Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “The mission of God”

The Mission Has A Church

Terran Williams unpacks the beautiful expanse of God’s mission and what it means for every Christ-follower.

Photo Credit: tyreke.white via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tyreke.white via Compfight cc

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.

What Does God’s Mission Mean to Me?

We asked three people at different stages in their journey to share their thoughts with us.

Kevin with his wife, Claire, and their daughter, Sierra.

Kevin with his wife, Claire, and their daughter Sierra

Displaying His Infinite Glory

By Kevin Murphy

“It means, chiefly, to prioritize what Christ prioritizes, which is the maximal display of his infinite worth (his glory). We don’t always get it right, but we’re trying to have that as the motivating factor for everything we do. That shapes the way that we interact with our community, as we want them to see the infinite worth of Christ and thereby come to know him. But it also shapes the way we live out our everyday lives, for God is glorified when we steward his creation, and when our hard work and diligence in the market-place is fruitful. But God is especially glorified when we live out his heart for those who are hurting , the broken or on the outskirts of society’s priority list, and make ourselves available to be used by God to heal that which is hurting.

“So we’re trying to treat each person we meet with equal dignity, we’re aiming to teach our children (and ourselves!) the value of human life. That it is not the rich or poor, educated or simple who are to be esteemed but that each person has been made in the likeness of God; and therefore while each and everyone of us is in need of Christ’s gracious disposition towards us, every individual also carries the dignity of being image-bearers of God. Just as the gospel compels us to go-and-tell, so it compels us to go-and-love.”

– Kevin is a pastor at Common Ground Church and leads the leadership team of the InnerCity congregation.

IMG_1234Out of an Overflow of His Goodness

By Nathalie Koenig

“For me, living in the fullness of God’s mission means nothing less than being in the centre of God’s will – and exactly where He allows me to thrive. I remember the day that I started volunteering with Arise, an NGO in Heideveld, and was filled with the joy of knowing that I would get to do a lot of the things that I most loved doing. Being with people, being challenged, telling stories, and helping children get excited about themselves, the world, and all that’s in it. That the hope of Christ would be shared and some of creation’s brokenness restored in the process were simply natural overflows of God’s goodness to me in providing that opportunity. I didn’t go out to evangelise, or do justice, I was just put somewhere by my Father because He loves me, and loves the world. God’s mission is such a beautiful thing, because it’s what every single person on the planet needs to live as He created them to live. We are all participants in and beneficiaries of His mission.”

– Nathalie is a programme coordinator at Common Good and a member of Common Ground Church‘s Wynberg congregation

169134_10150359827155543_5654958_oTo Make Him Known

By Craig Stewart

“As a follower of Jesus, I love, but often struggle to make real in my life, the idea that God wants to make himself known to others through me.  Love and justice are core parts of who God is, and as I seek to make him known I find myself wrestling with how I am representing his character.  How I treat others, the way in which I cooperate with or subvert the systems of this world, the wages I pay, how and how much I consume, the products I sell, and how I love my neighbour in this global world – all either proclaim (with the rest of creation) the reality of a loving and just God who wants to be known, or they don’t!”

“God’s desire to be known as just and loving is sometimes best declared through words, projects or events that I participate in or give my money and time too.  But if I’m not always seeking to have my life reflect the full character of God then I lack integrity and my efforts are simply a clanging gong. I particularly identify with and like this quote by Chris Wright in The Mission of God:”That God’s will to be known precedes and undergirds all of the efforts of God’s people in their mission of making Him known.”

Craig is the director of The Warehouse, a non-profit organisation that exists to serve the church in its response to poverty and injustice

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