Saturday, April 22, 2006

Responsible mission

I've been discovering what a wonderful mission text John 10 is. We all know that John 10:10 is a great summary of the good news about Jesus. But the whole chapter is actually a brilliant exposition of what it means to live responsibly in the world as God intended us to.

We think of it as talking about Jesus being the gate and the good shepherd - which, of course, it is. But in claiming that he was the way in which people entered God's salvation and was the model leader who embodied God's style of leadership, he was laying claim to the whole of life and not just people's religion - which is, of course, why the political and religious leaders of his day opposed him.

And as John makes clear, after the resurrection, Jesus sent his people to do as he did (John 20:21). So our mission is about exercising responsibility for the planet God is redeeming. This is why mission is holistic, concerned with clean water, work and welfare as well as the forgiveness of sins. Indeed if all we offer is a spiritual experience, we are offering less than the gospel of Jesus. For he came that people might know life in all its fullness and that is surely as much about health, work, independence, good government and freedom (just ask the people of Nepal if they're experiencing life in all its fullness at the moment) as it is about going to heaven when we die.

I thought these arguments were won and that all we needed to do was garner resources to ensure that God's people could do the mission he's called us to. But I was wrong. Just the other day I had a long conversation with an intelligent young person about the nature of mission who argued that it was only and solely about people's personal relationship with God and that social action was not really part of it - unless it gave opportunity to speak about their sin and need for forgiveness.

I think we all need to read John 10 a little more carefully...


Mike Roberts said...

Absolutely! We're really taking on the theme of the Kingdom at church here, and those are the kind of words we've been looking at. Last week, in the context of the resurrection, I said that too often we think of the New Life that God gives being just about life after death, and not life now.
Over the first half of the year we've been exploring what it means to be a kingdom community and not a church community here, and that for us has meant adapting how we measure 'success' and what our goals and aims are.
It's amazing how words like equality, justice, hope, renewal and restoration just keep cropping up in everything that Jesus Christ did.
I remember defending myself several times at Spurgeon's against the criticism of kingdom and mission being excuses for evangelistic activity...but the further I tread into the real world the more I realise that actually everything, and I think i mean EVERYTHING is about the Kingdom! No excuses, no exceptions.
I don't normally...but a couple of weeks ago I dared the church to pray "Thy Kingdom Come" and mean it...and dared them to see what God would do.
Sorry...that was a little longer than I meant it to be...

simon said...

Hi Mike,
My notes on John 10 are in the dowloads section at if you want to check them out. your emphasis sounds spot on. We've got to get to grips with the fact that the gospel is about more than securing my ticket to heaven! Keep praying...