Returning the Mission of God to the People of God
The following is a guest post from Trevor Joy. Trevor is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at The Village Church in Dallas, TX. Trevor is one of the first people I look to for both theological and operational insights in discipleship.
Returning the Mission of God to the People of God
“When the church tries to bottle up the Spirit within herself, she acts contrary both to her own and to his nature. For it is the nature of the church to be ever enlarging her borders, and it is the nature of the Spirit to transmit His life to ever-widening circles. When the church does not recognize this law of her being and of the being of the Spirit, the Spirit is quenched and he withdraws himself, and the deposit of religiosity that is left becomes a putrification in the lives of those who have grieved him.” Henry Boer
The Passion conference this year has brought back to my mind the vigor and faith that exists in the collegiate generation. There is a reckless abandonment, a willingness to cast everything aside to push cause forward that is contagious and convicting. One of my favorite biographies is about a group of college students who caught a fire for something and it change the trajectory of their lives. In England during the late 1800’s there was a famous cricket player (yes, cricket!) named CT Studd. Charles was a part of a morning bible study and accountability group of six other men. God began to stir amongst these men in a powerful way and it culminated when Hudson Taylor gave the chapel message at their college campus about all God was doing to reach the people of China. Convicted and ignited, these 7 men decided to abandon all to take the gospel to China. Prior to leaving for the mission field, this group of young men toured several surrounding campuses sharing the gospel and God’s heart for the nations and in a powerful movement God ignited missionaries across the country. They were dubbed the Cambridge Seven, and their influence spread beyond England to even the U.S. where it inspired Robert Wilder’s Student Volunteer Movement. This group of men went on to spend their lives spreading the gospel in some of the hardest places.
It began with a small group of seven young men praying a sharing their lives together and God used that group to spark a generational gospel journey that took the good news of Jesus Christ across the globe. No programs or grandiose initiatives, just the gospel taking root in a community in such a powerful way that it burst into a contagious movement. What is so interesting about this story, is that it is not unique. In fact, this is how the church has historically existed and moved in the world. This is the normative flow of the gospel among the people of God. We see throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit landing on a people and the gospel taking root in such a way that transforms that community and begins to flow beyond that group to the world around them. This is because the church was never meant to be a stagnant pool but a flowing river of gospel movement, disciples who make disciples who make disciples. All of us who today claim faith in Jesus Christ are apart of this flow. Go used someone to save a man in Wichita Falls, Tx who then shared the gospel with my brother who then came home to Dallas and shared it with me. In Mathew 28, Jesus gives marching orders to the church when he says, “ALL authority on Heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded them, and behold I am with you to the end of the age.” The mission of God pushes forward through the people of God.
The mission of the Church is to make disciples to the glory of God. The Village Church exists to glorify God by making disciples through gospel-centered worship, gospel-centered community, gospel-centered service, and gospel-centered multiplication. Making disciples is at the core of the function of the body of Christ and we do this through all the facets that exist here. Weekend worship, prayer, home group, parking, teaching, local and global engagement, all serve as expressions of and opportunities for discipleship. Breaking it down to its simplest parts though, discipleship happens when the gospel flows in as community and out on mission.
A trap we easily fall into is to think of mission as an option rather than a necessary component of discipleship. Thinking of community apart from mission is like a car without an engine. If community is the vehicle God has designed of us to exist in as we seek sanctification, mission is the engine that drives that vehicle forward. Our trap is to fall into the lie that the mission of God is about us. The mission of God is His glory, and He achieves this through redeeming and reconciling an unworthy people to Himself. You and I faithfully live out the mission of God through being messengers of reconciliation (disciple makers) to the world around us (2 Cor. 5:16). If we aren’t careful, we will be lulled into a self-absorbed view of Christianity where the gospel of Christ terminates on us. This isn’t the full picture of discipleship. A community where the gospel doesn’t flow out is stagnant and ineffective. Accountability, care, and a sense of belonging are crucial to the balance a progress of the believer’s sanctification. Where that focus doesn’t turn beyond the walls of our homes and office cubicles it creates a vacuum of life rather than a source of life. As Bob Roberts puts it in his book on the transforming power of the gospel, “The kingdom of God is not a widget machine. It isn’t impersonal, processed, and programmed. Instead, there is a divine flow to the kingdom that goes beyond the mechanical production of religious people and products. It is an invigorating, life-giving and adventuresome river, flowing through the world and channeling people into its rapids.”
At The Village, our primary vehicle for discipleship is Home Groups. As we have discussed above discipleship is the people of God on the mission of God. Our generation is coming from a background where community meant, “teach them to obey all that I have commanded”, but we have neglected what came first, “baptize them”! Biblical community isn’t just a place where we can exchange knowledge and information; it is first and foremost a place where the gospel emanates from. We have to fight through urges of comfort and the chains of fear to see the beautiful horizon that awaits on the other side. For a good portion of us, our view of biblical community isn’t wrong, it’s just limited. We must strive for a full and faithful picture of discipleship that is the people of God (community) on the mission of God (multiplication)
In 2013 we are making some strategic changes in the life of our church to better shepherd our people towards faithfulness in making disciples. Our groups continue to be safe places where people can confess sin, struggle well, and be encouraged to deal with the roots of sin in the cavities of our hearts. This is so vital to growing and maturing as a disciple, but that is not where it stops. Our desire is to see the gospel continue to grow roots in the life of our groups, but also to see the fruit of the gospel flow out of our groups and into the world around us. One of the key ways we are striving to achieve this is to no longer segregate “missions” and “groups” in how we plan, program, and shepherd the body. We have recently moved missions at the Village fully into home groups placing the emphasis on mission in and through community life. Tangibly this means that our Groups Team will be responsible for driving all the aspects of multiplication (local/global missions, missionaries, mission trips, evangelism) in and through community life. Over the next several months we will be rolling out several resources, teachings, and communication pieces on how this move will affect the life of our church. The driving motivations behind these moves are to see our groups, like the Cambridge Seven, to catch a fire for the mission of God in making disciples here and abroad to the glory of God.