Friday, 24 July 2009

Building Missionary Churches - Convictions

Mission must take centre stage in the life of a local church. I am convinced that we must build mission focused communities and avoid any separation between normal church life and our mission agenda. This historical separation has led to an increasingly pastoral church and an ever increasing number of para-church organisations.

During my last sabbatical I looked at apostolic ministry in the New Testament, examining the New Testament in the context of mission. On the basis that “the apostle Paul wrote in the context of mission” (Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ - Thomas Schreiner) I enjoyed retracing the steps of the apostolic bands through the book of Acts, and the letters that were written in response to the challenge of embryonic churches being established. What a joy, with no deadline or the pressure of the next sermon hanging over me! This overview approach reinforced my understanding that the atmosphere of the New Testament is full of missionary zeal.

The promise of the Spirit in Acts 1 is with the purpose of giving believers power to be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. When the Spirit comes in Acts 2, Peter preaches the gospel; he does not focus on the manifestations or the fact that it made them feel good. Rather, we have Luke’s wonderful summary phrase, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”. The Jerusalem based church was full of evangelistic fervour.

The feel and atmosphere of the book of Acts is one of apostolic extension, new spheres of operation, gospel preaching, Spirit empowered witness, church planting, signs and wonders, gospel breakthrough, times of huge challenge and progress, against the backdrop of persecution.