Mission Possible

New churches and a new magazine to write for.

Here's my article for September.  Comments welcome.

Mission Possible?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a NIV).

Do you remember watching Mission Impossible (the TV series or the films)? In each episode a hidden tape recorder would provide all sorts of details about corrupt politicians, spies and so on and would end with, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to...This message will self destruct in 5 seconds.” Followed by a puff of smoke.

Well these verses from Matthew are the Mission Impossible moment in the Bible. This is the mission that Jesus leaves to his disciples and in turn to us. The heart of that mission is making disciples. Disciples are people who follow Jesus, i.e. who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Our mission is to tell people about Jesus so that they can come to faith in him and then to build them up in that faith.

Making disciples involves going to all nations. If you're a Christian, have you ever been struck by the fact that you follow Jesus, a man who lived two thousand miles away, two thousand years ago? How did that happen? Well it happened because Christians throughout the generations chose to accept Jesus' mission and went to all nations to make disciples.

Making disciples also involves baptising them into the Trinitarian faith. Baptism symbolises a number of things, but I think the focus here is joining the church – becoming part of the band of Jesus' disciples.

Finally, making disciples also involves teaching people. Jesus tells us that we are to teach disciples everything he has commanded, which is why churches should be working hard to teach people the Bible. However, we're not just teaching people so they know information, we're teaching people to obey Jesus!

Now I imagine the remaining eleven disciples and their friends would have been terrified by this sort of mission. I wonder if they were asking, “How on earth are we supposed to achieve an international movement of people trusting and following Jesus?” But Jesus gives them the answer. The first thing Jesus said when he came to them was: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18 NIV) and then the last thing he tells them is, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b NIV). In other words, this isn't actually Mission Impossible, but it's Mission Possible, because the king of the universe is with us to do it.

What does this mean for us at St Luke's and St Peter's? Well let me suggest that the primary mission of our churches is the same. Our goal is to make disciples. That should make us passionate about the right things. We are to be passionate about evangelism, helping people to come to faith in Jesus. We are to be passionate about helping people to grow in their faith. We'll work and pray hard for that in our own part of the nations, Rochdale, and support our brothers and sisters who work for that in other places around the world (for example link missionaries). It'll mean baptisms and teaching. More than anything it will mean relying on the Lord Jesus, who has all authority and who is with us.

Our mission will help us in another way. It will remind us of what things are not our primary mission. We're not aiming to be a social club of like-minded people who meet together on a Sunday to enjoy each other's company. Hopefully we will have good fellowship on a Sunday, but that fellowship has a purpose – to reach the world. We're not Oxfam. Our mission is not, primarily to make people's lives physically better. That may be part of our obedience to Jesus, but it's not our primary mission. We're looking for deeper, spiritual change. We're not company men and women seeking to keep the Church of England and it's local outlets going. Churches only exist because people are becoming disciples and if the mission dies, so does the church.

Knowing what our mission is and is not, will help us to focus. We can ask the right questions about what we are doing and what we might do. Are our services the best they can be for the mission? Are we spending our money in the best possible way for the mission? Are we passionate about the right things?

So our mission, as churches, is to make disciples. That's what Jesus has left us to do. The big question is whether or not we choose to accept it.


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