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An overview of Christian Missions
f
or the Disciple of Christ

Differing Roles, but Common goals: The Christian faith and experience is so varied in the area of how we serve. I find it frustrating at times, however, the Bible teaches that God has called us to different servant experiences according to how He made us. While our individual experience is going to be different, there should also be a core that applies to all of Christ's disciples, and that core should be our common experience. Romans 12 is a great overview of this principle:

Rom 12:1-3 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

This then should be our common experience, right? Our bodies are no longer are own, but are a sacrifice to Him that gives us life. We must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, but because we are transformed by His grace, and nothing of our own doing, we must not think too highly of ourselves for where we are in the process.

ROM 12:4-8 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Verses four through eight are encouraging us in our individual experience based on our gifts, and telling us that our work will vary according to how were made. All work for Him is valid and important to Him if done for His glory

ROM 12 9-21 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Verses nine through twenty-one focus back on our common experience and especially our relationships with one another in light of our different roles in the body. It is in the spirit of my love for you, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and the acceptance of our different roles in the body, that I want to understand Christian Missions. I also want to develop and understanding what my role should be in light of my gifting, and how that will play out in what I do and how I live.

The Disciple of Christ: I desire with all my heart to be a faithful follower of Christ and I would like to be considered one of Christ's disciples. Easton defines a Disciple of Christ as follows:

A disciple of Christ is one who (1.) believes his doctrine, (2.) rests on his sacrifice, (3.) imbibes his spirit, and (4.) imitates his example. Easton backs this definition with the following scriptures: Mat 10:24 "No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. Luk 14:26-27 "Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples". Luk 14:33 In the same way, concluded Jesus, "none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have". and Joh 6:69 And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God.

What an exciting, yet scary endeavor. I know I can only succeed with this through the Grace of God in Christ.

Two Kinds of Disciples: Randy Alcorn has written extensively on these issues as they relate to missions and the stewardship of our resources. In an article entitled Choosing A God-Honoring Lifestyle, Randy outlines two kinds of disciples based on two Bible accounts.

The first kind of disciple is from the passage In Mark 1:16-20, where Jesus called his first four disciples to leave their fishing business to follow him.

These four disciples literally followed Jesus. To do so they left behind there possessions, but Randy teaches that, "this was neither inherently virtuous nor aimless. It was done with a clear purpose in mind, in order to practically facilitate the goal of the call. Christ's ministry was an itinerant one, requiring a great deal of traveling. To follow him, the disciples simply had to leave their boats and nets. The real point is not that they left their boats, but that they followed Jesus. That they left behind their major possessions was the inevitable result of their response to his call to physically follow him."

Randy also points out that they apparently did not divest themselves of all of their possessions. It seems likely that the boats used for traveling throughout the Gospel accounts were the very boats these disciples used previously in their fishing businesses before their call to follow Jesus. This is substantiated by the fact that Peter and several of the others were back in a boat fishing again within days of Christ's death (John 21:1-3).

Peter later said to his Lord, "We have left everything to follow you" (Mark 10:28-30). He did not say, "We have sold everything," though they may well have liquidated nearly all of their major possessions (Luke 12:32-33). The point is, they "left their possessions" to physically follow Christ.

Randy concludes his teaching on this passage with the observation that, "The apostles were a distinct historical group who have no direct equivalent today. Nonetheless, I believe we can look at them as representatives of a particular calling of God to traveling missionary work. Such work necessitates leaving behind major possessions that would tie us to a specific location and prohibit our ability to go where Jesus calls us".

The Second Kind of Disciple: Mark said that Jesus "saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him" (Mark 2:14). Randy states that, "we are not told Jesus commanded him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. On the contrary, in the very next verse Jesus and the disciples are having a dinner party in Levi's house, along with many other tax collectors and "sinners." Levi's house is used to introduce many people to Jesus. Given his profession and the number of people at the party, it was no doubt nicer and larger than the average house".

Randy teaches that this is not merely an acceptable use of possessions but an explicitly God-ordained one. Levi represented a second type of missionary activity that does not involve divesting oneself of all one's possessions but utilizing them for the same ultimate cause of those called to the itinerant ministry.

Not long after the account in Levi's home, while large crowds were following Jesus, he went up into the hills and chose twelve of his followers to be his apostles (Mark 3:13-19). This unique group would join him in his itinerant ministry, traveling, preaching, and casting out demons. But only these twelve were chosen to travel with him. Others of the large crowds were not chosen as apostles but still remained his disciples.

Randy asks, "where did these 'disciples-but-not-apostles'go?. Where else but back to their families and homes and jobs! Just as Jesus had for many years served as a carpenter, owning a house and tools and likely a workshop, and lived on a piece of land, so they were to serve God, raising their families, living and working in their own communities".

Clearly, the majority of Christ's followers did not rid themselves of all their possessions, nor were they expected to do so. There were two callings of Christ-one to leave family and possessions behind, and one to go back to them. But both callings served the same ultimate purpose-the glory of God and the advance of his kingdom.

Summarizing the Two Calls of Christ:: In a probing call to discipleship, Jesus said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"(Mark 8:34-37)

Randy observes that "the number of economic terms in these few verses is striking-save, lose, gain, forfeit, give, and exchange. Every disciple of Jesus is given a radical call as to how he views and handles his money and possessions and every other facet of his life. Whether one has been called to leave his possessions behind for kingdom purposes or to retain ownership for generous and sacrificial kingdom purposes, he must keep in mind that a wrong view of material gain in this world will lure him away from the next. The money and possessions of the present will be of no use on the day his soul is laid bare before his Creator. On that day, money and possessions will be seen as either having facilitated his mission or having blurred or hindered it".

For Randy Alcorn's full article see: Choosing A God-Honoring Lifestyle at the Eternal Perspective Ministries website. Randy has many articles on-line on the subject of missions listed at: http://epm.org/missions.html

So, where am I in all this? In June of 2002 I was visiting with a small group of men in preparation for praying together. These are the men of the group my wife and I have attended now for the last several years (thankfully our church, Christian Community Church in Murray, KY, encourages small group participation in order to facilitate more intimate fellowship and accountability). That night, our group facilitator mentioned that he felt that God had something for us beyond the experience we had currently enjoyed in the group. He didn't really know what, but something bigger, something more.

I felt the Holy Spirit's prodding (at least I think it was Him) to say what I had been feeling for a long while. I simply do not find my experience, even as a committed Christian, is really anything like what I see written about in the New Testament. And that it appeared to me that the majority of Christian experiences (at least in this country) are the same as mine was. I explained that I thought we were all holding back, not wanting to give God all of our lives, and not wanting to make some of the hard changes that needed to be made for Him to be Lord of our lives.

Perhaps we were hedging our bets, not wanting to give everything up due to a lack of faith in what God would do with us if we did give our lives completely over to Him. I'm not really sure why we hold back, but we certainly seem too; at least most of the Christians I know do. I also think that is why we don't see our lives having more of an impact on the lost.

Another dear friend shared that he had experienced a level of fellowship and intimacy in a youth group several years ago that he had never experienced as an adult, and that he longed to be in a deeper more committed environment like the one he had experienced back then. He said it was empowering, he felt braver and bolder and more sure of what he was doing.

More excellent discussion followed, and it was obvious to me that the Holy Spirit was right there with us, and I don't often feel that way even though I know He is with us always. I felt an undeniable power present beyond what any of us had to bring ourselves, and He was encouraging us in this probing discussion.

We prayed, and in my part of the prayer time that night I repented of holding back, especially in the area of truly loving my fellow Christians, and yielding to the kind of involvement and fellowship with them we see in the New Testament accounts. I also prayed that God would give me the strength to change. I was scared of giving Him everything, and I still am, only now I'm also excited about the change in my life as a result of taking steps in the right direction. Truly loving my brothers and sisters in Christ
--that was the immediately apparent area I was holding back in --and yet now I know that that was only one of many more areas to follow, and perhaps there are many more yet to come.

After the loving one another issue it was the area of stewardship. Click the link for lots more on stewardship! Now it's missions. How are we to live in light of the great needs out there, most of which are not in Murray, KY, or even in the US! Yes, I know there is a lot to do here at home, especially in the inner cities. God's work is where ever we are. It's sometimes hard to see the work at home though, especially while engrossed in our daily obligations.

A group of us from CCC went on a mission trip to Mexico with Way of The Cross. During that week we lived together; we worshiped, studied, and prayed together; we worked together building a church building, and we shared our faith with the lost together. For that week, at least to me, it felt like we were living our lives like the Christians described in the New Testament lived. It was a great experience and I miss it! Each morning we rose early for some time alone with God, and one morning I wrote the following in my notes while reflecting on what was happening to me:

Wow, I feel like I need much more of this in my life. I want to serve God full-time. If I can't see my way to do that through full-time missions, I want to be much better about serving Him at work, at home in Murray, and by taking more short term missions trips. I also want to stay in touch with and support those who have been sent out to the field.

God has opened my eyes. This trip has been yet another step in God changing me through the awakening that started last summer. His sanctification of me has escalated as a result of His grace in showing me areas in my life where I had not offered Him Lordship, in fact I was holding back. Namely in the areas of the stewardship of my time and money, and my lack of desire to fellowship with, and truly love my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Lord, I repent of my lukewarmness in these areas. I want to make You Lord of all. Show me the way to walk, to live, and to serve you dear Jesus. Show me how I can have an impact for Your Kingdom. Lord God, help me to hold back nothing from you, but to give you my best, and my all.

So dear readers, I find myself here in Murray wondering how to be a full-time missionary while also keeping all the plates spinning with my work and family. I think the key is to develop a missionary mindset, whether we are in the mission field or the work place, in or our homes and communities or in deepest Africa. God's work is wherever we are if we will just open our eyes to it!

I think that short term mission trips like the one I was on in Mexico with Way of the Cross are a great way to discover this missionary mindset, or to renew one. Through God's grace I plan make many more of these trips and make them a priority in my life. I'm also committed to finding more ways to help with missions while I'm at home, and to doing more here with a missionary mind set. I also think the close daily contact with my fellow Christians was a big factor on the trip, and what I brought home from it, so I'm hoping to make that a part of life here somehow too.

Thank you dear Jesus for Your grace and for allowing us, Your fallen but redeemed creation, to work with You and for You; working in what You alone have empowered us to do through Your justification of our lives; through Your gifting of us, and Your sanctification of us. Please lead us dear Lord in how and where we are to proceed with Your work. In the name of Your most precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Click here to visit the page about the Way of the Cross missions trip on my site, or click the here for the CCC WOTC Missions site.

In Thomas Wingfold, Curate, written by George MacDonald in 1876 (recently published under, "The Curate's Awakening") MacDonald writes about a young curate who has suddenly discovered that he is "unsure of many things which are taken for granted concerning clergymen". I think many of us who call ourselves Christians also taking some things for granted, even about ourselves. I have just read the second to the last chapter of this book and feel compiled to quote a passage from it here because it speaks so eloquently to the lukewarm experience I am awakening from as I have tried to describe above. Hang with it if you will, the really relaxant part for me is at the end, although it is all excellent, and you need it for context. In fact, you need the entire book. I think it is one of his best in terms of his theology woven into the story line:

"It is time, my hearers," he began, "to bring to a close this period of uncertainty about the continuation of our relationship together. As you are well aware, in the springtime of this year I felt compelled to think through whether I could in good faith go on as a servant of the church. For very dread of the honesty of an all-knowing God, I forced myself to break through the established conventions of the church and speak to you of my most private thoughts. I told you I was unsure of many things which are taken for granted concerning clergymen. Since then, as I have wrestled with these issues, I have tried to show you the best I saw, yet I dared not say I was sure of anything. An I have kept those of you who cared to follow my path acquainted with the progress of mental history. An now I come to tell you the practical result at which I have arrived.

"First, I tell you that I will not forsake my curracy, still less my right and duty to teach whatever I seem to know. But I must not convey the impression that all my doubts are suddenly gone. All I now can say is that in the story of Jesus I have seen grandeur--to me altogether beyond the reach of human invention, and real hope for man. At the same time, from the attempt to obey the recorded as his, I have experienced a great enlargement of my mind and a deepening of my moral strength and a wonderful increase of faith, hope and love toward all men. Therefore, I now declare with the consent of my whole man-- I cast my lot with the servants of the Crucified. If they be deluded, then I am content to share in their delusion, for to me it is the truth of the God of men. I will stand or fall with the story of my Lord. I speak not in irreverence, but in honesty. I will take my chance of failure or success in this life or the life to come on the words and the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. Impressed as I am with the truth of his nature, the absolute devotion of his life and the essential might of his being if I yet obey him not, I shall not only deserve to perish, but in that very refusal I would draw ruin upon my own head. Before God I say it--I would rather be crucified with that man than reign with an earthly king over a kingdom of millions. On such grounds as these I hope I am justified in declaring myself a disciple of the Son of Man and in devoting my life and the renewed energy of my being to his brothers and sisters of my race. Henceforth, I am not in holy orders as a professional clergyman, but under holy order as the servant of Christ Jesus [empehses his].

"And if any man would still say that because of my lack of absolute assurance I have no right to the sacred post, I answer let him cast the first stone who has never been assailed by such doubts as mine. And if such doubts have never been yours, if perhaps your belief is but the shallow absence of doubt, then you must ask yourself a question. Do you love your faith so little that you have never battled a single fear lest your faith should not be true? For what are doubts but the strengthening building blocks toward summits of yet higher faith in him who always leads us into the high places? Where there are no doubts, no questions, no perplexities, there can be no growth into the regions where he would have us walk. Doubts are the only means through which he can enlarge our spiritual selves.

"You have borne with me in my trails, and I thank you. One word more to those who call themselves Christians among you but who, as I so recently did myself, present such a withered idea of Christianity that they cause the truth to hang its head rather than ride forth on a white horse to conquer the world for Jesus. You dull the luster of the truth in the eyes of men. You do not represent that which it is, but yet you call yourselves by its name . You are not the salt of the earth, but a salt that has lost its savor. I say these things not to judge you, for I was one of you such a short time ago. But I say to you simply, it is time to awake! Until you repent and believe afresh, believe in a nobler Christ, namely the Christ of history and the Christ of the Bible rather than the vague form which false interpretations of men have substituted for him--until you believe in him rightly you will continue to be the main reason why faith is so scanty on the earth. And whether you do in some sense believe or not, one fact remains--while you are not a Christian who obeys the word of the master, doing [emphasis his] the things he says rather than merely listening to them, talking about them, and holding certain opinions about them, then you will be one of those to whom he will say, 'I never knew you: go forth into the outer darkness.'

"But
what unspeakable joy and contentment awaits you when you, like St. Paul, can be crucified with Christ, to live no more from your own self but to be thereafter possessed with the same faith toward the Father in which Jesus lived and did the will of the Father. Truly our destiny is a glorious one--because we have a God supremely grand, all-perfect. Unity with him alone can be the absolute bliss for which we were created. Therefor I say to you, as I say to myself: awaken your spirits, and give your hearts and souls to him! For this you were created by him, and to this we are called--every one."

Wow, Amen and Amen.....

In Him,
Scott

 

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