This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we continued our annual MissionsFest, a two-week journey of awareness, engagement, and growth with God’s mission. So much has been affected by the pandemic, including having international guests with us. The first weekend we were privileged to hear from Nashat Filmon of the Palestinian Bible Society via video direct from Jerusalem. This past weekend we heard from our good friend, Dr. David Kasali of Congo Initiative and Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo. Dr. Kasali is one of my modern-day heroes of the faith, who I first met many years ago during my time on staff at World Relief and have been blessed to continue to cross paths with for these last several years.
You can view his message video and outline for the message is below. You can follow along with MissionsFest here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.
“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, 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).
This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we began our annual MissionsFest, which spans roughly ten days and covers two weekends of our services.
This year’s theme is “We’re Family” and explores the ways we journey together on mission both locally and around the world. We will have two of our international partners sharing in services, as well as many other friends from around the world with us.
A Day in the Life: Walking in Another’s Shoes (October 14) – A Family friendly interactive activity designed to help us see beyond the label and dignify others by recognizing their depth and worth. This activity can be done at home with individuals, families, or even small groups.
LORD of hosts,
Almighty King of all the earth,
You are worthy of all our praise
and deserve the best of what we have to offer.
Help us to give careful thought to our ways,
that we may not be found wanting
in presenting all of who we are
and all of what we have to You.
In Haggai’s day, You called the people to rebuild Your house,
strengthening them to accomplish the task by Your grace.
In our day, help us to hear Your calling for the church,
and strengthen us to accomplish that calling by Your grace.
May no opposition overcome us and no circumstances dissuade us
from giving ourselves fully to You
and Your mission upon earth.
All this we pray, through Jesus Christ, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.