --> Real Community --> Real Spirituality --> Real Story

The objective of our church is to get this cycle going around and around and around, gaining momentum and traction so that we become unstoppable.

We wrapped up the service with a look at President Kennedy's moon speech, in which he declared that the US would land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth before the decade was out. This goal took tremendous focus, determination, commitment, sacrifice, and cooperation on the part of many countless people. But it was accomplished.

From the beginning of time until 1904, man had never flown. And yet only 65 years after the Wright brothers flew 100 feet at Kittyhawk, NC, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

Winning bowl games and landing on the moon are great goals, but they pale in comparison to the importance of the mission that Christ has given his Church, a mission that seeks to change the eternal destinies of every person in the world. This mission is worth giving our lives to, worth sacrificing for, and worth devoting everything we have and are to it.

We aim to be a church where everyone is included, everyone is needed, and everyone is changed. To apply these principles on an individual basis, to know whether or not we are on-mission, we have three action steps that we can take:

1. Name three people you're going to invite to join you at church next Sunday.
2. Name your ministry that advances the mission Christ gave us. If you don't have a ministry, click here, and pick one.
3. Write down how a relationship with Jesus has changed your life. This becomes your Real Story, your witness to share with others. Just tell what you have seen and experienced.

This is the most important, worthwhile thing we can be involved in--the unstoppable mission of Jesus Christ. His purposes will always prevail. Nothing will stop this mission. The question is whether or not we'll be a part of it. It's time for us to get on-mission.


Anonymous said...

Did it ever occur to you that people have missions outside of church that you don't know about? Most people today don't want to mix the mission given to them by God with the "churches" mission. The church just screws everything up and always has some sort of agenda. Most of the time it's to "get" more people into their church to make more money. Perhaps if these people stayed out of church their money would go to a better cause.

Pastor Scott said...

Well, let me first say thanks for posting a comment on my blog. I enjoy the opportunity for discussion, and I'm glad you shared your views.

Second, I'm sorry you seem to have had negative experiences with churches and church people. Unfortunately, there are many who wrap themselves in the name of Jesus who do have their own agendas besides his. As I said in my original post, "They call him 'Lord' with their lips, but they don't allow him to set the course for their lives."

But it is not true that all churches are inherently corrupt, that church screws "everything" up and "always" has a selfish agenda. I've been to bad restaurants before, but I'm not willing to boycott all restaurants because of the poor quality of some.

The motivation of money is nearly always the accusation of those who wish to withdraw from the church. But I can tell you, starting a church is probably the stupidest possible way to try to get rich. I speak for all pastors I know when I tell you that there are numerous other professions I could have chosen that would have paid me much better than ministry--and I would have had to spend much less money in acquiring an education for those fields. But money was the furthest thing from my mind. I became a pastor to serve and obey God, to teach and challenge others to serve and obey God as well, and so that those who don't yet know him would have the opportunity to do so--because that's what God created them for.

My experience is that the people who accuse the church of being interested only in their money are guilty of the exact accusation they level at the church. They don't want to be generous with what God has entrusted to them, so they remove themselves from a community that expects them to obey the commands of God to give. You see, it was Jesus who said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." No pastor made that up. Giving is an indispensible part of the Christian life. It's not the reason the church exists, but it is an expectation for those who say they follow Jesus... because Jesus is the one who said it!

You post your comment in a completely anonymous way, so I have no way of knowing whether you know me or not, whether you know this church or not. I don't know anything about you.

What I do know is that bitterness and resentment is not a formula for spiritual renewal. I also know that it was God, not human ingenuity, that instituted the church. Many churches have become corrupted, and that is extremely sad and lamentable. But it is no reason to pretend that our plans are greater than God's and that we are wiser than he.

Obviously, we disagree fundamentally, but I really am glad you posted, and I invite you to continue this dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I go to church every week. I give every week also. I do not, however, "plug in" to my churches ministries. I work with several groups that have ministries outside my church. It works much better that way.

The money we contribute all goes to ministry. We do our part and let God handle the rest. We have no staff to pay-all volunteer. We have no building expenses-we meet in homes, the library or other places. God's mission is for us to reach the world. How can you do that if you don't go to the people?

People need to know that you care, they need to SEE God's love. I think asking them to church is a step beyond the first step. First you need to let them know you care. Do volunteer work for people just to do it. No agenda of getting them to come to church. If we do our part God has no problem with his part. And his part is to draw them to him. You may never see these people again but you need to help with that in mind.

If you want them to see a christian in action do it outside the church because that's where the rubber hits the road. Seeing you in action Monday thru Saturday, where you are who you really are, is what changes peoples vision of God. If they like what they see they will ask you about it. Then you tell they about your church.

It's amazing when someone asks you why you are helping them and you tell them "Jesus is why". If they don't want to hear about him you still help them because some day, down the road, they will remember because Love is a verb!

So I wonder how many ministries is your congregation involved in that you don't even know about?

Sande said...

In reading your (Just-Me) words, I can't help but feel your overwhelming hurt and distrust. It sounds as if the wounds are so deep and over the years have festered. I too have had a past full of hurt, misuse, and disappointments. I grew up in a very judgmental, two-faced God FEARING church atmosphere. Sunday morning christian faces became faces of lies, gossip, anger, abuse and ugliness. I have huge issues with trust!

I am so sorry for your unfortunate experiences with church and the overall perception of christians. I can empathize with the sadness that comes along with being in that place. It's very easy to pick out all the christians who are doing and saying the wrong things. Once a person makes the decision to become a christian, they are automatically expected to behave in an almost unhuman way. Part of this at least for me, was the way I was brought up in the church. Christians are to be like God, act like God, and be observed having "God like" responses. Truth is...we are human...we are sinners...we are not God...therefore, it will always be a daily, maybe even a moment by moment challenge to behave as God would have his children behave. The good news is God doesn't expect us to be perfect...He knows we are only human, and when we do mess up or fall short of His glory, He forgives us and allows us to try again. As humans we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intent. For the most part, I think people intend to do the right thing. I know that I have fallen short in my christian behavior's and although I hope I don't again...I probably will. So, I would like to apologize to you on behalf of all who have hurt and damaged your vision of Church and Christians. In these times I am sorry for my unintended display of what God is.

Like I mentioned before, it is easy to find all the wrong things people/Christians/churches are doing...I challenge you to find the good things we are doing and invite you to join us!

I'd also like to talk with you about "where the rubber hits the road." In this paragraph, you ask of Pastor Scott how many ministries his congregation is in that he doesn't know about. As a regular attender of his church and a person who does help others outside of my church, I can honestly say that he does NOT know all the things that his congregation does outside of church. I say this because I have never discussed with Pastor Scott the many things I do to help my community. I don't usually tell anyone...that is what makes it so's anonymous...thus all glory is given to God.

Whether we do things as a church or on an individual basis, I think I can honestly say that we all do it for the glory of God...not for any individual or monetary gain.

Now, I would like to ask you, from one doubter and hurt person to another, to give God the chance to heal your wounds. Open up your mind to allow the possibility that good churches exist and christian people are just like everyone else...trying to be better.

I would also like to extend my hand out to you and offer my sincere invitation to attend our church...get to know us better knowing we have the same intent to good in our walk with God.

with sincere respect,

Pastor Scott said...

Sande, thanks for your insightful and sensitive comments. You represent our Lord, our church, and what we are all about so well.

Just-Me, I'm all about getting Christians outside the four walls of the church to impact our neighbors with tangible, practical expressions of the love of God meeting real needs.

You're right to say that inviting someone to church is not a "first step." It is the height of relational ignorance to simply walk up to strangers and invite them to church. It is only sleightly less ignorant to invite those we barely know. But in the context of a real realationship where we actually know people and they actually know us, it is appropriate to invite people to experience what we ourselves have found to be beneficial in our own lives.

Absolutely, we need to go to where people are (that's what the Great Commission says!). Absolutely, we need to serve people, demonstrate concrete expressions of real love with no agenda and no strings attached. And absolutely, if anyone asks us about it, we should be ready to respond with a response that points them to Jesus as the reason.

But the Bible also tells us to "preach the good news." St. Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” But this idea—however widespread—is simply not biblical. In fact, it plays to our fears of speaking about Jesus and to our sense of weakness and insufficiency to the task, when Christ promises to make us bold and equal to the task. At all times in scripture, the gospel is a verbal proclamation. There are no instances in which the gospel is preached without words. There is no case in which a person comes to faith in Christ without someone sharing with them the good news of Jesus—out loud, with their mouths. It’s true that we don’t want to just bullhorn people; we have to back up our message with our lives. But our lives need to be amplified by a clear expression of Jesus’ message of good news, which we can only do through words. We don't "preach" through actions, despite what some Christians would like to believe.

How many Pathway people are involved in ministries I don't know about? All of them, I hope! But I see no contradiction between serving both inside the church and outside the church, when both advance the kingdom and the mission of Jesus Christ.