Things have not been easy in recent months at Holy Trinity for a small but significant number of people. It has been a hard season with many tears. This is not what we expect church to be, or is it? What should we expect church to be? When life is hard and church is not the place of serenity and irenic relationships that we think it should be it is absolutely crucial to have a right view of God and of his church. If we don’t, it is more than likely that we will wave the little white flag of surrender, give up on Jesus, on his people and on mission.
The missional church will create mess before it creates peace.
The worldwide church is engaged in a mission. At Holy Trinity we have a mission to take the love of Jesus to the people of the parish. Jesus came to seek and save the lost; he gave his life that we might live forever; Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (that is people who see the world from their own self-centred perspective and not from God’s and so behave selfishly). When we come to Christ from a life of sin our sinful patterns of behaviour take time to change. God graciously gives us that time.
When the church in Ephesus was struggling with unity, the Apostle Paul reminded them that God rescues us from our sin and his wrath, not because we deserve it, not because we do anything to earn it, but because he is rich in love, mercy and grace in Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-8). The implication is that Christians are “to live a life worthy of the calling we have received: be humble, gentle, patient and bear with one another.” (Ephesians 4:1-2). What sort of people need to be humble? What kind of person must we bear with and be patient with? Sinful people. We must expect the church to be full of sinful people and I am no exception. My sin is part of the problem as much as anyone else. The love of God in the death of Christ for our sin motivates us to love one another and that love leads to repentance and repentance leads to change. A missional church will create mess before it creates peace. If we are constantly missional, there will always be some mess.
God transforms messy lives by the power of His Word and Holy Spirit.
God wants his church to be a place where his word is spoken in love and sinful people are changed. The truth about ourselves is often hard to face up to, we hate to see how selfish we really are. Christian Counsellor, Paul Tripp, writes:
In personal ministry, I want to bring more than a heart of compassion, a willingness to listen, and a commitment to help bear someone’s burden. Though these are the sweet fruit of Christian love, I want to offer more. I want to bring the heart-changing truths of Scripture to people in the midst of their situations and relationships. Personal ministry is about people loving people, but in a way that includes bringing them God’s word. [Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p21].
Christian believers share in the sufferings of Christ as he reaches a broken world
Doing the work of mission and speaking the truth in love is often incredibly painful and some people are experiencing that pain right now. Is this what we should expect? Paul says “Yes!” The children of God, who will inherit the earth with Christ, will share in his sufferings (Romans 8:17) and thankfully none of us has had to suffer like he did on the cross.
May God strengthen us by his love and bring us healing by his word.