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

David-Bosch-middle-Michael-Cassidy-and-Desmond-Tutu-NIR-press-conference-1985-changed.jpg
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.]

Prayer as Mission: The Early Church in Acts

I continued our series on prayer, “Great Prayers of the Bible“, at Eastbrook Church this past weekend by looking at four themes on prayer from the early church in the book of Acts. I try not have a romanticized view of the early church that leads into an impulse to “recover the true church.” However, I do believe we can learn some important lessons on prayer from the earliest believers who walked with Jesus.

You can view the message video and the sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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The Mystery of Prayer to a Sovereign God, part 2 [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

If the first part of the mystery of prayer to a sovereign God focuses on relationship with God, the second part of that mystery relates to God’s invitation for us to join Him in His work in the world. The activity of prayer is intricately united with God’s invitation to join Him in Kingdom work.

At the beginning of the story of our world, Adam and Eve relate to God in unbroken fellowship. Their creation in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and their calling to steward the earth (1:28) is woven together through their interactive communion with God (2:15-17; 3:8). In the ideal state of the original creation, prayer was a natural part of both human relationship with God and human work with God in the world.

That same reality is part of the mystery of prayer to a Sovereign God now. God’s purposes in the world are and will be worked out in creation, and human beings are invited by God into His work. When we are reconciled to God in relationship through Jesus Christ, our interactive communion with God is restored. Yet it is not merely relationship with God that is reconciled, but our commission to stewardship of the earth with God that is likewise restored. This renewed commission includes the call to be witnesses to Jesus (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples of Jesus from all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Yet all our external activity with God toward these ends must be woven together by the interactive communion with God that we call prayer. This was the intention in the original creation and it is the redeemed intention within God’s kingdom now.

It is for this reason that Jesus not only calls His followers to go and make disciples of Him, but also invites them to pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). While God is sovereign over all the cosmos, He invites ordinary human beings like you and me into the kingdom work through prayer. This is not a little thing, but a great thing with God. Prayer is not unnecessary, but that very necessary thing without which we will never move forward with God. As the evangelist R. A. Torrey wrote: “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services, but few conversions; much machinery, but few results.”[1]

Sovereign God,
  I seek to know You
  and I seek to serve You.
May my life of prayer
increase my relationship with You
  and intensify my service unto You.
Let Your kingdom come
  and Your will be done
in me as I grow as Your child
  and through me as I grow as Your witness.
All for Your glory
  I prayer these things.
Amen.


[1] R. A. Torrey, How to Obtain Fullness of Power (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982).

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

A brief reading list on mission

Many times I’ll offer some readings lists to correspond with our teaching series at Eastbrook. Alongside of our series “God in Blank Spaces,” I wanted to share some resources I believe are worth looking at in brief or reading entirely. Some of these are general, while a few others are specific to our Missions Festival theme, “God of the Displaced Ones.”

Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens and Dr. Issam Smeir. Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016.

David J. Bosch. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts, 2nd edition. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014.

Vincent J. Donovan. Christianity Rediscovered. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003.

Bryant L. Meyers. Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, revised edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989.

Michael Pocock and Enoch Wan, editors. Diaspora Missiology: Reflections on Reaching the Scattered Peoples of the World. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2015.

Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang. Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.