Acts: New Beginnings – Part 3

Defining Our Mission

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:4-8 NIV

What is our mission? In a word, we are to multiply. We are disciples making disciples.

I’ve asked that question in many different groups, and have gotten many different answers.  A common answer suggests that it is to hold worship services each Sunday. Some people in rather desperate circumstances describe their mission as “keeping the doors open”.  If we were speaking in business or marketing terms, we would say that our product or our service we offer is that we hold a weekly worship gathering that we invite people to attend.  But I want to challenge this idea. Worship is core to who we are as Christians but it is not our mission.  What’s the difference? If holding worship is our mission, then getting someone to start attending church is the completion of our mission. But, this is simply not the truth.  In Matthew 23:15 Jesus criticized the religious leaders for going to great lengths to win over a convert but then made them twice as much a child of hell as they are. How do you do that? By getting someone to come to church, teach them how to act Christian and be religious but without leading them to repentance and faith in Christ and Jesus.

Two weeks ago, when we looked at defining church.  We summed it up with the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17:20-24. Jesus made it clear that the fundamental element that defines the church is an intimate spiritual connection with Jesus Christ. This relationship is founded on repentance and faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord and allows God to give us the gift of his Holy Spirit. From this, a close bond with other believers extends from our relationship in Christ. Lastly, Jesus said that these would make us multiply because others would see Jesus in our lives and relationships and be drawn to him.

Our life, our identity, is formed in relationship with Jesus and each other through the Holy Spirit. Our mission flows from that, our mission is to multiply!

Who are we meant to reach as we multiply? Do we have a target population?

I have heard it said that the hour of “church” on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.  If one considers the make up of most churches, they are all quite homogeneous in makeup.  The people tend to be of the same racial, ethnic, and social/economic status. When visiting a church, most people are looking for a place where they feel that they fit in. It is natural for us to be drawn to people who are “like” us. This was never more true than at the very beginning of the church. When the church began on Pentecost in Jerusalem is was made up exclusively of Jewish people. They had been taught that their ethnic group was uniquely identified as God’s people.  Even though Jesus said that they should be his witnesses in, “Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”, would they only look for the Jewish people scattered throughout those places?

God answered for  that question for the apostles by demonstrating in different places and with different people groups that the Holy Spirit would be given to anyone from anywhere who trusted in the gospel of Jesus. In Samaria (Acts 8:1-17), in the house of Cornelius with non-Jews, with followers of John the baptist (Acts 19:1-7), and more (Acts 11;19-26).  God pushed the apostles out past all the boundaries and out of their comfortable sensibilities to reach all peoples.  God even used persecution as a means to push them out and scatter them into many places.

We must remember that we live in a dark world, darkened by evil. So many are so broken by sin that they cannot rise out of the messes they are in, as they lack any sense of direction and power to overcome. We are sent as a light into the darkness to give hope and guide those still lost in sin to find their way home to Jesus.

 

Consider and discuss these questions.

  1. How does defining our mission help us to do the will of God?
  2. Does the mission to multiply shape what you do and what your church does?
  3. Are their things that get in the way, for you or for the church, to complete this mission?
  4. Are you being stretched beyond your comfort zone in reaching out to others?
  5. What is holding you back from completing the mission?
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