This past Sunday, I started a new series of sermons called “Missional Strategy – Why we do what we do the way we do it.” I think I chose this topic partly because the pandemic is winding down, partly because our church is on the threshold of some new opportunities, and partly because mission drift is inevitable. Whatever the reason, it’s always a good organizational discipline to revisit missional strategy.
Every organization has a why that defines its reason for existence. For the Church, it is the making of disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus described the why of the church this way,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20
Paul the Apostle spoke of the why this way,
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. II Corinthians 5:18-20
The why is the reason we exist. It is our primary mission. It guides every decision we make and energizes every action we take – or at least it should.
Jesus gave the Church two primary directives in the mission of making disciples: baptizing and teaching.
Long before baptism, God’s saving grace was already drawing the believer. This is why Paul declared in Ephesians 2:8 that God’s grace alone saves us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Baptism is a definitive outward declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. Like birth, it marks the completion of the first stage of a disciple’s life. A baptism is a testimony to the saving grace of God. Church, if we’re willing, we can be a channel of that grace.
In fact, the call to baptize is actually a command to be a channel of saving grace. We can’t save anyone, but God’s grace flowing freely through us can. Like water, saving grace flows naturally to the lowest point – and it reaches everyone. We tend to shy away from it because building relationships with the lost can be very messy. Friends, are we willing to let saving grace flow — even if it takes risk, opens us to ridicule, exposes us to drama, or puts us with people we’re not comfortable being with?
For the Church, the first key missional question is, “How are we allowing God’s saving grace to flow through us into our mission field?”
God provides transformational grace to mature the infant believer into an approved worker in the mission. Being a Christian isn’t just about being saved; it’s also about being transformed so we, too, can become successful in the mission. Listen as Paul makes this point abundantly clear:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead of speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him, the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15
Jesus instructed His Church to be a channel of His transformational grace by teaching believers to obey everything He commanded. That’s a tall order, and the church has the job of getting it done. Being effective in teaching requires relationships — and that requires emotional involvement and the sacrifice of time and energy. Are we willing to let transformational grace flow even if it costs us dearly?
For the Church, the second missional question is, “How are we allowing God’s transformational grace to flow through us to raise up mature and obedient disciples of Jesus Christ?”
Zig Ziglar once said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Church, what are we aiming for? Can we see the target? Have we clearly defined it? With the pandemic fading into the past, this is a prime opportunity for all of us to refocus on the mission of the Church. Knowing the why will help guide us into a fruitful future!