For today’s Mission Monday, I want to continue the discussion I started last week about how we motivate the church to go on mission. Last week we discussed the importance of distinguishing between “the mission” and “missions.” This week I want to to talk about the primacy of the Word of God in leading people to embrace the mission of God.
One of the key theological debates during the Reformation of the 16th century concerned the relationship between the church and the Bible. The Roman Catholic church taught that the church formed the Bible, whereas the Reformers correctly taught that the Bible/Gospel creates or forms the church. We see this idea in several places in Scripture. For instance, in Romans 10:17 Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” In other words, it is through the hearing of the Word of God/Gospel that faith is formed in the human heart. In Acts 6:7 the growth of the church is attributed to the Word of God, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many priests became obedient to the faith.” In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul says that the believers Spiritual growth in righteousness is directly related to the Word of God. Martin Luther summarized the role of the Scripture by saying, “The church was born by the word of promise through faith, and by this same word is nourished and preserved. That is to say, it is the promises of God that make the church and not the church the makes the promises of God.”
Here is where our theology must be put into practice. If we believe that the church is formed and shaped by the Word of God, then the best way to motivate our people to go on mission is through the careful, deliberate and systematic preaching/teaching of the Bible. Let me nuance this a little more, because many of you will read my last statement and think to yourself, “but I already do that and my people are not going on mission.” If we want people to go on mission we must make sure that we are interpreting and preaching the Scripture in a Christocentric manner. In other words, we must make sure that we are always looking to see what the passage we are preaching teaches about Jesus and His mission. This practice stems from the conviction that first and foremost the Bible is centered and focused on the person and work of Jesus.
Far too many sermons that I hear today are focused on self-help and motivational messages that have little to do with the Gospel of Jesus. Sure, the preacher added a plea to repent and believe at the end of the message, but nothing else in the sermon had a distinctively Christian message. This is not a new complaint and many have recognized this problem before me, but I think it bears repeating. As Bible preachers and teachers, it is our responsibility to show our people how every passage of Scripture we preach connects to Christ and His mission. This is the single best way we can motivate people to go on mission.
Once again, let me come back to what I said last week. If we merely motivate people to go on “missions” their passion is going to be grounded in mere circumstances. If they had a good trip or heard a good speaker they will be temporarily committed. But if we can help them to see “the mission” of God as it has played out through the pages of the Bible and in their lives, they will move beyond mere commitment to actually being shaped by the “the mission of God.” Being shaped by the mission is never the product of a mere program or promotion within the church. If we want people to be shaped by the “the mission” of God, we must trust in the sole sufficiency of the Word of God to being transformation.
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