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We are all sent and empowered
All Christians are sent. We’re all to be missional.
Confused about mission
In Acts 1:6–8 we find the final commission of Jesus. In verse 6 Jesus is asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” It’s as if the disciples were asking Jesus, “Lord, have you read the latest installment of Tim LaHaye’s ‘Left Behind’ series?” Jesus’ disciples seemed inordinately interested in the end times.
At their question, Jesus kindly admonishes them, saying, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” They want to talk about the end times—Jesus wants to send them on a mission.
Churches are filled with people who are confused about the mission. It’s evident when we consider what packs out a conference or what sermon series excites the people. For many churches today, when pastors address questions on the end times, the church fills up. If you pull out prophecy charts, some dragons with horns, and start naming names and decoding the numbers, you can pack out a conference.
You can’t accomplish anything in your own power and strength.
Yet, Jesus says it’s not for us to know. Jesus says “no” to the disciples’ request to know the timing of God’s plan, and he gives them something different entirely. He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (v. 8). These words cause a shift that takes place in the disciples’ understanding of mission.
The empowered church
Luke’s story of the church on mission in Acts begins with two revolutionary events. The first event focuses the mission of the church toward the nations and informs the disciples how the mission will be accomplished (Acts 1:8). The second creates the church and empowers it for its mission (Acts 2:1–11). When Jesus responds to his disciples’ questions concerning when the kingdom of Israel will be restored (Acts 1:6), he is not trying to redirect their attention from eschatological speculation or from nationalistic hope in Israel’s kingdom. Jesus says the kingdom will be established through the power of the Spirit, and the hope of Israel is fulfilled by God’s mission being accomplished throughout the world.
We see a Trinitarian focus on the mission of God throughout Scripture. We see it in John 20:21–23:
The one thing you can do today
At this point, maybe you have this nagging concern, “All right, Ed, you talk about us living sent. So I need a congregation full of people who will quit being spiritual consumers and actually become missional co-laborers.” This sort of shift is in fact a tall order. We know statistically, from a study we conducted of 7,000 churches in Transformational Church, that the majority of people in the majority of churches are unengaged in meaningful ministry and mission. They will come for a show, but they won’t serve. So now you say, “You started in John 20:21. We are supposed to live as faithful missional co-laborers of the gospel, to live sent in our everyday lives. And then you tell me that now I’ve got to go to the nations, because, in context, the Great Commission cannot be understood apart from God sending his people to the nations. How in the world am I going to do all these things?”
The promise of mission is power from the Holy Spirit.
Second, remember the words of Jesus. He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” You can’t accomplish any of those things in your own power and strength, but if the posture of mission is one of sent-ness, then the promise of mission is power from the Holy Spirit. You might not be able to accomplish all of your new ministry goals tomorrow. But one thing you can do today is to say, “Here I am, Lord—send me. Spirit, empower us. You’ve empowered us to live sent to our neighbors and to the nations.”
How to proceed
What should we do to focus on mission? I’d suggest that churches share Christ and serve the hurting locally, plant churches nationally, and adopt an unreached people group globally. I think you should lead your church to be a missional, missions-minded, gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered church.
They said at Babel, “Let us make a name for ourselves,” so God scattered them. Their motivation was the exaltation of man’s name. Israel was charged with a mission to bring the nations up to Jerusalem to praise God’s name. In Acts, the followers of Jesus praised God’s name. In Revelation, the heavenly host praises the Lamb. I desire our churches to be able to stand before God and say:
When I look at the commissions of Jesus, I see a people who are commissioned. We’re all sent. We’re all to be missional Christians. But we can’t get past the Great Commission without seeing the nations, we can’t get past Luke 24 without seeing the centrality of the gospel, and we can’t leave the commissions of Jesus saying we can do it on our own. Spirit, give us your presence and your power.
This post is the last in a five-part series that originally appeared on Ed Stetzer’s blog. The posts were written for Finish the Mission by John Piper, David Mathis, Ed Stetzer, et al. copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.