Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Understanding Who We Are

The Church of God Reformation Movement is known as a people of the Book, a favorite term of John Wesley. Thus, any vision we have of our mission as a church must begin with how we understand who we are as God’s people. Or, as Gerald Nevitt suggested in God’s People On Mission Through Ministry: “It is critically important that each church have a firm conviction regarding its identity.

Nevitt wrote after being called to the top Administrative post at the Service Center in Lansing, MI administering the work of the Church of God in Michigan. He believed that if the church is to recognize itself as the people of God, which the Church of God does, then it becomes strategically important that each local church have a firm conviction of WHO it is and WHAT IT IS TO DO.

That said, he offered a strategy whereby the churches could “forge out of our life together a commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ”--“glorify God” and “seek and save” the lost as described in Luke 19:10. He sought to facilitate and develop a structure which would energize church planting and expanding God’s kingdom.

Nevitt rejected being a mere ecclesiastical engineer keeping oil on the wheels of church machinery while professional hired guns preached weekly sermons and taught weekly disciplines on “Everything you ever need to know about being a Christian.”.    

The New Testament teaches that Jesus multiplied his ministry by commissioning twelve non-commissioned student preachers to “go” and disciple others. He mentored and trained them to go in God’s name and sent them out to help find peaceful solutions for the fragmented relationships of a complex humanity that needs reconciling with God and with one another.

Did Jesus mean only for the twelve to go; or, did he mean to further reveal his identify through them and to us, so that we might also accept this mandate and further carry on his ministry? The theme of the people of God began with ancient Israel, whom God called to become “people holy to the Lord your God … chosen … to declare the praises of him who called you … (Dt.  7:6; 28: I Peter 2:9).

Thoroughly penetrating our communities can happen only by living the gospel continuously, and modeling it perpetually with every person within our influence. If people of the book do not accept the idea, who will? That brings us to a description David McKenna gave of a piece of his world in Seattle “Our World Perish”, pp2-4, HOLINESS TODAY, Feb. 1999).

He described it as a place with yuppies loitering on crowded sidewalks, headed for a coffeehouse, a Sunday brunch, even a body building salon. That mixed crowd varied from Asians to Middle-easterners, including a smattering of Hindu couples. A short distance further he observed a line of white people threading their way into a white protestant church and noted that they seemed to be somewhat out of step with the clashing colors, blended cultures and mixed creeds on the crowded sidewalk.

Seattle may be a bit larger and more cosmopolitan than my corner of Battle Creek, but it is not that much different; the whole point being that if the church [as the people of God] does not reach out, reach up, reach down, and reach around, who will? Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman that he asked for a drink of water [a real social no-no!]. He visited the home of a thoroughly hated tax collector. He dealt gently with an adultress, caught in the act. His social boundaries were determined by the needs of individuals he encountered wherever he went.

An early disciple of Jesus described God as having obvious affection for this broken and divided mass of humanity (John 3:16-17). This challenges us to identify more closely with the needs of a world that God obviously loves with some passion. It challenges us to accept the idea that it is God’s mandate and that He wants us to saturate our world with His story, but will we practice the behavior?

The first-century church did more than hold fellowship meetings and conduct worship services for fellow Jerusalemites. They began saturating Jerusalem with the story of Jesus by their very lifestyles, which enraged Saul of Tarsus. He determined to exterminate this blasphemous “sect.”

The followers of Jesus were persecuted and scattered throughout Judea and the uttermost parts, but they took their story with them. Thus, Jesus became known all the way from Jerusalem to around the globe, because they accepted the idea and they practiced the behavior.

Practicing this behavior suggests every nation must become our mission field, every congregation must become a sending station, and every member must become a missionary--I did not say preacher. They took their story of Jesus back to where they lived and went from there.

We can accept the idea; leaders can teach the concept, devise strategies for accomplishing our identified mission, and we can practice it in our day to day human relationships. Most of us can do this at home, because many of us literally rub elbows with the world when we walk the sidewalks of our cities.

We are not to merely meet and teach about God, and talk about our world; but we are to talk to the world about our God who has so much interest in the world.

To my church friends, I say if we focus on Jesus our focus will be on the reason he died on the cross. But, we cannot be like Jesus and remain independent, autonomous, unforgiving, selfish and doing our own thing. Many of my friends like to read of life as described in THE BOOK OF NOAH; but what we really need is to rediscover the commitment that drove those people to live as sacrificially as they did.   

From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner,blogspot.com

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