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How We Grow as a Missional Church

*We’ve been going through the Missio Basics, a four-week preaching series aiming to reorient us around four gospel distinctives that fuel Missio Dei Peoria. These four “basics”--gather, go, grow and give--help to shape and define the way we live out our gospel identity here, near and far for the glory of God. You can read more about these four “basics" here.*  

A few weeks ago, we looked at several ways in which we grow in the gospel, abiding in Christ so that we are saturated with his power and presence in our lives. As new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we seek to become mature disciples who are sent out on God’s mission to make, mature and multiply disciples. What is a disciple? A follower of Jesus who is increasingly learning how to submit his or her life to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus. As we grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) we increasingly grow as disciples in our awareness of our need for Jesus in the everyday stuff of life. We learn to walk with Jesus and learn to be led by Jesus in every place and in every way.

Learning to submit all of our lives to Jesus doesn’t happen overnight. We believe that discipleship is on-going process of increasingly submitting all of life to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus.

All-of-life is the key! Learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—and training others to do the same—requires that we listen and obey God’s word in three essential environments: life on life, life in community and life on mission.

 

LIFE ON LIFE

Life on life discipleship means that we get up close and personal with others. People have access to our lives and are committed to speaking the good news of Jesus to us. We become vulnerable and real with others, providing the opportunity for God to grow us in his grace in and through the love, words and actions of his people—people who are committed to bringing our brokenness out into the open and reminding us of the gospel of Jesus that restores us.

Jesus lived life on life with his disciples. He knew them intimately. He observed what they believed and watched the way they lived their lives as they followed him. He knew their brokenness and witnessed all the wrong they said and did. They were exposed. And as they were exposed, Jesus helped them to be restored.

If we desire to be a people who are learning to submit all of our lives to the power and presence of Jesus, we need to have people in our lives who get up close and personal with us. We need people to speak the gospel to us when they observe our faulty thinking and sinful behaviors. We need disciples in our lives who tell us when we’re not believing the truth about Jesus and what he has done to transform us.

Life on life discipleship means we have to be willing to be vulnerable with others, knowing full well that it will get messy, uncomfortable and difficult. But God is gracious. He will use this process to grow us in becoming devoted followers of Jesus in all of life.

 

LIFE IN COMMUNITY

When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus we see that he discipled his followers as they lived life together in community. In fact, looking through the gospels, you could say that this was the primary way he discipled! As the disciples followed Jesus for three years, they did so together—learning, growing, even failing!—together.

The church is Jesus’ body. It is one body made up of many parts (Romans 12:4-6;  1 Cor. 12:12-31). Each of us has a role in equipping one another in building up the body of Christ, with a commitment to see one another develop into a mature disciple. In fact, discipleship that happens as we live life together in community will lead to disciples looking more like Jesus as he works through his body.

One of the things we believe about our true identity in Jesus is that we are God’s family. We are children of God and brothers and sisters of one another in Jesus. The life we now live as God’s family is not a burden; its a privilege. We share life together in community, centered on the gospel, showing the world what God is like in and through our lives together.

 

LIFE ON MISSION

Jesus called his disciples to follow him on his mission to make other disciples. He taught his disciples how to make disciples as they lived on mission together, telling them that he would make them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). The disciples were witnesses to everything Jesus said and did. They walked with him, talked with him, learned from him. They saw Jesus demonstrate compassion and mercy, forgiveness and love. They saw him cast out demons and heal the lame and sick.

Jesus used the mission to shape and form his disciples. While on mission, the disciples’ own sinful hearts were exposed as Jesus challenged them to think correctly about God, the kingdom and themselves. The disciples learned quickly while on mission that they were selfish, prideful, angry, and ignorant. Yet, Jesus moved toward them in forgiveness and love, always training them in the true ways of God. After awhile, Jesus invited the disciples to share in the work he was doing. He sent them out on his mission together—preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. After their return, they reported to Jesus all that they had experienced (read Luke 9 and Luke 10). Still, the disciples had much more to learn. For three years, Jesus trained his disciples, nourishing their hearts, minds and hands to live their lives for God’s glory and God’s mission. Jesus trained his disciples for mission while they were on mission!

 

Our God is a missionary God, and we see his missionary heart all throughout the biblical story. God sent his own Son to earth to rescue and restore all of humanity and creation from the tragic affects of sin. Jesus came to be one of us, to live among us—to be with us!

Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection saying, "'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).

Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to empower his disciples to know his true word and to fulfill the mission of making disciples! And for those of us who belong to Jesus, we too, have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, teaching us all of God’s truth and empowering us to live out the gospel in all of life—life on life, life in community and life on mission.

Just as Jesus’ Father sent him, he now sends us. We are missionaries…literally, “sent ones.” We are disciples…learning to increasingly submit all of our lives to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus. In Christ’s power, may we seek to live all of life for the glory of God!

Why We Gather As A Missional Church

*This past Sunday we kicked off our new series, "Missio Basics," a four-week preaching series aiming to reorient us around four gospel distinctives that fuel Missio Dei Peoria. These four “basics”--gather, go, grow and give--help to shape and define the way we live out our gospel identity here, near and far for the glory of God. You can read more about these four “basics here.  

If you’ve been a part of Missio Dei Peoria for any length of time you’ve heard us teach that church isn’t an event or a building. You’ve heard us preach that the church is God’s people, saved by God’s power, for God’s purposes. We emphasize the importance of living everyday life with what we call gospel intentionality—purposely living out the good news of Jesus in word and deed. We encourage people to see all of life as countless opportunities for evangelism and discipleship, happening over coffee and meals, in the workplace, at the gym, in our neighborhoods. We seek to live our lives as missionary servants, sent by Jesus to show the world what God is like, beautifully demonstrated in a Jesus-centered community on mission (what we call Missional Communities).

So why is it important for us to gather together every Sunday morning to sing and hear a sermon and partake in communion? If we teach that discipleship is life-on-life, in community and on mission, doesn’t a Sunday gathering seem to conflict?

You can listen to Sunday’s sermon for great answers to these questions…in fact, start there!

Heres' some additional thoughts on why we believe it’s essential for the scattered church to gather regularly as a family of missional communities:

1. We gather to remember the gospel story.

The Church is a story-formed community that is rooted in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. As we gather together each week, we sit under the authority of God and hear him speak through his word, the Bible. The Bible narrates the world for the Church, and the gathering of the family of God is the primary place for this to happen. We hear God’s true story loud and clear as we remember his mighty deeds—past, present and future—and find our place in his story. The organization of our gatherings, including the songs we sing, the liturgical rhythms of praise, confession and assurance we recite together, and the other elements of worship point to who God is and what he has done in Jesus to rescue the world from the ravages of sin.

2. We gather to retell the gospel story.

Each week we gather to hear God’s word preached. Preaching is a powerful means by which God’s people may be nurtured and empowered for God’s mission. Preaching helps us to see that the Bible is one unfolding story that is the true story of the world. Preaching helps us to see that the family of God must learn to live everyday life more and more in this story. Preaching brings listeners face-to-face with Jesus and his saving power to equip us to live all of life for his glory. We retell the good news of Jesus as we encourage one another through times of prayer, sharing of stories, and partaking in communion together.

3. We gather to respond to the gospel story.

Our Sunday gatherings help nurture and form a family of missional communities that are rooted in the gospel and come to know God’s saving power in worship, preaching, and prayer. But it doesn’t stop after the gathering is done. In fact, we gather to be equipped and encouraged so that we can be sent out into our culture as a people living the new life of God’s kingdom. We respond to the gospel story as we live everyday life—Monday through Sunday—with gospel intentionality.

Michael Goheen in his book A Light to the Nations points out that a people responding to the gospel story will be:

  • A community of justice in a world of injustice; a community of generosity and simplicity in a consumer world
  • A community of selfless giving in a world of selfishness and entitlement
  • A community of humble and bold witness to the truth of God in a world of uncertainty
  • A community of hope in a world of disillusionment and consumer satiation
  • A community of joy and thanksgiving in a hedonistic world that frantically pursues pleasure
  • A community that experiences God’s presence in a secular world (pp.209-210)

What other amazing things occur when we gather together? How is God glorified, Christ exalted, and Missio Dei Peoria empowered for mission as we gather together each week?

Participating in the Missio Dei | Part 2

In part one of our short series, we saw how God had called Israel to be his missional people, living in the sight of the nations as a priestly kingdom and holy nation. Israel was to be a community on display—a missional community who would live in God’s ways for God’s glory and for the blessing of the world. God gave Israel his law, which would form and shape them to be his missional people who would reject the destruction of idolatry and walk in the paths of righteousness. As Israel lived in this way, they would be an attractive community of God’s love and blessing, drawing others to God. In order to understand the missional calling of Israel—and the church—we need to recognize the connection between the law and creation. Since Genesis 3, God’s mission had been to restore humanity and all creation from the ravages of sin. God made this promise to Adam, and then began his rescue mission of redemption. Traveling through Exodus, we see God redeem Israel from slavery to Egypt, and begin to form his people to be the conduit of his missional promise. Israel is to embody God’s promise to renew the whole world. The life of Israel is to point backward to God’s original intent for creation and human life. Their life is also to point forward, looking to God’s promise to restore creation.

When God gives the law to Israel, his intent is that the law’s instruction would govern all of Israel’s life. Israel now serves and worships God in a covenant relationship. This relationship involves Israel submitting every area of their lives to God. God’s law would remind Israel that there is no area of human life outside of his rule; for Israel must consecrate their social, personal, financial, familial and cultural lives to him. Thus the law is intended to shape the lives of God’s people so that their lives will reflect his character. Only as God’s law shapes their whole lives will they fulfill his calling to be a missional people who mediate his blessing to the world.

God’s law is good news! The law tells Israel how to live in God’s ways for God’s glory…for their own good! The law also calls Israel to live in a way that challenges the idolatry of the culture surrounding them. As we’ve mentioned already, Israel is to look backward and forward as a contrast community; but they area also to look outward against the idolatry that hijacks and pollutes human life. Because of this, we see the law expanded in the book of Deuteronomy in order to address the dangers Israel will encounter as they make the journey to the promised land. God desires that Israel will conform to his law, so that they will live in a radically transformed way in the sight of the nations around them. As they walk in God’s law, the nations will see that God is the one, true King of all creation.

There is much more to be said regarding Israel’s conformity to God’s law and their carrying out of God’s missional purpose. In fact, the remainder of the Old Testament is a commentary on just how well Israel lives out their God-given role. Israel is to be a light to the nations; however, instead of living over and against the idolatry of the pagan nations, Israel succumbs to the darkness of idolatry. Yet, God acts in mercy and judgment to restore them to their missional calling. God gives Israel everything they need to carry out their vocation: the law, the sacrificial system, priests, a temple, kings and prophets. But Israel continues to walk in rebellion against God. Because of their sin, Israel is judged and banished from the land that God had promised them.

Is there any hope left for Israel? Can they ever hope to live out their missional calling to be a blessing to the nations? Next time we’ll look at how God begins to answer these questions.

Participating In the Missio Dei | Part 1

The Bible tells the true story of God’s mission to rescue and restore the whole world. The missio Dei (Latin for “mission of God” or “sending of God”) involves God setting out on a long journey to restore His good creation from the ravages of humanity’s sin. In love, God promised to make a new world and to gather a people who would embody His work of healing in the midst of human history. This story is nothing less than the true story of the whole world. It begins with the origin of all things and moves toward the goal of all history. It is a story of God’s active mission to heal and liberate His creation, bringing restoration to all of human life and all of the non-human creation. In Genesis 1-2, we see God’s original design for creation. Genesis 3-11 tells the devastating story of man’s rebellion against God and the tragic effect man’s sin has on all creation. In the midst of this darkness, God chooses Abraham to be a light to the nations around him. God promises Abraham that He will make him into a great nation and restore to them the blessing of God’s good creation. He also promises to bless that nation so that they would be a blessing to the world around them (Genesis 12:2-3).

From the beginning, God’s mission is carried out through His chosen community—a people called to show the world what God is like, giving the world a foretaste of what God had originally intended for His creation and what He will ultimately bring about at the end of history. As we have been studying the book of Exodus, we’ve seen that the people of Israel were called to be this community. God delivers and redeems Israel from slavery and idolatry in Egypt and brings them to Mount Sinai in the wilderness. At Mount Sinai, God calls them to be a holy nation and a priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:3-6). This call upon Israel to be a priestly kingdom will involve a life of mediating God’s blessing to the nations around them. They will be a a people on display, proclaiming and demonstrating what God is like and what it means to live in God’s ways.

Exodus 20-23 tells of God giving Israel His decrees and laws—the Torah—which is intended to lead Israel to the abundant life God intended for all humanity in creation. God’s law is to govern all of Israel’s life as they learn to live as a holy a nation. As we learned at the beginning of our Exodus series, Israel’s life was to face in three directions at once: backward, embodying God’s original design and intention for human life; forward, as a sign and preview of God’s final purpose for history; and outward, confronting the idolatry of the nations they were to encounter. God’s law would direct Israel in this orientation of life, forming them to be His missional people who would reject the destruction of idolatry and walk in the paths of righteousness. As Israel lived in this way, they would be an attractive community of God’s love and blessing, drawing others to God.

Over the next several weeks we’ll be looking at how well Israel carries out the missio Dei. We’ll dig into the story of God a bit more and see why it was necessary for Jesus to step onto the stage of history. We’ll also see how the church in the New Testament—as well as today!—is to be a preview and sign of the coming kingdom of God, participating in the missio Dei for the sake of the world.