The Story and Mission of the Church

“They like and respect Jesus, but not His followers.” This is a common phrase that is heard by those who are engaged with 20-30 somethings in our culture. “Jesus, I’m cool with, it’s those people who follow Him I can’t stand.”

“Those people” are what we would call the church, the ekklesia, the called out ones, the redeemed, and often times they are not acting like what they are, and this is a sad story. A story that should be drastically different because you can’t like Jesus and hate his followers… that’s like saying I like Jeff, but hate his wife and kids. If that’s the case, you really don’t like me and/or my family is not acting like me or in a way that honors me, which is a problem.

The Apostle John wrote a letter in the late first century to churches across Asia Minor (now Turkey) and he speaks to this issue a couple times:

1 John 2:9-11: 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 4:20-21: 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

It is this way because the church, although a whore at times, is still the bride of Christ whom Jesus purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28), and He loves her dearly.

The church is much like a family building a sand castle. Noah, the general. Jeff, the slave or hired hand. Amy the free spirit who does what she wants. Halle, the needy one thinks she’s a lot of help but is really getting in the way. Isaac who is always crying and complaining and destroying things. Then there’s Mia who could care less until something cool pops up and then is interested, but still not committed to the sand castle. All the while the sand castle gets built, but it’s not that impressive and it’s weak! But we’re still a family and we love each other.

When preaching about the Church, it seems that one could go in various directions and end up talking about completely different things, and probably not even touch the main element of why the Church was formed by Jesus. So here’s my desire for today: I want to clarify for us the story and the mission of the church.
THE STORY
The story of the Christian church is quite an amazing story. It started with a handful of Jesus’ followers, that turned into a worldwide movement of millions of people 2000 years later. The fact that the church is still alive and is forcefully advancing is evidence that God is sovereignly directing and preserving His church.

The word for church in the Greek New Testament (ekklesia) means “gathering,” “meeting,” or “assembly.” But this gathering has more roots than we can see at first glance. Stand with me and let’s read Matthew 1:1-16 together. Why does the genealogy go back to Abraham? Perhaps there’s more to the story than we know? Maybe we should start at the beginning and trace this story to present day? Let’s go!

1) In The Beginning: In Genesis 1 we learn that God declares that his intention was to bless His creation that He pronounced was “very good” (Genesis 1:22, 31; 2:3), through the agency of humans. God created humans with a dual role: to rule (Genesis 1:26), and to perform the priestly task of bringing God’s blessing to the creation beyond the Garden (Genesis 1:28; 2:15).

2) Man’s Rebellion: But in Genesis 3 these plans get frustrated (Genesis 3:16–19),

3) It Gets Worse: After humanity’s rebellion, God promised to undo the Fall’s effects by promising that one day, from the seed of the woman, there will be One who will crush the serpent’s head and, as Ty put it, gets the girl (Genesis 3:15)! But that historic and redemptive act is a long ways off. For now, the world is living for itself, neglecting to honor God as creator and king, seeking glory, fame and power for itself.

We see this played out in Genesis 3-11 which builds up the picture of human sin alongside repeated acts of God’s grace. “The serpent’s head will be crushed. Adam and Eve are clothed. Cain is protected. Noah and his family are saved. Life goes on, and creation is preserved under covenant. Things are very badly flawed, but the whole project is still moving forward.” 1 Now we turn from Babel to Ur. Cursing to blessing.

4) The Called Out Ones: Read Gen. 12:1-3: In this passage we see the initiation of God’s plan to fulfill his promise in Gen. 3:15. Abraham and his physical descendants, the nation of Israel, who become like a new Adam, are called out by God (read and unpack Genesis 12:1-3). A new world, ultimately a new creation begins in this text!

They were placed in an Eden-like land of fruitfulness and rest, watered and blessed by God, where they could enjoy God’s presence (Deuteronomy 3:20; 8:6–10; 11:10–12; 12:5–10; 26:15). Israel was singled out and chosen by God: Yahweh (the Lord God), by His grace, set his love on Abraham/Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6–7).

Read Exodus 19:4-6: God called Israel “a treasured possession among all peoples” and a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” . God also insisted that “all the earth” belonged to Him. Thus, God gave Israel the task of fulfilling Adam’s kingly and priestly roles: they were to mediate God’s blessing to the rest of creation. Israel’s shared life, governed by God’s word, was supposed to represent Yahweh to the nations.

Read Isaiah 61:1-3: God’s concern for the whole world to see His glory is also plain to see in the way that the exiled prophets can cast the return from the exile in terms of a new creation. Israel’s rescue from Babylon can be tied not just to the covenants God has made, but to the fact that He is the creator and will make beautiful that which sin has made ugly (Isaiah 43:1–3, 7; 61:1-3 – oaks of righteousness; these oaks’ mission are the same as Jesus’ mission; Luke 4:17-21; to display the beauty and worth of God).

Read Isaiah 61:4: Commentator and pastor Ray Ortlund Jr. says, “The mourners of verse 3 become the repair experts of verse 4.”

Psalm 117: Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

The plan of God (His mission) was global and comprehensive. It was and is always for all people, all nations, all tribes, all tongues. The plan of redemption that the OT lays out before us is just as comprehensive as the plan of the NT, only, the NT clarifies further what the missionary role of Israel looks like.

And throughout this story, faith is irrevocably tied to obedience, yet salvation in the OT is by faith as much as it is in the NT. We would do well to notice the threads of grace that precede every command to obey in Scripture. Here’s a few examples from the OT:

*Gen. 1: Created in God’s image, sex, the garden, etc; therefore cultivate, multiply;
*Ex. 19: I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself; therefore obey me;
*Is. 61: Brought good news, set free, made beautiful; so that you may display…
Now all of this leads us right up to the advent of Yahweh, God in the carne (flesh)!

5) Jesus’ Arrival: Jesus arrives on the scene in Mark 1:15 and says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” He is claiming to be the Savior of Israel, and all of mankind. God came to us to complete what He initiated in the OT.

6) Jesus’ Life: During His life, Jesus promised his small band of disciples, “I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18). He begins by choosing men who are not the most qualified we could say, and tells them to follow Him. During His perfect life, He teaches these men about God’s Kingdom, and that He is the One who will save sinners.

7) Jesus’ Death and Resurrection: The Messiah, Jesus, dies on the cross to offer forgiveness for all who turn and call on Him as Lord. Since He is Lord (God in the flesh), He has power over death. In His death, He bore the full weight of the punishment of our sin, then after 3 days, He conquered death, and put an end to the death of death.

8) Jesus’ Commission: Following His resurrection, Jesus commanded the church to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:18-20), which we will explore later, that it is a much bigger commission than we are prone to think.

9) Jesus’ Exaltation: After the great commission is given, Jesus is taken up into heaven (Acts 1:9), or “exalted to the right hand of God,” as Peter says later (2:33; 5:31).

This is coronation day! The Messiah now shares the throne of God over all creation and all peoples. God’s kingdom has no boundaries of any kind, and Jesus is the King. But Jesus does not merely sit on the throne of our hearts and reign there: that is much too narrow a concept of his authority. Jesus reigns over all of human life, all history, and all nations.

10) Jesus’ Spirit: After the resurrection, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on his followers and tells them to wait in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). The OT promised that in the last days the Spirit would be poured out on the Servant Messiah (Isaiah 42:1), on Israel (Ezekiel 37:14), and on all people (Joel 2:28-32).

As Jesus’ disciples are gathered on the day of Pentecost, faithfully waiting for the
promise of the Spirit, a violent wind suddenly fills the house (Acts 2:1-4). Tongues of fire rest on their heads, and all there are filled with the Holy Spirit. These two signs of the Spirit’s presence; wind and fire; are significant. Here at Pentecost the Spirit of God comes with the sign of wind (symbolizing His breath) which gives life to the Church (Ez. 37), and fire (God’s presence in the wilderness with Israel) as a token of the powerful presence of God remaining with His people as promised in the great commission.

11) Jesus’ New Community: The Spirit’s first work is to form a new community to share in the salvation of the Kingdom and to be a channel of that salvation to others. This is the next part of the story that Luke tells (Acts 2:37-47).

When Peter concludes his sermon explaining the meaning of the event of Pentecost, the people’s immediate response is to ask, “What shall we do?” They understand that they have killed the Messiah! Peter responds, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38) (offer salvation here). This whole thing called Church is moved (kineo’d) and governed by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church has no power.

God requires those who respond to repent; to turn from idolatry and orient their lives to Christ and His coming Kingdom; and be baptized into this community that now has received the gift of the Kingdom, the Holy Spirit. Within this community, the Holy Spirit brings the blessing of forgiveness. Responding to Peter’s sermon, about three thousand people are immediately added to the young church, & greater works than Jesus begin! And if you were to follow the history of the church up until today, you would find that you (Christian) are right smack dab in the middle of this epic story… This is much bigger than we ever knew it to be… This is Jesus’ bride, the church, which He bought w/ blood!

THE MISSION
When talking about Church lately, it has been popular to use the phrase “missional church”. At its best, the word “missional” describes not a “specific activity” of the Church but “the very essence and identity” of the church as it participates in God’s mission. In NT terms, it could be said that it means, “make disciples”. It’s more than that, but not less.

“Mission” (John 20:21) reminds us that the Church was created to be oriented to the world, existing for the sake of others. Cross-cultural missionaries of the past few centuries were sent with a task that was primarily not for themselves but for the sake of those to whom they were sent. Thus to describe the Church as “missional” is to define the entire Christian community as a “BODY” sent into the world and existing not for itself but to bring good news to the world. This is our identity.

Eph. 1:22-23 says: 22 And he (God) put all things under his (Jesus) feet and gave him (Jesus) as head over all things to the church (those who are a new creation in Christ), 23 which is his [Jesus’] body, the fullness of him (Jesus) who fills all in all.

Wow! That’s a huge claim and a huge responsibility the church (the body of Christ) has. In the book of Ephesians, the word body is the word sṓma in Greek which means: an organized whole made up of parts and members; a whole, an aggregate, a collective mass. In other words, the whole body of Christians collectively, of which Christ is the head. This word shows up many times in the book of Ephesians (Eph. 1: 22-23; 2:15-16; 3:6; 4:4, 11-12, 16, 25; 5:23, 30 // see also Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:13, 27; Col. 1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15).

Paul gives us a very direct illustration of this in 1 Corinthians 6:15 regarding the body of Christ (the Church), where he says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” If you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a “member”, joined as a part of the body of Christ, and the parts of your body are parts of Christ’s body.

We are not just “Christians” then, but we are “members” of Christ’s body, with the over-arching purpose of making Him known to the whole world in a way that is beautiful and worth more than any earthly treasure.

Jesus Christ has a body here on earth. It is called the Church. She has legs to go to the places that Jesus would go. She has arms to do the work that Jesus would do. She has mouths to say the things that Jesus would say. She has backs to carry the burdens that Jesus would carry. She would not be called the body of Christ if her mission was to just have a private faith that kept her life simple and uninvolved!

Paul said that his aim in life was that “the life of Jesus might be made known to others in his mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). In other words, his aim was  that “his body might make Christ’s body real to the world.”

Church, how are doing with this task?

The Church According to our Generation: Today, we do not historically see the church in this light. In fact, the church that we see and speak of is very disconnected from this kind of talk when we get right down to the reality of how we’ve treated it. In many ways, the church today is nothing like what the church was meant to be and the purpose of our existence as God’s people has been radically lost since Gen. 12.

Today, many of us view the church as a building or a business, but not a body.

If the church is a building, then we are consumers. And if we are consumers, then church becomes a vendor of religious goods and services, and we go and we pick out what works best for us. We treat the church much like a grocery store. We go to pick out the kind of fruit we like, we search through the bananas to find the bundle that fits our liking. We pick through all the cereals (and this is a chore these days!) to find the one that will best satisfy our ever so picky taste buds.

And the whole time we are shopping at the grocery store as consumers, we are trying to find the biggest bargain for ourselves. We want the biggest bang for our buck, with as little loss or sacrifice as possible. So we come to church or shop for churches and think, “What style is gonna work best for me.” “What products does this church need to make me happy and feel like it’s worthy of my time and money.” “If this church won’t give me what I want, then I won’t give my money to it.” “I’m not gonna stay because the deal’s weren’t paying off for me anymore.”; and our motives behind all that we do at church or look for in a church is backwards.

We are out for our best interest and we have lost sight of the fact that we are part of the body of Christ that exists for the world, not for our comforts. The church has become about us! We are simply consumers.

But if the church is a business on the other hand, then we are competitors. As church leaders, we tend to operate the church as a business, and most to all of the conversations and meetings are business like and are discussing business matters, financial matters, building issues, legal issues, etc… Staff meetings end up looking the same as business meetings except for a short devotion before everything gets going. We are meeting to make our church better than other churches; to be more marketable, more attractive, to grow more and make more money to do more things, etc…

When we give our money, we give our money to the business, not the church. And if the church is a business, then we all become managers with different opinions and we all fight and bicker as to the way we think things should be managed; complaints aren’t because the church isn’t on mission, but because the business end of the church isn’t operating the way we think it should.

And when we talk about our church, we talk about how our church does this, and our church did that, our church has this program and this focus. We compare ourselves to other churches and we have this sort of arrogance about the way we do church and think the other churches are missing it as if somehow, this is helping to fulfill God’s will.

This creates within the church a DNA of people who are jockeying for position, authority, power, and we become competitors within the church, not to mention it destroys the unity between believers that Christ prayed for in John 17. We’re so worried about our small un-biblical view of church, that we are completely missing out on the rest of the world who is perishing! We’ve let culture dictate the church’s mission!

John Stackhouse, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, cites several historical instances when the church has allowed itself to be shaped by its surrounding culture, including the German church in Nazi Germany, the South African church under apartheid, the Rwandan church in Rwanda’s long period of tribal violence, as well as the Western church in modern and postmodern secular culture. In each of these examples, the church forgot its biblical role and instead adopted the cultures’ identity.

So how do we not duplicate history? Where do we start as a people of God here at Kineo Church? Maybe you’re having self dialogue saying this: “I’m convicted this morning and I want to live out my identity of being the body of Christ, but I don’t know how.” Let’s close today with 3 identities to start with that the church ought to adopt if it wants to be the true church of the 21st century, the visible body of Christ:

1) FAMILY – 1 Peter 2:9-10: Remember our text in Ex. 19? Well we see it again. Peter refers to it here. We are all children of God who care for each other as a family. We are God’s chosen people – His family – set apart to live in such a way that the world would know what He is like. Through faith in Jesus we believe we are Children of God and brothers and sisters with each other. As God’s family we see it as our obligation to personally care for the needs of one another, both physically and spiritually. We disciple, nurture and hold each other accountable to Gospel life together. We do this through regularly gathering together for celebration, consistent involvement in a CG, through Surge, and through loving others in the path of our life like the Father loved us. (Gen. 12:1-3; John 1:12-13; Rom. 12:10-16)

2) SERVANTS – Luke 4:18-20: Remember our text in Is. 61. Well we see Jesus quoting that passage here in Luke, claiming that it points to Him and what He came to do. We are servants of Jesus who serve Him by serving others around us as He did. Being fully God and fully man, Jesus took on the posture of a servant. He gave his life, even unto death, so that others could experience salvation, peace and restoration. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves…” All those who follow Jesus are called to serve in the same humility. For us this means joyfully submitting to Jesus as Lord, to the leaders He has placed over us and to each other as we also serve whomever God brings into our lives. We do whatever He leads us to do, whenever He tells us and wherever He wants us to do it. The problem is, we all lime this kind of talk, and we all love to serve because it makes us feel good; but we hate it when we are treated like a servant. (Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:16)

As servants of Jesus we give a foretaste of what the eternal city will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ… Our humility points to his ultimate humility. Our servant hood is led by the Servant of all. And our sacrifice is motivated by the one who gave up his life for us. If we don’t serve others as Jesus served us it is because we have forgotten how we have been served by him, or we don’t really know him in the first place (Matt 25:31-46).

3) MISSIONARIES/AMBASSADORS – Galatians 3:8: Finally, remember the text in Gen. 12. We see Paul referring to it being the gospel that was declared before hand, the very gospel that we too are to take into all the world; to proclaim and display! We are sent by the Spirit to restore all things to God through Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to Earth to take on human form and live within the culture. He worked, ate and interacted among the people; living in such a way that those around Him could see and experience what God was truly like. Jesus came so that all people, places and things could be restored to a right relationship with God. In the same way, we believe we are missionaries/ambassadors sent by God’s Spirit into our culture to restore all things to God through Jesus. We live this out through involvement in a CG, at work, being trained through Surge, and just about every other context you could think of. (John 1:14; 20:21; Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

As missionaries we are sent to share the truth about God’s love for the world through the sending of His Son. The Spirit has been given to us so that we can know what is true of Jesus (John 14:26; 16:12-15), live fruitful lives as evidence of the Gospel’s power to change (Gal. 5:16-24), be empowered to share it boldly (Acts 4:23-31) and trust that He is the One who convicts the heart and gives new life (John 3:4-8). All fruitful missionary work is a result of being people who are born of, filled with, and led by the Spirit. If we are not living lives as missionaries fulfilling Jesus’ mission it is either because we don’t have the Spirit or we are grieving the Spirit, living in disobedience to what he is leading us to do.
(these three points have been adapted from Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA)

Let’s Pray!

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