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Mission: Who are we?

by | Feb 5, 2024

These are some notes that I have adapted from the special vision evening we held on Thursday the 25th of January.

Who are we? and where are we going? (see next article) are two fundamental questions that every church needs to ask and be able to answer clearly. These have been the questions that we as elders have been praying about and wrestling over for the last few months. 

Why do these questions matter so much? Firstly, they uncover our true source of authority in the life of a church. You see, who we are is not something we can decide for ourselves. To be a disciple (and a community of disciples) is to be people who follow by submitting everything, including how we answer these questions. These questions, in a really tangible way, uncover our true source of authority. Is it the Bible or something else? Secondly, these questions keep us focused on the main and the plain of what it means to be a church community. It’s very easy to become fad-driven in the life of the church. Someone writes a book and suddenly this new approach is all the rage. Yet, my conviction is that who we are and where we are going must be shaped by timeless truths that we can see plainly laid out in scripture. It’s also easy for us to become bloated with loads and loads of good ideas, but some of these aren’t essential and so can weigh us down and sometimes even distract us from the important and vital. Finally, these questions, if we’re honest with ourselves, war against me and my preferences in the life of a church. Each one of us has personal preferences that are not necessarily wrong but need to be held lightly for the sake of who we are and where we are going. You see, church (ekklesia) is God’s plan (see Eph 3:10) and is always a communal way of life.

So who are we and where are we going?

To answer these questions I want to introduce two terms: mission and vision

Mission is a way of answering the first of my two questions. Mission helps us understand the unchanging calling and passion we have as a church. You should be able to wind the clock forward and backward through time and this mission should not change. In addition, our mission should be able to be adopted by any gospel-loving church because we’ve tried to capture, in simple terms, what it means to be a local church at any point in history.

Vision is a way of trying to capture some of the unique aspects that we as a church need to focus on. The way I like to describe vision is as a cairn. It’s like that small pile of stones further down the path that you look out for as you are walking in the mountains. It helps keep you on track. 

So what is our mission? 

We as elders want to suggest to the church that our mission is to: 

Treasure and Proclaim Christ Together.

Treasure 

In Matthew 13:44 we read these arresting words: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field’. This parable is hugely instructive for us because it describes the Christian life as a joy-saturated commitment to the kingdom of God which, if we consider for long enough, we will realise is none other than a pleasure-filled pursuit of Christ himself. Why? Because the kingdom is the rule and realm of Christ the king (Mark 1:15; 1014). Put differently; it is impossible to separate the kingdom from the king. 

So, why do we exist? We exist to treasure or value Christ above all things. This is a radical picture of discipleship, yet one that lines up with Jesus’ own teaching. He instructed people to love him more than money (Luke 18:22), family (Matthew 10:37), life itself (Matt 16:24-26). And, just to make sure we’ve got hold of this idea, he instructed people to love him more than ‘all things’ (Luke 14:33). Following Christ is always a call to a single-minded commitment to him

However, Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13 goes further in that it uses the words treasure and joy. Sometimes discipleship can only sound like a painful giving up of things. It can seem like a heavy-handed parent taking the dummy from the mouth of a nursing infant. Yet, this parable paints a completely different picture. When Christ is seen for who he is, all other things, including good things, are worth giving up -for his sake. Why? Because his treasure-ness outshines everything. Yet there is more: the Christian life is also a glorious call to enjoyment and gladness. Again in this parable, we don’t see a begrudging selling of all that this person has. No, we’re told ‘in his joy’! The Westminster Shorter Catechism captures this idea so well: Question ‘What is the chief end of man? Answer ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’. Author Sam Storms intensifies the glorious truth we’re reaching for here when he said: God is most glorified in us when our knowledge and experience of Him ignite a forest fire of joy that consumes all competing pleasures and He alone becomes the treasure that we prize’ .

So, we exist to create disciples who will on the one hand willingly abandon all for Christ and yet, at the same time, do it with joy-saturated hearts because Christ is the ultimate treasure! 

And 

To authentically treasure Christ always leads to an ‘and’. Or put differently, when we truly treasure Christ and then look around us and see how millions and millions of people are treasuring counterfeit treasures, it should/must provoke a response within us. And so… 

Proclaim Christ

We proclaim Christ. Our love and enjoyment of Christ must overflow in evangelistic and missionary endeavours because Christ is the treasure that every human soul was made to enjoy (yet currently millions are dead to Him, see Eph 2)! Furthermore, Christ is of such value that even if every person on planet Earth were to fall on their knees in adoration of him, his value would not have been exhausted. He is the pearl ‘of great value’ (Matt 13:46), and rightfully deserves all the worship and adoration of people from every tribe and tongue (Rev 7:9) and even the whole creation (Col 1:15-20; Is 55:12). 

And so we commit ourselves to being people who proclaim Christ (2 Cor 4:5)! Only the real and authentic Christ can rescue people from their sins and this present evil age (Gal 1:3-4). Only the real and authentic Christ can take spiritually dead people and make them alive (Eph 2:1, 5). Only the real and authentic Christ can transform rebellious and stubborn-hearted people into God-loving and other-people-preferring people (Ez 36:26-27). Finally, only the true Christ can bring his people (John 14:6) into the everlasting enjoyment of God himself (Ps 16:11).

Together

Finally, we do this together. Ephesians 2 shows us that one of the goals or outworkings of salvation is the unification of people in Christ. Paul reminds the church in Ephesus, ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (v14-16). These verses have so many implications yet, for now, I want us to focus on how central unity is to Christ’s cross-work. Put differently; a disunified people cannot effectively proclaim Christ, because Christ is the great unifier of people in him. If we’re disunified, our message will ring untrue when people look at our lives. As a result, we need to hold onto Christ’s prayer for unity (John 20:21), cherish the diversity of gifts we see in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12), put to death me-myself-and-I ministries and instead embrace what God is doing in and through us as the church. 
And so we look to treasure and proclaim Christ together.

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