The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
This message is a part of a series called “GO & DO”. We will look at our faith in action and how it drives us to take on different roles throughout our lives. God did not call for his believers to sit silently and keep the Good News to themselves. No, we are to GO & DO as Christ did and leave no stone un-turned in our pursuit to spread the gospel of Christ.
For many Christians, especially those who grew up in the church, their faith is something that is personal and almost private. They tend to treat their faith the same way they treat family matters: privately. The same way that we don’t really like to talk about all the arguments and disfunction within some of our families with the outside world, we often try to keep our faith as something tucked down in our hearts. This view of Christianity is generally accepted by those inside the church because it lets them blend in with the world around them. It’s accepted by those outside the church because it means they never have to hear about this person named “God” which may force them to think about their lives, their purpose, and what they are living for. It’s “just easier”.
The problem is that this view of Christianity is irreconcilable with the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible made his presence known through miracles, awesome displays of power, the words and actions of the prophets, and through the life and testimony of Jesus Christ. God’s Will for his creation is that all would know exactly how deeply he loves all of us. That means action.
In the church we use words like “mission” to sometimes mean specific things. When we say “mission trip”, most of us think of a trip to so far-off and exotic location working with people very different than us. This is a type of mission, but our mission as Christians is much, much bigger than that. Here’s a fun fact for you: Jesus didn’t go on mission trip. While many of the disciples did end up traveling far from home, many stayed in their home regions and cities. Were they “not on mission”? The fact that most of them were murdered for what they believed would suggest that they lived their entire lives down to the last breath actively on mission.
The call is the same for us in 2019: we are believers on mission. For some that may mean a career choice or travel. For others that may mean focusing on the poor in spirit in our own community. What matters is not how grand or impressive your mission looks to other people, but how much your heart craves to serve God through serving other people.
Let’s look at a few of the ways Christians are called to mission in the Bible.
The first type of mission we must talk about is traditionally labeled MISSIONARY WORK. Take a look at how missionary work reached out to Paul.
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for several days. On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 15:6-16)
In this story we see “they” (who is Paul) being CALLED into missionary work. The Holy Spirit provided conviction from them to travel and direction for their calling. This is a very important point that often times is lost on many adults within the church: the calling to travel to a third world country and dig wells is not something every Christian is ordained to do. If you don’t have that calling, you aren’t “failing to be a Christian”. What we see within Paul is the Holy Spirit leading him one way or the other. You can see this in the testimonies of many people who do pursue a calling into missionary work. There are many people who travel to a country on a short-term mission trip of a week or two and end up staying there their entire lives. Many of them describe feeling as God leaving their hearts in that country. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit on their lives.
How do you know what the Holy Spirit is telling you? That’s where things like PRAYER, BIBLE STUDY, and listening to OTHER PEOPLE (like preachers, mentors, and others in your life) come into play. If we want to hear where the Holy Spirit is calling us, we must actually be listening for it and that goes for ANY calling we may have.
Another way some Christians support their mission is through EVANGELISM. Take a look at Peter’s words in Jerusalem right after crowds of people had witnessed the Holy Spirit fall from heaven.
Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. […] “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. (Acts 2:14,36-41)
Peter spoke out to people in his home town, not in some foreign, exotic land, and proclaimed the Word of God to thousands of people. Peter would end up spending much of his time remaining around Jerusalem and some of the surrounding Gentile towns in the region. Despite the fact that he didn’t travel much, most churches consider him one of Jesus’ greatest disciples. Why is that? Simply put, Peter was utterly unashamed of the Gospel and of Christ. He proclaimed who Jesus was and never backed down from a fight with even the highest authorities of the time, even the Roman emperor.
What does “evangelism” look like in plain English: Evangelism is having a passion for PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH even when it’s not popular… it means proclaiming the truth ESPECIALLY when it’s not popular.
Another type of mission is mission that takes place within the church. These are people called to DISCIPLESHIP. There is a story of a lesser known man named “Apollos” who spent much of his time speaking to those that we would consider inside the church family.
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. When he wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers and sisters wrote to the disciples to welcome him. After he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 18:24-28)
Apollos wasn’t speaking to “godless heathens” who had never heard of God. Remember that back in these times, Christianity and Judaism weren’t really considered separate things; Christians were just followers of the Jewish God who knew that their messiah had already come. Apollos was skilled as a speaker and a teacher and also had a decent knowledge of the Bible. Because of that, God used him in a mission to speak truth to those INSIDE THE “CHURCH” who didn’t fully understand who Jesus was or how the scriptures compelled them to live a life dedicated to Christ. With these individuals, you can see that mission involves all people, regardless of whether they consider themselves more concerned with things inside the church or outside the church. This is where we start understanding what is meant when the Bible talks about “The body of Christ” working together.
Finally, some people are called to provide relief to the distressed and needy through demonstrations of COMPASSION. When I say “are called to compassion”, I want to make sure I draw a distinction between being a compassionate Christian and having a true calling for compassion. Look at the back story for someone named Barnabas who would end up serving Paul for much of the rest of his ministry.
In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the reign of Claudius. Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)
What Barnabas did wasn’t just demonstrate compassion to another people. That’s something we are all called to do. What Barnabas did was go all-in and sacrifice some of his most prized possessions to provide relief for the needy. Some people have a gift of being a compassionate nurturer. Personally, when I see someone in need, my heart bleeds for them and I try to do whatever I can, but I’m not always the one who have strokes of inspiration pop into my head for how we could reach out to people who are hurting. I tend to react more to what I see in front of my face. Meredith, my wife, on the other hand is a compassionate person who just gets a hint that someone is hurting and is moved to act. That is having a calling for compassion. This calling is something that requires someone to truly reflect the nature of Christ by demonstrating EXTREME SELFLESSNESS in the face of other people’s needs.
While all Christians are called to act selflessly to provide for others, some people make it their life’s mission to provide care and relief for the masses. The people who spend their lives living for this mission may not ever get viral posts on social media or huge banquets thrown in their honor, but their hearts are solely focused on magnifying God and THAT is a beautiful thing.
I don’t want to give anyone the misunderstanding that your mission in life will be exclusively one of these things we’ve covered today. We each have our own role to serve in the body of Christ. That might mean we do exclusively one thing or we may do many, many things over our lifetime. The bottom line is this: live with a mission. If you are not living with a mission, are you really living at all?