Sunday, February 7, 2016

What is Church? Chapter 2

In a blog on January 6th, I suggested that one purpose for gathering as followers of Christ is to search for God and allow others to do the same. Today I want to address another reason why we gather as the Body of Christ: mission.

As most of us will know, Missional Church is very much in vogue these days. We read about it in the primary journals and publications of the church and most of our churches claim to be on a missional path. Many times when hearing someone speak of the “missional” church, I find myself wanting to quote Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Perhaps none of us has a clear definition of the word “missional.”

However, today, I do want to make some bold statements about mission. One of the reasons God has called us to be the church is that he is continually calling us to mission. The word mission comes from a Latin word, mitterre, which means “to send.” The etymology of the word is also rooted in the Greek word “apostolos, from apostellein to send away, from apo- + stellein to send.”[1] So, a missionary or an apostle is “one who is sent;” in this context, it is one who is sent by God.

Jesus is our perfect example of one who was sent. The Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 20 and 21 make this clear, As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’”[2]

From these words we understand that Jesus was sent into human time and culture by God the Father; and, as his mission was nearing completion, he sent his followers into human time and culture to continue his work. John 20: 20, a verse that I like to call the “20:20 vision verse,” also informs his followers that the task of being sent is not easy and may result in rejection, suffering, and even martyrdom.

Now, as we are sent into this world, what do we understand to be our task? Our task is that of Jesus Christ, the Son. Jesus came to do many things and, as some of the manuscripts of the Gospel of John also say, “If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) It is clear that Jesus came to forgive sin (John 20:23), bring Good News to the poor . . . . to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18, 19) All of these tasks are also the work of the ones whom Jesus sends into this present time.

I like to describe it in another way; being sent by Jesus means that we are to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus. We are to continue his work of releasing people from the chains of oppression (both earthly and spiritual). We are to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and bring this good news to the spiritually poor and the earthly poor. By prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to bring sight to the spiritually blind and the earthly blind. We are to bring hope and peace that the time of God’s favour upon humans is at hand. Jesus continues to say, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

[1] See the Merriam-Webster online dictionary at
[2] I am quoting from the New Living Translation (NLT) unless otherwise noted.

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