Joining in God’s mission: Five key congregational practices

God’s on a mission – that every single person will come to know him, be transformed and made whole through Jesus, become a part of his people, and serve him. And eventually that we will be resurrected when Jesus returns to rule a recreated earth in righteousness and peace.

Now some of us don’t have a real life focus, while others of us are very focused with our own life missions. Perhaps it has to do with goals for family, enjoying life, career or other accomplishments. In either case when we become followers of Jesus each one of us are to take on a new life focus of serving God and joining in fulfilling his mission. If we don’t have a focus this is our focus, and if we do have a focus – all of our missions in life have to be integrated into this, or set aside.

And that’s the challenge as we’ve been talking about God’s mission – two weeks ago and now again today. Will we make God’s mission our mission – or not?

Last time we looked at five key personal practices for joining in God’s mission:

  1. Live your life in a way that glorifies God. Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
  2. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost. The example of Jesus’ motivation is found in Matthew 9:36 – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The human heart is quick to put down and condemn, but we need compassion.
  3. Regularly pray for someone who is lost. In Psalm 67:2, the writer prays for God to act, so “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations/people.” Ask God to put someone on your heart.
  4. Build relationships with the lost. Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Jesus interacted with lost, and while he was with them in genuine relationship with them, he engaged them with the gospel.
  5. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share. Colossians 4:5-6 – “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” God is working all around us and we need eyes to see where, so we can be a part.

How did you do these last two weeks??? You might say, ‘Pastor, it’s hard to keep these things in mind with all that happens in a given week.’ And I know that life is busy, although we need to remember that they are busy do to lifestyle  choices that we make. But yes, it can be hard. 

But none of us want to be like the person James describes in chapter one, who looks in a mirror and then forgets what he looks like. As he says in v. 22 – “don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.” (NLT)

Today we are looking at –

Five key congregational practices

for joining in God’s mission; practices that keep us as a group centered on fulfilling God’s mission.

1. We should support those who are specially called to work at God’s mission – missionaries, pastors and others. These rely on individuals and congregations for their support.

Support, of course, involves financial resources. In Luke 10:7 Jesus teaches, “the laborer deserves his (or her) wages.” Jesus isn’t talking in professional terms of a salary. It is simply that these workers need to be free from earning a living in order to have time and focus to do their work for the mission of God.

And certainly those who minister need more than just financial support to do their work. They also need love, encouragement and prayers.

Paul asked for this in Colossians 4:3-4 – “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. If Paul needed it then certainly all of these need it.

I am glad to say that I think we are doing well in this area, giving and praying for those who are specially called to work at God’s mission. I would just encourage us to continue. 

2. We should invite others to come . . . as we worship and have times of fellowship together. We should encourage and call others to be a part.

In Luke 14 Jesus tells a parable about a man who invited many to come to his feast. But most people were too busy with their good lives and didn’t want to come.

  • So he told his servants, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame” – Luke 14:21.
  • But there was still room, so he said, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” – Luke 14:23.

The man, who represents God, really wants his house to be full! He is calling all to be a part of the kingdom and his kingdom community. And he is urgent in sending out his servants, that is, us. Even if many say no, he still wants us to invite others.

Did you know that 66% of the people that come to church come because a friend has invited them or brought them along with them? This is by far the highest percentage. For instance, only 8% come from a pastor’s efforts; only ¼% from evangelistic crusades.

Think for a moment, who might you invite? Maybe it’s the same person or persons whom God has put on your heart to pray for.

{We should not play  off too strongly the missional versus attractional models of the church. Even though our basic mode is to be missional the New Testament church also attracted people – Acts 5:12-14. And instructions were given about receiving visitors in worship – James 2:1-4, 1 Corinthians 14:23-25}

3. We should practice hospitality. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells the church he addresses in chapter 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”

To be hospitable means to be warm and friendly. We need to connect with newcomers and help them connect with others in our group. And we need to include them in our community life.

It also means that we need to welcome those different than us. As James says in chapter 2, we can’t make distinctions based on outward circumstances – whether they are rich or poor. And we also can’t exclude people based on  where they come from or what they look like or what their views are on controversial topics. We need to be warm and welcoming to every single person who comes to our church

According to the experts a person decides if they like a church and will come back within their first 11 minutes, which may well mean even before the service starts. So take the initiative, get to know people, learn their names, find out some things about them, connect them with other people in the congregation, invite them over for dinner.

We need to be a warm and welcoming church.

4. We should love each other deeply. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly”

It’s not common to see real love for others, especially beyond family or friends. But we are to love each other deeply from the heart. We are to pray for each other, encourage each other, help each other out, forgive one another, support each other.

People are drawn to love. I would like for us as a congregation to have such a love for one another, that when someone comes – they can feel it; they can sense that God’s presence is at work among us to cause us to love one another in such a deep way.

5. As a congregation, we should look for openings to engage specific groups of people.  Jesus said in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And I believe he says this to us here at New Providence today. Beyond what we do as individuals and beyond inviting any and all to come – God will often call congregations to connect with more specific people, that we might love and serve them and share the gospel with them in genuine relationships.

God sent Jesus. He left where he was at the Father’s side and he became flesh and lived among us. He became one of us. And in the same way (as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you) God calls us also to go to people and be with them. We should not sit back and wait for people to come to us and learn our ways. We must go to them and learn about them and build relationships and share life with them.

Now this will stretch us for sure, but this is how God works. In past congregations that I have led or have been a part of God sent us to the homeless, the drug addicted, the mentally ill, a group of immigrants, and the socio-economically disadvantaged groups around our congregation, including single moms who were struggling to make it.

Now, I don’t know yet who God want us to connect with. God is working all around us to accomplish his mission and we need to tune it to see where he wants us to be a part of this. This is something that we will need to discern together, but I do believe God will do this and I hope that we can have some insight on this in the next number of months.

Who will God lead us to? What doors will God open for us as a congregation? Will you pray with me that God might lead us in this?

Summary

So these are five key congregational practices to add to our personal practices that help us to join in fulfilling God’s mission:

1. We should support those who are specially called to work at God’s mission

2. We should invite others to come

3. We should practice hospitality with new people

4. We should love each other deeply

 5. We should look for openings to engage specific groups of people

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