Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Our Mission

Having spoken over some weeks about what is the church, I want to focus in on our church, Jubilee. Over the next few weeks I'll unpack some of our values; but for now let's look at our mission statement. Equipping people for life through faith in Jesus Christ. That's it!

The word Equip comes from the Greek word Katartizo. The main part of the verb is artizo, from which we get the English word "artisan", a skilful worker with his hands, and the prefix kata in front intensifies the verb. It carries several shades of meaning. To the young church at Thessalonica Paul desired to ‘perfect’ that which was lacking in their faith, 1Thess 3.10. They had more to learn, more to experience, more to grow into. To the Corinthians he prayed that they would be made ‘complete’, 2Cor 13.9, more well rounded.

This thought is expanded in Hebrews as the writer there encourages them to be ‘complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ’, Hebrews 13.21. In Luke 6.40 we have the notion that equipping is about being 'fully trained', placing tools in the hands of others so that they can do every good work, empowered by the Spirit.

The word is used to describe what James and John were doing when Jesus met them – ‘mending’ nets, Matt 4.21. The metaphor is also used in Gal 6.1 for those overtaken in a fault that need to ‘restored’. Clearly as people we need mending and restoring.

Out of the mouths of babes and infants God has ‘perfected’ praise, Matt 21.16. Perhaps we could dare to say He has restored it? For it is to children that Jesus points to when we are to understand how to enter into the Kingdom of God. Their uncomplicated openness teaches us something about the real nature of worship and faith.

Peter tells us that God will ‘perfect’ us after we have suffered for a season. Suffering does seem to have a way of getting our attention and focusing us on eternal realities.

Finally we have the classic text of Eph 4.11 where Paul describes various ministries given to the church by the ascended Lord Jesus in order to ‘equip the saints to do the work of ministry’. Whatever else we think about these ministries one thing is certain; without them the church will not reach its full ‘stature’, its full potential. We need the input of others; those gifted by God to help us grow and mature so that we can be released into all that God has called us to do.

From all these scriptures we can see that Equipping is about training, restoring, mending, completing and perfecting the saints. It involves being ‘hands on’. At times it’s tricky and risky, like helping the Corinthian church see that they were missing it by a mile when it came to relationships. It sometimes requires great humility and gentleness when people are hurt or have failed. Consider the Grace of Jesus in John 21 when He restored Peter. No condemning words, only reassurance and a reminder of his call.

At other times its about giving direction and opportunity for others to grow and develop, like the time Jesus sent out the 70 in Luke 10 or when Paul wrote to Titus and reminded him of why he had left him in Crete; ‘....that you should set in order the things that are lacking and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you...’ Titus 1.5. Clearly he is given an equipping mandate that will strengthen the church.

Notice that this equipping is not just for ministry – it’s for life. Life in all its fullness, for that is what Jesus came to bring, John 10.10, life to the full. Of course this includes ministry but it touches on every area of life, work, health, relationships, marriage, sex, family, church, and politics, anything that relates to life! Nothing is beyond God’s power or desire to restore, complete, mend or perfect.

And all this comes about through faith in Jesus Christ; not simply as a one time commitment but as an ongoing relationship of following the Master. Faith is foundational to growth and development in the Christian life. Without faith we cannot please God, Heb 11.6. But with faith we can. Faith is about having confidence in what God has said.

God’s word has inherent power, but faith is the ingredient that releases that power in our life. We are told about the children of Israel in the wilderness who did not enter into the Promised Land because of unbelief. They did not mix faith with the ‘good news’ they heard and so God’s power remained locked up in His promise, Heb 4.2. Just as a seed remains only a tree in potential until it is planted so God’s word must first be planted in order for its potential to change our world is released. This is what the Parable of the Sower points to. The good soil is the person who out of ‘a noble and good heart keep it and bear fruit with patience', Luke 8.15

James tells us to receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save our souls, James 1.21. Real faith is always accompanied with meekness. It is the ability to take revelation into our hearts and act on it. Faith sees, faith speaks and faith responds with action. But the seeing is always partial, 1Cor 13.9. Our confession is only the bit we know and in that sense incomplete. Our obedience is always tinged with a hint of uncertainty. This is why it’s called faith. It requires us to trust God for all the bits of information we lack, believing that at the end of the day it is not necessary for us to know.

Training people to live this way is not easy. It often begins with a small step that allows us to experience the reward of faith – fulfilled promises. And as we mature it seems that God is happy to let some things just hang, waiting for the right time, His time, when the fulfilment will impact the most people. Joseph learned this about God. Through rejection and suffering God actually prepared Him to fulfil his destiny. He equipped him for this purpose. God plan was bigger than one man and his personal dreams. It was about saving a nation (Egypt) and birthing a nation (Israel). It wasn’t about Joseph’s mission, it was about God’s mission; and Joseph had the privilege of being part of it after he let go of his own sense of self-importance.

What area of your life do you need to be equipped, trained, restored, mended, completed or perfected? Where is there a lack at present? Who are you allowing into your world to address this need? How open are you being with what you see? How open would you be for someone to tell you where they see a missing piece? And as you ponder these questions, dare to ask for help. Dare to get involved in helping someone else. Dare to believe that God can take you further into a great realisation of your inheritance in Him.