Archive for December, 2010
Thanks to the UMC, here is a well-done piece about reThinking Church.
If God’s desire was only for a small, homogenous group to live in obedience to Him, the Old Testament would have been significantly different. For example, no mention or model would be found in Melchizedek. Neither Ruth nor Rahab would play a special role. The Ninevites would be left to their own devices and certain peril. Other altered stories would have included Balaam, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius.
If His plan was for only a select number from one ethnolinguistic people group in one geographic area to walk in the transforming love of Christ, then the New Testament would be radically altered–even more so than the Old Testament. If God’s desire was not for the nations, then Jesus would have dismissed the woman at the well, the Syro-phoenician woman, the Roman centurion and the thief on the cross. He would not have pointed to a good Samaritan as the hero in the story. The day of Pentecost would not have included God-fearing Jews from every nation. Peter would have had to refuse the invitation of Cornelius. Philip would not have stepped into the chariot with the Egyptian official. Paul would not have written his letters to the churches, as none would be outside of Jerusalem. He never would have gone to the Philippian jailer’s home because he never would have traveled to Philippi as a missionary called and sent out by the church in Antioch. And the church in Antioch would have looked nothing like it did. Jesus would not have spoken to the seven churches in Asia Minor. There would be no record in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb” wearing white robes, worshipping God.
These stories and others similar in nature are still with us. They are recorded in the Bible. The reason for this is simple. These stories are key to the plan of God. Removing the above stories would cause the loss of some incredible tales–a huge fish swallowing a man, a talking donkey, a sheet coming out of heaven filled with animals of all kinds, potential jail breaks and so much more. But if these stories were to be removed, it would alter history and eternity forever. The story of redemption would be incomplete. Stories such as that of Rahab and Ruth are more than interesting. The love of God demonstrated to these two ladies from other nations is key to the genealogy of Christ. Following His birth, the Messiah is visited and worshipped by humble, pungent shepherds from nearby and by wealthy dignitaries from the East, possibly from modern day countries like Iraq, Iran or Jordan. Even in the Christmas story God makes clear that He sent Jesus for the entire range of the socioeconomic scale and for the nations. The vast, far-reaching plan of God begins to unfold both prior to and following the coming of the Savior.
While there are numerous ways to live this out, I would like to share one great way is through the Skybridge Community. Check it out.
At the burning bush, Moses received instruction to go back to Egypt. Jonah learned that he was to go to the city of Nineveh. Philip left a movement of God, compelled to go into the desert. Paul, unable to go into Asia Minor, made a beeline for Philippi. God sent these men to these select places. The instruction was clear and direct, though each heard Him speak in a unique way.
When the church prepares to do mission, there are several key questions to ask. The first is, “To whom are we sent?” It is important before moving out to know where and to what people the Spirit is sending His people.
The people to whom we are sent may be similar to us like in the situation with Paul and the Philippians. Perhaps there will be some marked differences in language, culture and station such as with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It is possible that we may be called to a people that we have disdain for according to the story of Jonah–though it seems a wrong understanding of the heart of God and his resulting disobedience greatly impacted his view of the situation and his fish bait outcome. It is possible that the Spirit will send us back to a people we have left as happens in the story of Moses going back to his own in Egypt.
It is a blessing to serve the sovereign God who, in advance, prepares good works for us to do. He is the one that sends us out. Because of this, before setting out on mission, a people will do well to seek God to learn from him: To whom are we sent?