Terran Williams unpacks the beautiful expanse of God’s mission and what it means for every Christ-follower.
The church doesn’t have a mission. Rather the mission has a church. We don’t generate this mission. Rather, we catch the wave of God’s mission! And if his mission is to redeem people and restore creation then that directs and energizes what the mission of the church needs to be too.
Historically we haven’t always had the best track record of doing this. Many churches focus on getting people saved, getting ready for heaven, and leaving the world and the culture we live in to decay.
They just don’t have the full picture. It’s like they can see that God wants to redeem people spiritually but they have forgotten that God also wants to restore the physical – his creation. It’s like they want to get off the very planet God seeks to restore!
For centuries this kind of thinking has caused a divide in the church with certain churches stressing social justice and others emphasising personal salvation. It’s about time we debunk the myth that evangelism and social justice need to exist in tension with one another. As Timothy Keller says in his book Generous Justice, “If you wish to share your faith with needy people, and you do nothing about the painful conditions in which they live, you will fail to show them Christ’s beauty. We must neither confuse evangelism and social justice, nor separate them from one another.”
But let’s not stop there – let’s take it even a step further. The mission of God is wonderfully expansive and includes not just faith-sharing and social justice, but spiritual formation, community-building and societal renewal too. It’s not an either/or mission – it’s an all-encompassing mission of restoration and redemption!
As Christ-followers, we have the delight of knowing that our story fits in with God’s much bigger story. God’s story can be told in four parts: Creation, where God created the whole world and it was good; The Fall, where we turned away from God and tried to become the masters of our own destiny; Redemption, where our relationship with God is restored through Jesus’ death on the cross; and, the final stage, Restoration, where God’s kingdom is finally and fully come.
That is God’s story and it drives every aspect of God’s mission.
Creation has fallen, but he has not abandoned his fallen people and creation. In grace he has moved towards us through Jesus his Son to redeem people and ultimately to restore creation!
South American theologian Rene Padilla sums up this holistic mission so beautifully in this quote: “When the church is committed to integral mission and to communicating the gospel through everything it is, does, and says, it understands that its goal is not to become large numerically, nor to be rich materially, nor powerful politically. Its purpose is to incarnate the values of the Kingdom of God and to witness to the love and the justice revealed in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, for the transformation of human life in all its dimensions, both on the individual level and on the community level.”
Every Christian is to see themselves as a person on this mission. The sent Christ sends you and me, but he is not so cruel as to give us such a massive, consuming mission without also giving us the Spirit.
The Spirit is the one who guides us. Each Christian and each church has unique ways of going about this mission. The Spirit is there to help alert us to the particular opportunities at hand, and the particular strategies we should adopt. And the Spirit motivates, energizes and empowers us to do the work we’re meant to do.
– Terran is a pastor at Common Ground Church and serves on the leadership team of the South Peninsula congregation.