An important question that we must all answer is how should Christians live today? What calling has God placed on our lives? What mission does God desire Christians to fulfill? The early church was called to be witnesses. To share of all that they had seen and heard in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the world. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. This was accomplished through words but also through actions. And if one reads the story of Acts, it is clear that the mission was fulfilled. In just one generations time the message went from Jerusalem to the farthest reaches of the known world. But the mission did not stop. The story of Acts is left open so that each successive generation can pick up the story and carry it on in their time and place. The church is called to continue the mission of God.
But what is mission? Mission is a work of God. Jesus carried out that mission while he was on earth and now the Spirit continues the mission until the end of time. And the church is invited into that mission, to continue the work of Jesus. Michael Goheen in his book A Light To The Nations describes mission by stating, “Mission, properly understood, is the role of God’s people to live as a contrast people and thus to draw the surrounding nations into covenant with God.” In this sense, mission does not begin in Acts, but it begins at the beginning of the story. God has been working to restore relationship with the creation, to invite the creation back into covenant relationship. Israel was set apart to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation, to serve as a light to the nations inviting them into covenant relationship with God. And the church continues that calling, to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation for the sake of the world.
Our mission today then is to follow Jesus, to do in our culture what Jesus did in his. To faithfully live into the story and embrace the mission in a way that helps the story lead to its ultimate conclusion. This task requires consistency and innovation. It requires consistency because one cannot live as if nothing has already happened in the story. Being involved in this present stage of the story means that there are major parts of the story that have been completed that have a bearing on the present situation. As Christians, we must immerse ourselves in the story, learning as much as we can about God and about how God interacts in the world so that we can faithfully join God’s mission. However, the task also requires innovation. The mission of the church is not to simply repeat everything exactly as it happened in the past, to pretend as if life is just one large computer program in which data is entered and consistent outcomes are achieved. Instead, the church is required to creatively consider how one faithfully witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus in this time and place. Because of what is known of the past, Christians live out the story as faithfully as they can always longing for the inauguration of the new creation.
As Christians live into the story of God, the mission they live out must encompass all areas of life. When Israel was redeemed from Egyptian bondage their redemption was not just from physical slavery but their redemption had political, social, economic, and spiritual ramifications. When Jesus inaugurated his ministry and quoted from Isaiah 61 ushering in the year of the Lord’s favor, Jesus was announcing that his ministry would involve not just spiritual renewal, but social, political, and economic renewal as well. The kingdom of God invades all areas of life. And the mission of the church must be more than just personal evangelism. As Goheen states, the church is called to witnesses to the truth of Jesus and that witness will “embody God’s renewing power in politics and citizenship, economics and business, education and scholarships, family and neighborhood, media and art, leisure and play…Our how lives – the way we live as citizens, consumers, students, husbands, mothers, and friends – witness to the restoring power of God.”
Christians are thus called to live into the story of God and to allow that story to invade all areas of life for the redemption of the world.