What Happens When the Church is Activated on Mission?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

In the book of Acts we see the Holy Spirit set the early believers ablaze for the work of God. We encounter Peter, who steps forth with boldness to preach the good news and thousands come to believe Jesus is the Messiah. We see bold people like Stephen, who speaks of Christ and it costs him his life, and Philip, who shares across cultural and religious barriers to bring the Samaritans to Jesus. We see an enemy of Christ, Saul of Tarsus, become a passionate evangelist and bold church planter, the Apostle Paul.

Acts is an active book where we see the church activated on mission. What does it look like when individual believers and church communities are activated by God for His work? Suffice it to say that things happen.

But let’s look at something we could miss here. Acts is an active book but we also see two things in Acts that Christianity is not about.

Christianity—following Jesus—does not leave us much space for being boring or apathetic. Sometimes in the midst of the world, with all the needs, all the challenges, all the serious situations, we can become overwhelmed by the needs. This sometimes leads us to turn away from the needs of the world, focusing on our own lives and challenges. Essentially, we become apathetic. But activated churches and Christians are not apathetic or boring. They are engaged with the needs of the world because God cares about people and the needs of the world. God is an active, giving missionary God.

At the same time, even though Acts is an active book, it is not a busy book. In fact, there is a big difference between being busy and being active. The early church was activated by the Holy Spirit to join in with God in a focused way for God’s mission. But the early church was not meaninglessly busy. Some of us, when we become Christians, think that we are to become busy for the kingdom. But there is not a lot of space for busyness in the activated church. Some of us need to remember that God is not all that interested in uncommanded work. He wants us to join in with His kingdom mission but not to be aimlessly rushing around with whatever captures our attention in the moment. In fact, what captures our attention may lead us away from the activated mission God has for us. As a wise mentor once shared with me: we may need to consider whether we are more in love with the work of the Lord than we are in love with the Lord of the work.

Activated Christianity is not about being boring and neither is it about being busy. Activated Christianity is not about apathy to the world’s need nor is it about frenzied activity. The book of Acts shows us that the church is activated by the power of the Holy Spirit for the mission of God in the world.

The Christian faith is a missionary faith: David Bosch on mission and missions

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David Bosch (center) with Desmond Tutu (right) and Michael Cassidy (left)

Here is South African missiologist David Bosch on the nature of the church and mission from his milestone work Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.

The Christian faith, I submit, is intrinsically missionary….This dimension of the Christian faith is not an optional extra: Christianity is missionary by its very nature, or it denies its very raison d’être.

Christian mission gives expression to the dynamic relationship between God and the world, particularly as this was portrayed, first, in the story of the covenant people of Israel and then, supremely, in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth.

The entire Christian existence is to be characterized as missionary existence….The church begins to be missionary  not through its universal proclamation of the gospel, but through the universality of the gospel it proclaims.

Theologically speaking, “foreign missions” is not a separate entity. The missionary nature of the church does not just depend on the situation in which it finds itself at a given moment but is grounded in the gospel itself. The justification and foundation for foreign missions, as for home missions, ‘lies in the universality of salvation and the indivisibility of the reign of Christ.’ The difference between home and foreign missions is not one of principle but of scope.

We have to distinguish between mission (singular) and missions (plural). The first refers primarily to the missio Dei (God’s mission), that is, God’s self-revelation as the One who loves the world, God’s involvement in and with the world, the nature and activity of God, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church is privileged to participate. Missio Dei enunciates the good news that God is a God-for-people. Missions (the missiones ecclesiae: the missionary ventures of the church), refer to particular forms, related to specific times, places or needs, of participation in the missio Dei.

The church-in-mission…is not identical with God’s reign yet not unrelated to it either; it is ‘a foretaste of its coming, the sacrament of its anticipation in history.’ Living in the creative tension of, at all the same time, being called out of the world and sent into the world, it is challenged to be God’s experimental garden on earth, a fragment of the reign of God, having ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’ (Rom 8:23) as a pledge of what is to come (2 Cor 1:22).

[Excerpts from David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), pages 8-11.]

A Prayer for Global Mission

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God of truth and love,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Hear our prayer for those who do not know You.

We ask that they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth
and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world.

Sustain, inspire and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel.

Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith;
sustain our faith when it is still fragile.
Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church;
raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world.

Make us witnesses to Your goodness;
full of love, strength and faith –
for Your glory
and the salvation of the entire world.

By Kendall Harmon

Hard Places: MissionsFest 2019

The next two weekends at Eastbrook Church are the bookends of our annual MissionsFest. This year we are turning our attention to Eastbrook’s historic commitment to mission in challenging contexts with the theme of “Hard Places.” We are privileged to have two guest speakers, who are long-time partners in ministry in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. We will share in a study of Isaiah 61 as we hear from our friends and field workers from hard places around the city and the world.You can access more information here.

In Memoriam: Evelyne Reisacher

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First, three snapshots.

It is 2007. My wife, Kelly, and I are huddled in a small room in the Mediterranean at a gathering of workers in the Muslim world, hearing from a group of believers in North Africa. In the midst of this group, two women, one from North Africa and another from France speak compellingly about the work God is doing in France with North Africans.

Fast forward five years to 2012. I am sitting in the back yard of Pastor Marc and Nancy Erickson in a circle of folding chairs in the July sunshine. Those same two women are sharing again, this time updating us on the powerful things God is doing within the church both France and North Africa.

Four years later in 2017, I am one among many in the worship hall at Eastbrook Church, filled with people. That same French woman, Evelyne Reisacher, is once again shaping the minds and the hearts of God’s people with a vision for God’s world and tools for understanding Islam meaningfully and with humility.

This past Saturday we received word here at Eastbrook that our dear sister leapt into the Lord’s presence after a long battle with cancer. Fuller Theological Seminary posted a much more robust remembrance of Evelyne’s career here. All I can say is that this is a great loss to us on this side of glory and a great gain for the eternal kingdom.

I encourage you to find out more about Evelyne’s work and writings.