The next three weeks will feature a series of guest blog posts from Andy Schultz, an ordained elder at Faith Church. Andy is the Worship Director at Faith-Highland and is a Masters student at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, MI. I’m delighted for him to share some insights from a course on the mission of the church that can help us specifically think through the mission of Faith Church as it relates to the early church and the Book of Acts. I think you will benefit from these thoughts, being encouraged through seeing how we continue in the same mission, as well as being challenged to respond to God’s call to the church in new ways.
Faith Church’s mission statement reads this way: Reach the disconnected; grow the connected. There are two very distinct parts to that statement that give us direction to reach two audiences: people who are disconnected from God, and the gathered community of believers. There is a clear call in that mission to deliver the gospel message to those who are disconnected from God and/or the church. There is also a call for those enfolded into the story of Faith Church to grow in that newfound faith. It offers a cyclical pattern for those who are a part of Faith Church: seek others out and give them a way to grow.
A similar pattern existed in the early church as well. As we unpack that pattern from Scripture, it’s important to understand where God’s people came from in order to understand who we are as God’s people on mission in this world.
In Part One of this series, we’ll examine the journey of God’s historically chosen people, Israel, and how the church, founded in the name of Jesus Christ, began many centuries later.
So, Who Are We?
Faith Church represents a gathered body who believe in Jesus, Son of God, nearly two thousand years after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. That’s a simple statement, but the significance of those events are part of a larger narrative of God and His people over a greater period of time. Understanding this history will help us connect ourselves to the greater mission of God’s people in this world.
Rewind to Genesis 12 where, after the creation of the world and humanity and the fall of humans into sin, God chose Abraham and his lineage-the people of Israel-to bless others in His name:
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV)
Notice the first word of the command of God. “Go,” the LORD says. “Go from your country and your kindred…to the land that I will show you.” There’s a call to go from the comfortable place toward the place we are led to go by God. What will happen when we are obedient? “I will bless you,” says the LORD, “so that you will be a blessing.” Why? We position ourselves to be a blessing for “all the families of the earth.”
So far, we’re called to go and be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” That’s a tall task. It’s the task of Abraham, and the efforts to even begin that lineage were difficult considering that both Abraham and his wife Sarah were far beyond the expected years to bear children. Yet, God was faithful. When the task was tall, God was faithful. He calls us to extend beyond ourselves and be a blessing to others as we have been blessed by our faithful God.
Going Where It’s Uncomfortable
That journey might take us to strange or challenging places. Many generations later, God’s people were in exile in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. Rather than desiring to bless the place where they had been brought, God’s people were simply looking for any sign they could to return home, away from the dark place they’ve been led to, which was ruled by Nebuchadnezzar. In Jeremiah 28 we see a false prophet, Hananiah, delivering the promise of a return home, but Jeremiah must correct that false word with the word of the one, true living God.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7 (ESV)
Fast forward to the Gospel of Matthew, and Jesus, after his death and resurrection, gathers eleven disciples and delivers what we now call the Great Commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit
It’s clear there is a sending-out for God’s people to participate in this process of restoring God’s Kingdom. However, these questions remain: How will we know exactly what to do? How will we know how to do it? Luke records the words of Jesus before his ascension to heaven that give us the answer:
“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” Acts 1: 6-8 (ESV)
All of Scripture describes the restoration of the Kingdom of God, which is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in God’s people to reach out to all nations with this message until Christ’s return. Though this list is not exhaustive of the details of this calling for God’s people in this story, it demonstrates the framework for Faith’s mission statement: Reach the disconnected; grow the connected.
- “Go…so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-3)
- “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…” (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
- “…make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- “…you will receive…the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:6-8)
Having laid this foundation, I’ll unpack each half of that mission statement in the next two posts to help us see what God has for you individually and for Faith Church.
Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.