Mission Matters - January 3, 2016 -Pastor Dale Lloyd _____________________________________________________________________________
Scripture Reading: John 20: 19 – 23
Theme: 2016 MISSION POSSIBLE
Today’s Theme: “Mission – Matters”
(SLIDE # 4)
I begin this message (and indeed this year) with the story of Jimmy. He was born May 21, 1835 and died June 3, 1905 at the age of 73. The picture before you was taken when he was 33 years old.
Jim had a passion for God, a love for people, and a burden to communicate the gospel. But he wrestled with the question of how to bring the message of Christ into a setting that seemed so far from him. How could he help people see and embrace the truth when they had so little biblical understanding? The barriers seemed insurmountable. The task appeared virtually impossible. Even with all of the obstacles in front of him, Jim knew he had to try. God had given him a vision to make a difference in the lives of these men and women.
(SLIDE # 5) For starters, he shaved his head right down to the skin, except for one patch of hair that he let grow long. Not only that, he began wearing it in a pigtail and then dyed it a different colour so that he could fit in with those he was trying to reach. He also gave up his suit and tie and began to dress like the people he was trying to reach. He changed his eating patterns. He worked hard to learn new vocabulary and expressions, in the hopes that he would be able to effectively convey biblical truth in their everyday street language. Jim didn’t do all this from a distance. He actually moved into the neighbourhood with these people. He tried to become their friend. This wasn’t easy because of their non-Christian lifestyles and their outright rejection of his message. Jim paid the price of loneliness, weariness, and discouragement, along with criticism from many Christians. He also lived with the daily rejection of most of
those he wanted to reach. And he did this year after year. Jim owned the mission. His life is a powerful illustration of evangelism against the odds. And today, generations later, countless people from the neighbourhoods he worked so hard to reach have come to saving faith. Is it worth taking risks to reach lost people with the love of Jesus? Is it right to proclaim the gospel in ways that break a few paradigms, push back a few boundaries, and ruffle a few feathers? If you’re not sure, you might want to ask the hundreds of thousands of Chinese Christians who have been touched, directly or indirectly, by Jim – or, as he’s more widely known, James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission over a century ago. (SLIDE # 6)
I have about three biographies of Hudson Taylor. From them I share the following stats: The China Inland Mission which he founded has been responsible for facilitating more than 800 missionaries, established 125 schools in China, Taylor personally witnessed the conversion of 18,000 Chinese, established 300 mission outstations, and had 500 fulltime local assistants.
Historian Ruth Tucker summarises the theme of his life: ‘No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.’
But perhaps the greatest of all these facts is found in the next slide: (SLIDE # 9) This is James Hudson Taylor IV with his Chinese wife and family; four generations and the mission continues.
I have shared this story on this first Sunday of this New Year of 2016 because the Holy Spirit is awakening my heart to the fact that mission matters. Mission is at the heart of our gospel; there is a go in our gospel. Mission is at the heart of Kingdom theology, mission lives in the true church.
As believers, we want instruction, we want to be mobilized for ministry, we pray, we adore God, and we care for each other. Most of these have to do with our relationship with God or our relationships with other believers. Rick Warren reports on a survey that found 89% of church members believe the church’s purpose is to “take care of my needs and those of my family.” Only 11% said, “The purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.”
If we are not missional in our thinking and practice, we are not truly a church but simply a group of people intrigued by religion. Studies show that most believers don’t have many – if any – friendships with non-Christians. That single fact proves the lack of missional thinking in the church.
In John 20: 19 – 23we discover a scene that remains somewhat typical of the posture of the church: huddled together behind locked doors. That huddle was defined by confusion, fear, frustration and ignorance. The question arises: What can heal and transform that huddle? And the one and only answer is the resurrected Jesus.
Notice, He did not scold and rebuke them. He did not chide them for a lack of faith or a lack of anything. The first thing He did was speak peace into them and their setting.
Two vital words: fear & peace. The word fear carries the idea of flight; they were ready to bolt, run away, fly the coop, and call it a day. The word peace carries the idea of ‘putting together that which is broken, thus establishing relational harmony among the parts.’ Fear had broken them apart; the resurrected Christ would put them together again and the result would be a state of peace.
In declaring peace to this broken huddle the resurrected Christ was emphatically establishing that He accepted them right where they were and just as they were. He can do that because He knows that He alone has the power to change both the way we are and the place we are.
We are told that the huddle was ‘overjoyed when they saw the Lord.’ Notice that Christ provided particular proofs of His identity as the resurrected Lord. All of this was to strengthen and ground their faith. But none of this was designed to preserve the huddle. When Christ appears in the huddle it is to move us beyond the huddle and into mission. And here is His ultimate mission statement: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We are told that Christ then breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’” By this, Christ is telling them that He is not just sending them on a mission but that He has equipped them fully for that mission. That equipping is in the outpoured Holy Spirit.
My great heart sadness is that all these years later we would rather huddle and argue about the theology of the Holy Spirit than to simply accept by faith that He has been outpoured, He fills us, and provides all we’ll ever need for the mission. It is easy to slip into this place where we feel that being equipped is a matter of dotting all the theological “I’s” and crossing all the theological “T’s”. To that I will say this: God does not call the equipped; He equips those He calls.
When Christ entered that “discipleship huddle” He did so by passing through a locked door. When He completed His ministry to that fearful and broken huddle they would discover that door was no longer locked and they would walk through that now open door into their mission.
Find the locked door in your life, and you’ll find exactly where the resurrected Christ intends to enter, and in entering unlock the very door through which you will now pass into your called mission.