Following Jesus in building the church and navigating any kind of change requires us to have a good understanding of who we are. Identity must come before activity.
This is the first of three posts in which I’ll explore three questions, each asked in the context of intentional christian community:
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Why does God want some of His people walking around on the earth? Why doesn’t He just rapture us as soon as we get saved, it would be a lot simpler wouldn’t it?
I’m sure the Great Commission has something to do with our purpose, but let’s start a step back by asking “what is God’s mission?”. The Great Commission, great though it is, doesn’t encompass the entire universe and all of time. God’s mission is bigger than the part He’s given us to play in it.
To boil down what I believe to be God’s mission, God’s great purpose, and therefore the direction Everything is headed I’d start with these three core beliefs:
One could describe God’s mission by saying it is “To love and be loved, by creating and recreating”. Or as Paul put it in Colossians 1:15-20:
“[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
We are in the reconciliation phase of God’s great loving story. God’s purpose now is to reconcile everything back to Himself, drawing all of creation back into love, starting and majoring on the head creature of His fallen creation, humanity.
In that reconciling work we find our mission, and that’s the context in which the activity of the Great Commission can be best understood.
Our mission, as such, isn’t getting people to believe the right things, feeding the hungry, helping people be spiritual, demonstrating for social change, being friends with lots of people, looking after the earth, lobbying parliament, healing people, being vegetarian, getting people to join our church, helping people beat addictions…
All those are interpreted by churches as what they should be doing and many are good and necessary, but none of them are our core purpose.
I believe our mission, understood in light of God’s mission of reconciliation, is saying using our lives the message “God loves you, so be reconciled to God”. Paul again:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
(2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
We find our purpose in the part we play in God’s great purposes on earth. We are to be God’s family and to extend the invitation, urging other people to be reconciled to God too. Reconciliation into God’s family is the context of all God’s called us to do.
A missional community is a community that finds its identity, vitality and pattern of life by joining God in His mission of reconciliation. It’s a family pulled along and built by a power-dynamic of both inward and outward reconciliation, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Only a reconciled community has anything to offer the world. It is of immense importance that we start everything by being reconciled, both to God and to one another.