The mission of God’s church is truly straightforward, yet highly complex; plain, yet perplexing – it’s the revelation of the mystery. We see this mysterious revelation demonstrated in the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Three days after Jesus Christ is crucified, He gloriously exalts from a previously unchallenged grave; having conquered the sting of death, he then begins to prepare His disciples for international ministry. It’s the same handful of men who originally asserted their perpetual loyalty to Him, only later to deny Him and encourage His crucifixion. As puzzling as this all may be, Jesus gathers them, and tells them to preach this gospel to all nations, baptizing them in His name, and creating additional disciples. If your not careful, you can get lost in the cacophony of mayhem, and lose sight of what is truly happening – in all of this, there is a mission for the church; His church…the church.
Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” In other words, the promises bestowed upon Christians from God were intentional, not haphazard. The covenant between God and man is just that, a covenant between God and man – it is not a covenant created by one man for another man, but an infinite God with a finite man. Scripture reveals to us that the church was predestined before the foundation of the world. The church is distinct. There is nothing quite like the church. Neither Israel, nor any other earthly entity is comparable to it. The church is unique, and nothing can replace it. The church was not the byproduct of sin entering the world, nor was it an afterthought – but scripture reveals to us that the church was planned by God to oversee the preservation and dissemination of the gospel. Some believe the church is man made, and communion with God can be just as intimate without the burden of a smothering institution – this is not true. “The church is not just a group of people made over or made better. It is, in fact and in truth, a new creation, which is brought out of Christ, and is indeed from his own body – and would have been created by Christ’s death, even if there were no fall of man in the garden.” (Wilson, p. 8) Once we realize why the church exists, and the significance of it’s relationship to Christ, then we understand how paramount it is for the people within the church to become the entire church in practice and embodiment. “By one spirit are we all baptized into one body” The church is Christ’s visible body – it is His seeable portrayal to the world. Countless books, seminars and sermons have been written, taught and preached to uncover the purpose of the church, often over complicating or under evaluating. The purpose of the church is simple – the church is Christ body, no more, no less. Consequently, the church understands who it is by understood who God is – then revealing those attributes of God to the world. Since we know that God is eternal, we understand that the church deals with matters of eternal concern. It is not the will of God to lose track of their purpose with trivial finite matters, while infinite ultimate matters are neglected. “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, no imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18,19) The mission is of God – it’s God’s ministry. God hath committed this ministry unto us, but let us never forget it is still His ministry. The practical display of God’s ministry in the church is to provide an opportunity for people to experience the purest love of God, to encounter a sin-cleansing episode and to be welcomed in to the family of God by new-birth, both demonstrated by water baptism and the infilling of the holy ghost, with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.
The Mission Challenges
The world is our ultimate objective – not the physical landscape that sharply outlines the mountain range, which carefully shapes the valley or majestically carves the ocean; but the people who live among these authoritative characteristics – this is our mission, this is our ministry. From east to west, north to south, rural to city, black to white – find and facilitate. The puzzling question that thousands have pondered is, “How do we get from here to there? From promise to possession?” How, as the church, do we impact our environment? Environments are never neutral; it’s a constant ebb and flow, give and take. The fluidity of our environment is one of the dynamics that makes this mission so arduous – we offer a timeless, never changing gospel in a fading, constantly remodeling environment.
Pastor Barry Sutton unveiled research that speaks directly to the shifting societal and educational landscapes as it relates to the Apostolic church. Pastor Sutton says, “There was a time when Apostolic churches were filled with men who could support their families on a blue collar wage, but that day is quickly coming to a close.” Consequently, our churches, which are supported predominantly by the working men of the church, have to make urgent adjustments to stabilize financially – those who do not make the essential adaptations will soon realize the dangers the new academic and societal vista presents. Along with the highly fluid professional terrain, there are other major societal evolutions requiring apostolic ministry to visit and address. Part of Apostolic ministry is dealing with the practical “life” challenges those in our churches are facing, so it is our God ordained responsibility to be prepared to offer solutions to these modern impediments. That is not to say we must have every formula for every complication, but there is a certain expectancy for ministry to help families work through life’s setbacks. Pastor Sutton goes on to write, “Apostolic ministry as encouragers, facilitators and models, need to exemplify life learning, promote wise educational and life choices and shepherd our flocks with care in these amazing days of global revival.” In other words, unlike in times past when men could obtain employment without viable and marketable life-skills, the Apostolic ministry has got to help facilitate the growth of it’s saints by supporting academic advancement and also by addressing functional life lessons. This concept is overlooked by so many in Apostolic ministry. Pastor Sutton is not encouraging Apostolic ministry to exchange spirit lead church services for practical life-lessons and seminars – however, both have there place and are tremendously useful for advancing a global revival – what he is saying is that the Apostolic church must look at where our societal and educational landscape is headed, and prepare the church for those challenges. Divorce is common, homosexuality is accepted, abortions are ordinary; these are some of the modern mutations the church has to be prepared to confront. They have always existed, but not on the level we are seeing them today. Implementing this mindset it crucial to building a framework for revival and for forecasting the next 10 years of the Apostolic church. Without understanding the present condition of our societal and educational challenges, we are unable to truly visualize where we are going. If the Apostolic church is going to succeed, it will be carried on the shoulders of men and women who were full of Godly wisdom; like the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times.
The Mission Challenges: Numerical
The missional challenges are extensive, but there are some dominating challenges that stand out above the rest; once these are addressed, they can be conquered. Adding to the constant fluidity of our environment is the fact that our world has finally reached seven billion people. The world population is larger now then ever before in history. The church has to change it’s approach to missions. It is numerically impossible to reach the world with the gospel if we only equip American’s for the task. For this reason, the World Wide Pentecostal Fellowship has embraced a revolutionary, earthshaking new approach to missions – find and facilitate. Equip indigenous men and women to reach there very own community. This doesn’t completely satisfy the need to reach seven billion people, and how daunting that task truly is, but it means something to the people being reached by this program.
The Mission Challenges: Migration
The challenge is also missiological. “As we move away from a world of nations to a world of interconnected multinational cities, it’s clear that the frontier of mission has shifted.” (Bakke, 1997, p. 13) This presents new challenges other generations have never faced before. The majority of the worlds Christians will not be geographically distant clusters, rather culturally distant peoples who reside in urban and metro shadows. No longer are we voyaging oceans, blazing through jungles or trekking across deserts, instead we are crossing the street – missionaries to third world cultures, not countries. This challenge is not as difficult as it may seem, if we are willing to making serious adjustments. Trends have always revealed that cultures gravitate toward communities that resemble similar histories, backgrounds and origins. This has to change immediately. This segregation of communities creates an enormous riff between cultures. The solution to this challenge is for churches, all over the world, but especially in America, to embrace a multi-cultural laity – full-gospel, fully diverse.
The Mission Challenges: Church Structure
Lastly, the challenge is ecclesiastical. There are some universal and basic functions of the church (worship, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, fellowship and service) – but as we move into an era where our local communities are a micro-representation of the entire world, the expectations of the church alters slightly. “Like supermarkets, hospitals and police departments, churches will require day pastors and night pastors for twenty-four-hour environments in all languages, cultures and class groups, now residing in the same communities.” (Bakke, 1997, p. 13) Our mission-fields are becoming twenty-four-hour cities – never sleeping, always moving, and constantly needing. This presents new challenges to ministries who were familiar to a once easily predictable and manageable community. This will be a stretch for Pastors and the clergy. Likewise, seminaries and Christian educational institutions will be tested.
The Mission, the Revolution
In order to reach those who live within this culture, we have to change the culture. However, it’s far easier to escape a culture than to change it – thus, we must refrain from running from the mission, and embrace the mission. Running from the mission ensure our demise, embracing the mission ensures our survival. The mission speaks a different language than the culture. The mission lives a different life than the culture. The mission enjoys a different diet than the culture. The mission has a different God than the culture. Moses understood this difference better than anyone. He exhausted forty years of his life living beneath the strong arm of the culture. Although he lived surrounded by the luxuries of the culture, seemingly above the culture; he understood the culture was faulty, and in desperate need of change. Moses boldly owns and espouses the cause of the revolution, in fact, he incites the revolution – he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, for he went out. He had appreciable opportunity to make his fortune within the culture, and to have been serviceable to Israel too. Notwithstanding, he was obliged, in thankfulness as well as inquisitiveness, to Pharaohs daughter, and yet he obtained glorious victory by faith over his temptation. Pastor Johnny King reveals some of the cultural challenges facing the mission in our modern Apostolic ministry. The present culture, the status quo, “is the culture of mere survival, of beatings and bricks and backs bent under a never-ending load. And if you survive the day, you will fall into the sleep of hopelessness…” This oppressive cloud champions the killing of life, the destruction of morality and the wrecking of the holy. Abortion, divorce, lasciviousness and malice. The culture is afraid of the revolt, afraid of what could happen if “the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty”. If the culture is ever overthrown, the people governed by the culture would be permanently emancipated, and the people controlling the culture would be enlightened. But because the culture has been the culture for so long, and all people know is the culture, they are afraid of what living without the culture would look like, and afraid of what that would mean to their security, their family and their future.
The Mission: On Display
A certain man had an infirmity for thirty eight years. No man was able to provide for that man healing virtue. Every time he tried to get into the pool at Bethesda, somebody stepped down before him, causing him to wait once again until the waters were troubled. Many times man passes by and gives to charity, but when Jesus passes by, He heals the whole man. Jesus asked the impotent man, “wilt thou be made whole?” , and the impotent man answered him, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” And isn’t that really how it is, much of the time? We are to realize that salvation is an individual matter; yes, but also we must know that we are to share the gospel message with every creature. Howbeit, we often are too wrapped up in our own blessings and in others business, and cannot reach out and help. For 38 years the impotent man lived in a status of poor health. Nobody seemed to minister to him about God’s healing virtue, and nobody seemed to pray with him about his soul. Jesus said, “Rise, take up they bed, and walk.” Sometimes we say we care, but our actions speak so loudly to the contrary. While we are saying we care, some soul is carrying around the same in-sick soul, the same illness, and the same troubled mind. Who will share the gospel message? Paul was not the first to say it. Listen to Psalmist David, “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” (Pslams 142:4). God’s word says, “he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). Oh, let us be wise! Whatever happened to that grand old song, Lord lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me; And may I nobly do my part to win that soul for Thee.
James 5:16 records, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” The best time to be healed is frequently while praying for someone else. It is not hypocritical to pray for another’s healing while you are sick yourself. It builds up your faith, acts as a point of contact, releases your faith toward God, shows unselfish attitude, and portrays a love for souls. It puts you right with God and with your fellow man when you pray and yield to God for another, assuming that you have repented of all sin. It also plants a seed of faith that God will multiply back to you. In Acts, chapter 3, Peter and John went to pray at the temple. There they met a lame man who had been receiving charity from humanitarian-minded people. Peter and John must have been short of money, for Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” The man received his healing and the name of Jesus was glorified. Why? Because Peter and John didn’t shirk the responsibility of the great commission, and the great ministry. They could have mailed him a check, instead they called on the name of Jesus and God upheld the healing virtue, because of two men who were unafraid of the cultural challenges. How many people live within reach of a oneness Pentecostal church and are not spiritually healed? How many have lived in that region for twenty, or thirty years, and never received an invitation. The mission is to our city, the urban communities within arms reach – we must go…immediately.
The Mission: Spiritual Authority
In then beginning, God created the heavens, the earth, humanity and authority. God spoke into the vast emptiness of all what was not, and created something that was; the universe, and all that is. God spoke, and with a sudden sweeping of His “direct” authority, formed galaxies, planets, and stars, all of which function only by the authority of it’s maker. He later demonstrated His authority over the earth by separating light and darkness, making clear the distinction between water and dry land, and by clarifying the difference of flying creatures, and those of the sea. Since the beginning of time, authority has overshadowed all of what God has completed. Never, under any circumstances, is the authority of God being not being demonstrated. However, for the first time since creation, God’s authority is being employed by another authority. God tells Adam that he is to have dominion over all the creatures of the earth, to name them, and to be at peace with them. He is also to be the reflected image of the one and only perfect God on earth, and to show forth the praises of his creator. This is the first time we observe the implementation of “delegated authority” in the history of creation. This pattern of delegated authority will carry on through the Old Testament leaders, and into the New Testament by the church and it’s constituency. The concept of God’s delegated authority will be challenged by many, for there are those who hate authority and what it requires. It will also be disgraced by many, for there are those who will abuse the authority given to them by God. And yet, it will be embraced by many, for there are those who truly love God, and will act according to His commandments, no matter what the cost. “What God looks for is not the matter of sacrifice but the question of maintaining authority. It is necessary to learn how to be both under authority and in authority.” (Nee, 1972, p. 24) If we are the church, and God’s delegated His authority to the people within the church, it is imperative that the authority of God be manifested. When this is so, the body is one with itself and with the head. As the authority of the head prevails, the will of God is done. Thus the church becomes the kingdom of God, the mission is active, and the ministry is available.
Bakke, Raymond J. A Theology As Big As The City. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997. Print.
King, Johnny. “The Revolution.” (2011). Print.
Nee, Watchman. Spiritual Authority. New York: Christian Fellowship, 1972. Print.
Sutton, Barry. “Cultural and Education Challenges.” (2011). Print.
Wilson, Nathaniel. “Ecclesiology.” 1-119. Print.