Sun, Jan 15, 2012
A Vision for Mission
by Tom Fox

Matt. 28: 16-20; Acts 1:6-11; Rom. 1:1-15; 11:36; Eph. 1:7-10; 3:21; 4:11-16

 

The stated purpose of CCC is to present every man complete in Christ, being empowered by His Spirit and sustained by His grace, in order that God might be glorified above all things.

 

The vision out of which that mission statement emerges is a pursuit of the glory of God. What is the glory of God? In Scripture we are shown the glory of God from many different perspectives and in various degrees. The glory of God is simply the outshining of God’s greatness and excellence. Psalm 19 says, The heavens declare the glory of God (19:1). John 1:14 says, A the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth. The writer of Hebrew says of Christ, He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Heb. 1:3). Christ declares the glory of God in a way the heavens don’t. He is the incarnating of and the ultimate revelation of God’s glory. God’s glory then is simply God’s revelation and communication of himself to His creatures.

 

How can we best glorify God? The answer is by presenting everyman complete in Christ—not by making much of people, but by making much of Christ so that the all-surpassing greatness of Christ captures men’s hearts. Our purpose then is grounded in a high view of Christ as the ultimate revelation of God’s glory, the centrality of the church in God’s pursuit of His glory in Christ—that’s missions, and an utter dependence on the H.S.’s gifting and empowerment for the fulfillment of the Gt. Comm—that’s missions too.

 

Early on I became convinced of two things from Scripture. 1.) God intends for the church to take the gospel to the nations (ethno-linguistic peoples). Matt. 28: 16-20 could not be plainer. 2.) God intends the church to take the gospel to the nations for His glory. These two convictions go together and are vitally important because we can try to take the gospel to the nations with a wrong focus, namely, the nations rather than God. I came to see to these truths in that order. Long years before I ever heard of John Piper, I was near the end of my Seminary career. I was taking Romans. From Romans 1:5, I was gripped with what I termed as a view of Paul’s vision of mission. It is a vision of mission rooted in the glory of Christ.

Both of these realities settled over my life and shaped me and have become the lens through which I see the church and the world. A church through which God is making Himself known is a church that is intentionally taking the gospel to ends of the earth. Such a church is characterized by two things: an understanding of God—that is theological orthodoxy—and a will for God—that is love for God, which is holiness, and affections for God, which is happiness in God. An understanding of God, love to God, and joy in God are glorifying to God because these are a reflection of His understanding of Himself, love for Himself, and delight in Himself (Edwards, The End). God’s communication of Himself is mission. Out communication of God to others is a reflection of God’s communication of Himself to us through the gospel.

 

When such statements are made about global missions, some may think, What about here? When I say we are to take the gospel to the ends of earth, I am speaking comprehensively. That is, I am as concerned for the children in our Sunday School this morning as I am for the tribes in the Mountains of Central Asia. Missions is not an either/or endeavor (Acts 1:8). It is both/and. If leave the one off, we will not do the other. Which will we dispense with and maintain the thought that we have rightly understood the gospel? When we leave off one or the other, we have people not God as our end. The pursuit of God’s glory always broadens our perspective rather than narrows it.

 

If God’s revelation of Himself is the ground of mission, the Bible is missionary in scope, and the church is missionary in purpose. Missions is not ultimate. God’s glory is ultimate. Missions gets at the ultimate. Missions is the redemptive activity of the church in the world.

 

These thought lead to a few observations for the church regarding missions.

 

  1. We must embrace the missionary role of the church in the world.

 

Not only must we embrace the missionary role of the church in the world, we must also teach our children to embrace this purpose of the church. As a church we cannot think of missions as the task of group of people we call missionaries. God will raise up such people among us, who are especially gifted in the church planting task of missions. We must pour ourselves into the them and aid them in training to sharpen their gifts for this work.

 

Yet, missions is our task. The early church had no missionary sending agency. It was simply apostolic in its understanding and orientation. As such, the early church was so mobilized by the Holy Spirit that believers permeated every arena of
Roman society within 300 years.

 

The rise of the missionary society came about for much the same reason the seminary came about—the failure of the church to be the church. I am not apposed to seminaries or missionary sending agencies. In fact, I thank God for them. The fact remains, however, that the church has been quite willing to hand over to these agencies and institutions both missions and training. While it could be argued that missionary societies and seminaries have greatly enhanced both global gospel advance and trained workers, the fact remains that they cannot do what must be done to move toward Gt. Comm. fulfillment. I have never met a missionary or seminary leader who disagrees.

 

It seems that a mutual, real, meaningful dependence must develop between the theological school, the mission society or agency, and the church to the end that the church is more actively engaged in training and sending. Thus training can be more decentralized to give accessibility and global scope, and the church can be mobilized to provide mature believers to fulfill the Great Commission.

 

Once again the church must be mobilized by the Holy Spirit in this task. As a church, we must come to feel the weight of what the Holy Spirit has called us to do. As I raised the point a few weeks ago when we prayed for Andy and Laura, they need no justification for going, but we need a gospel advancing justification for staying.

 

When you look at the vision we are laying out, you may think, the elders just want the church to get big. Our plan is not to be big or small. Our plan is do what the Lord lays before us. You can say, Plant churches. We have shown you that that does not keep us from growing. As Nate said, It doesn’t work. We intend to plant churches both locally and internationally. Through the apprenticeship, we are training men as quickly and efficiently as we can.

 

The big church or small church question is not the question. The question is much closer to each of us. God brings two kinds of people to the church—those who will go, and those who will stay. God will bring people to us that he will send to the next town or across the world. He will also send people to us who will stay for the duration. The church needs both, but the task of one is no less Great Commission oriented than the other.

 

We are back to my admonition. God has you here to pour your life and gifts into other people to strengthen their faith. He has them here to pour their gifts into your life to strengthen your faith. The reason is we are under obligation to preach the gospel to the nations (Rom 1:8-15). The bigness or smallness of the local church is God’s business not ours. Our task is by the empowerment of the H.S. to pour into each other so that we will be ready for God to do what He wants to do through us.

 

Do you see this vision for mission in our purpose statement (Eph. 4:11-16)? Why does God have you here? He wants to mobilize a gospel advancing force to carry on His purpose in the world. Notice the view is not merely what we see today, but those who are yet to believe and those churches which are yet to be planted. We have must have in view both the church that now is and the ones that are yet to be. We are laboring toward that.

 

This was Paul’s view when he wrote, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the body, this is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you…(Col 1:24-25).

 

Again he wrote, Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim 2:10).

 

  1. The terminal point of missions is the glory of God.

 

The greatest hindrance to gospel advance in the West is that so many think that the ministry of the church terminates on them. Our focus should be on people as opposed to the glory of God. God-centeredness is somehow thought to be cold and indifferent to human need.

 

We cannot get at helping people by focusing on helping people. We cannot get at transforming society by focusing on transforming society. I cannot get at what is best for my family by being family focused. William Wilberforce wrote that the glory of God is the grand maxim that governs all of life. He said that for the good of society, the good of society must not be the primary good. Rather, he thought, seek the glory of God in society and society will be done good.

 

When we become focused on ourselves as individuals or as church, we will consume ourselves. Thus Jesus made such radical statements as, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:34-35).

 

Again he said, There is no one who has left houses or brothers or sisters, or mother or father or children for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundred fold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30).

 

  1. The church brings glory to God by advancing the gospel.

 

We must preach the gospel to each other and to everybody else. This brings glory to God because it is not about what we can do for each other, but about what only God can do. It’s not about our wisdom and our righteousness and our ability and our achievement, but about the wisdom, righteousness, ability, and achievement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Church planting is not about the advance of the church. Church growth is not about the bigness of the church. Church planting and church growth are about God bringing glory to himself through the gospel.

 

  1. Missions then seeks to bring glory to God through the advance of the gospel by multiplying churches.

 

The Great Commission is not simply about telling everybody about Jesus. It has the establishing of the church clearly in view. It is about planting churches that plant churches.

 

Matt 28 is the instructions given to the infant church. The outworking of the Great Commission in the life of the early church is seen in Acts and the epistles. The end of it is seen in the Revelation.

 

When Jesus told that small band of disciples to disciple the nations, they understood Him to mean that they were to make the nations be what Jesus had made them to be. The discipling of the nations was to be carried on by going, baptizing, and teaching. In effect, they were to establish churches among all peoples. In that task, they had the promise of the mighty Presence of Jesus.

 

Some Implications for us:

 

  1. We must order our lives for the glory of God and the good of the church.

 

We cannot do the one without doing the other. This life is not permanent; the life to come is. Church is not just something we do on Sunday. It is who we are. Church is the permanent family; it is the eternal family; it is taking shape right in front of us. Our family relations are temporary, and they are all for this world. At one level, they serve for the good ordering of society. In God’s wisdom, the family unit is the foundation of civilization. More than that, our families are analogous of the gospel. The problem comes when the type supplants the reality.

 

I have two fears. One fear is that someone will hear me say that families don’t matter. We should neglect them. Not so. The temporary nature of these relationships is a powerful reminder of that if we are to enjoy the fulfillment of them in eternity, we must view them rightly here and now.

 

A second fear is that when I say family people who are single won’t hear or they will think their lives lack a powerful analogy of the gospel. Not so. Your lives even more clearly, more directly picture union with Christ.

 

Order your singleness and order your families for the good of the church. Remind each other that these relationships are temporary, but they have ultimate meaning. Isn’t this what Jesus was saying in Mark 10:29-30 “…” and in Luke 9:57-62 “…” and when He said, Who is my mother? Who are my brothers …? and on the cross when He said to Mary, Woman behold your son. The church is a forever family.

 

  1. Realize the mission of singleness

 

We live in a time that calls for extreme measures. We live in the last days. We live in an age in the storyline of the Bible where the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply has given way to disciple the nations. Jesus was single. Paul was single. No one can accuse them of disobedience to the law. Paul looked at the church as an answer to fruitfulness. He poured himself into her life. He endured all things for the sake of God’s elect. Is this not what Jesus meant in Mark 10:30?

 

Tyndale never married. He spent the last 12 years of his life in exile from his homeland. At age 30, he fled England and lived until he was 42 in loneliness, cold, hunger, and poverty. Finally, betrayed, he was arrested and sentenced to death. His crime? He translated the Bible into English. He was tied to the stake, strangled, and burned. His last words were, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” He was 42 years old, never married, and never buried (Piper. Afflictions. P. 51).

 

Tyndale gave us the Bible. Does he lack children? Does he somehow lack in God’s Kingdom. No. He is experiencing ultimate reality that marriage and family point to 100 times above the type. If you are single, embrace the children of this church and pour your life into them as if they are your own. I don’t mean baby-sit. I mean preach the gospel to them, teach them. Pour your life into others. Preach the gospel to them.

 

  1. Realize the mission of marriage and family

 

Your marriage is analogy of the gospel. It points to something beyond itself. I think often of the temporary nature of my marriage and fatherhood. Such thoughts do not lead me to neglect my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. They do, however, aid me in being rightly related to my wife, children, and grandchildren. We must think of the ultimate meaning of our lives and work from the type toward the reality.

 

We cannot make our children the center of the world and lead them to Christ. We cannot lead them to One whom they feel is not as important as themselves. If you save your family, you will lose it. If you lose your family for Jesus’s sake and the gospel, you will find it.

 

When we try to exalt marriage and family as ultimate, we bring all kinds of dis-function into it. Our children need to see the all-surpassing greatness of Christ in our lives and be gripped by an overwhelming vision if His majesty.

 

When our lives are ordered for God’s glory and the good of the church and our children ask why?, we can tell them of the greatness of Jesus and the freeness of the gospel and how we love Christ more than anything and we will do whatever he direct us to do.

 

Before my wife and my children and with them, I have pursued Christ. This pursuit put us in places and situations that demanded suffering and hardship as a family. Yet, there was never any doubt as to why.

 

I want to be like Christ to my wife. Anymore we are like left-brain and right-brain. It takes both of us to find each others’ glasses, to fix each others’ lunch, to prepare a meal, to clean the house, to be where we are supposed to be at the right time on the right day. She has always been a part of every decision that I have made for our family. I value her opinions, and I care about her feelings. I want to know how she feels God is leading us. I want to see her make decisions with spiritual maturity and simple trust in Jesus. I want to hear Jesus say to me, She is more beautiful now than when I gave her to you.

 

I have enjoyed my children as much as any human could enjoy children. It has been a pleasure to be their father. If it’s been this good to be their father, I know that however we will be related in the KOG will be even better.

 

There is good news. It could be that you have been abandoned by your husband or your wife or your father or your children. These relationships are not ultimate. Christ is a loving husband, God is a faithful Father, the church is a permanent family. Give yourselves to these things.

 

  1. Give yourself in service to the church for God’s glory

 

If we pour ourselves into each others lives with a view to readiness for whatever God will do with us, the size of the church ceases to be a consideration. We must prepare well for the permanent family and for those who will yet be part of it.

 

We need to be ready to serve one another for the glory of God and the good of the church. We are going to need additional children’s Sunday School classes. We need people who are willing to be mentored by other teachers to be prepared to takes classes. We need workers in the nursery. Why would we have need of workers? How could we come to think that we personally have fulfilled ourresponsibility and don’t need to serve? What would cause me to think that if I serve in the nursery or help in the Sunday School, I am missing out on some teaching or message that is more important? Why one someone serve so much in these responsibilities that they neglect the preaching and teaching of the Word? Why would I allow someone to so serve when I could do more to help?

 

  1. God is going to call some of you to ministries that will remove you from this body.

 

  1. You need to prepare.

 

When Andy and Laura left, I rested in the thought that Andy and Laura did all that was possible for them to do to prepare themselves for the ministry that God has placed them in. God does not want you to go to the mission field or pastor a church without preparing to do so. Preparation is painful and costly. We want to help you. We want those of you with such a burden to take advantage of the opportunities that God has provided here to prepare well.

 

  1. We must build and maintain a network of likeminded missionaries, pastors, and churches for the purpose of mutual training and encouragement.

 

Such a network is an essential part of what God will do among us. Opportunities for service will be opened that we otherwise may not have had. We have an unbelievable international and domestic network that we are not tapping into. Hopefully, in the future we can help those whom we train to have a significant international or domestic experience of working together with likeminded believers pursuing a common purpose in the gospel.

 

We hope that the resources that we are putting online and the resources we have in capable men will be utilized to continue the training and encouragement of those on the frontlines of gospel advance. In the last month, people from 32 nations have hit our website.

 

We desire that our online resources be used to freely to train pastor, missionaries, and churches. These resources must continue to grow in volume and scope for the purpose of aiding the church globally.

 

  1. We must have a more strict and costly partnership with mission sending

agencies, who see the multiplication of churches as the best expression of missionary endeavor, and with educational institutions that see the church as the end of education and the churches’ vital role in training.

 

  1. We have come now to critical days of global gospel advance.

 

Around 500 people groups with a population 100K or more remain that are not engaged by anybody. There is no gospel proclamation. There is notchurch among them. There is no church planting strategy targeting them. They are the last remaining and in many ways may be the most difficult to reach. I think we can assume if the task was going to be easy, it would have been done already.

 

God may call some of you to this task. It may cost you your life. Even if they don’t kill you, you will suffer. You will be isolated, without comfort, and in need. Generations have come before who attempted such exploits. Some met with disaster. Some lived to write. But all have the promise of Jesus, If you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will find it. I will be with you always even unto the end of the age.