Jesus and His Church
What did Jesus have in mind when he said, “I will build my church” (Matt.16:17-19). The Book of Acts shows us that the church is: “a community of Christ-followers empowered by the Spirit to participate in God’s mission in the world.” Any time you have that happening, you have an expression of the church of Jesus Christ. Today we will talk about what it means to “participate in God’s mission in the world.”God’s Mission in the World
God was not content to continue for eternity with the amazing loving community he has always experienced. He decided to spread this community by creating human beings – in his image and likeness, and able to love and be loved. When human relationships broke down and community fell apart, God did not remain aloof. He went into the Garden in search of Adam and Eve, even after they had sinned. Then Jesus came and lived among us. He left the comforts of heaven to come into the brokenness of earth to make a way for people to be restored to God and to each other. God is a missionary God! He loves and has a passion for those who are ‘outside’ his love.
As Jesus called his disciples to be with him (community) and to become like him (discipleship), he empowered them with the Spirit, not just so they could feel good, but so that they would have the boldness and the wisdom to reach out to people (Acts 1:8) ... locally right nearby them, as well as eventually in all nations (people groups) of the earth and all sectors of society (different spheres of influence). The church that Jesus desired to build was not to be a closed group. It was to be a group or community of people who exist to reach those who are considered ‘outsiders’. Heaven’s priority is reaching ‘lost people’ and ours needs to be also (see Luke 15). The book of Acts tells the story of Jesus building his church. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, the church in the first century took the gospel to the then known world, gradually spreading out from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth. Amazingly, they did this without the benefits of modern technology and in an environment of persecution from the Roman Empire.
For Christians, mission is not an optional extra for the fanatical few or for the specially anointed. It is central to who we are in Christ and why we are on planet earth. A church without mission is no longer truly a church and a Christian without mission is not a true disciple. The question is not whether mission is for us or whether it should be part of our ministry. The question is, “What is our part in mission because we are believers?” Mission needs to be in every heart – local, national and global. Jesus has already given us our marching orders. Jesus is not coming until the church gets going. We have work to do. Jesus’ last command should be our first concern.A Model for Missional Living
Jesus desires each of his followers to be a missionary – someone who is going into the world, incarnating themselves into their local communities, and then reaching out with his love. He wants us out in the public space making a difference for him. In Luke 10:1-12, we have an outline of some instructions that Jesus gave his disciples as he sent them out to reach their local communities. Ed Silvoso, an evangelist from Argentina, notes four important concepts behind Jesus’ instructions – what he told them to do and in what order.
Sample Discussion Questions
- Be a Blessing to People in your Community
Notice that the first thing they were to say was, “May God’s peace be on this house!” They were to be and bring a blessing to people they were reaching out to. Notice Jesus didn’t tell them to say, “Turn or burn!” The Gospel is meant to be good news. We are to seek peace and blessing for all people. Wish people well. Pray for their family and their world. Satan comes to bring a curse. People are under a curse. God has blessed us and called us to speak blessing to others. We are to desire their well-being. We are to love our neighbour, as ourselves. We are to seek good for them. May we as Christ’s followers be a blessing to every place that we go – always seeking people’s good. Our very predisposition to people far from God is to do them well – not to bring them judgment or condemnation. They are already under that. They need the good news of God’s love towards them (Jn.3:16-17).
- Build Relationships with People
Jesus then told his disciples to eat and drink together with the people they were reaching out to. He wanted them to spend time with those who needed God. They were to love them and reach out to them with genuine interest and care. Over a meal you can get to know a person and build a relationship with them. Jesus himself was described as a “friend of sinners” (Matt. 11:19). He took time to be with them. He treated people as valuable and important. They saw his life and heard his words, felt his heart. This was his approach to all people, not just the nice or good people.
As Christ’s followers we are to be relatable to people in our world. We aren’t called to be so different that we become ‘weird’ and therefore unattractive to people. We need to be different, but not weird – able to relate to people in our culture in a meaningful way (see 1 Cor.9:19-23). May our church community be a place where people can truly come ‘as they are’ and then allow the saving grace and love of Jesus to change what needs to be changed. May we never become a community that says to people far from God, “When you get your act together ... then you are welcome around here!” Note Jesus’ attitude towards Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).
- Meet People’s Needs
Jesus goes on to tell them that as they are building these relationships, they should then look to meet any needs that are there. For instance, he tells them to ‘heal the sick’. Jesus wants his followers to seek to meet the immediate needs of those they are reaching out to. God cares for people and is interested in their hurts and needs. Remember, Jesus went about ‘doing good’ (Acts 10:38). We are to demonstrate God’s love in practical ways, with ‘no strings attached’. Find a need and meet it (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus wants his followers to be passionate and excited about doing ‘good works’ - not in order to earn their salvation but as an expression of their gratitude for the love God has show to them (See Matt.5:16; Eph.2:10; Titus 2:13-14; 3:8, 14; 1 Pet.2:12).
- Share the Good News about Jesus
Only then, does Jesus tell them to preach the gospel. This is because there are now open, and have receptive hearts ready to hear. For Jesus, steps 1-3 precede the actual preaching of the gospel. Pre-evangelism is important. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to start here. It is easy to reverse the order by starting to preach before we even have earned the right to be heard and gained an audience. This is not some manipulative process. We are to love people just because it is the right thing to do – whether they become followers of Christ or not. However, we should also move beyond simply building relationships and helping people, to seek to talk about what is most important – their spiritual condition and their relationship with God.
- Read Jeremiah 29:4-7. What relevance does this have for us as we live in an increasingly secular world?
- Jesus calls his followers to be ‘in’ the world but ‘not of’ the world (Jn.17:15-18). The dangers are at the extremes – we either become so ‘not of’ the world that our isolation results in irrelevance OR we become so ‘in’ the world that we are no longer different which results in no impact. How can we avoid this?
- God rarely uses just one person to bring someone through the entire process of coming to faith in him. More often, he orchestrates a number of people, places and events to lovingly move this person toward Christ. Have each person in the group share their journey to becoming a Christian. What lessons are there?
- Discuss some ways your LifeGroup could apply the principles gleaned from Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10. Include in your discussion ways to reach unchurched friends, to serving the local community, as well as involvement in foreign missions.
- Read John 4:1-42. What lessons can we learn about mission from this story of Jesus having a conversation with a woman who he met by a well?
- Read the parable of the sower and the seed (Luke 8:1-15). What lessons can we learn about evangelism from this teaching of Jesus?