Momentum (Christ – centred, Spirit – empowered, Mission – focused)
As I enter into a new year of ministry, one of the questions I have been asking myself is, “Are there any locked doors that I am hiding behind preventing me from being fully on mission with God?” I am reminded of the scene in which the disciples meet together “…with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders…” (John 20:19). The disciples had witnessed the cruel death of Jesus, the last breath of their Messiah, and, in essence, the death of their hope. In stunned sadness and bewilderment, they gathered together. The grand vision to transform the world was lost, and the survival instinct had kicked in. Rather than a community of fearless world-changers, they were a community that was fear-filled, immobilized and hunkered down behind “locked doors.”
Ross Hastings, in his new book, Missional God, Missional Church, suggests that materialism, consumerism, individualism and ethnocentrism, among other things, have become “locked doors” that keep the Church from expressing its very identity as the missional people of God.
Materialism robs us of the freedom and spiritual agility to obey God no matter the cost. If our heart is so captivated by the things we possess that they possess us, our heart is divided, and our call to be on mission with God is locked behind closed doors. We must hold the “stuff” of life loosely and be prepared to release all that we have to embrace all that God calls us to be. Charles Spurgeon once encouraged his congregation to put a little sticker, featuring “soon to be burned” in bold letters, on everything that they owned. We must live for that which is eternal.
Consumerism manifests itself in the Church as believers come with expectations of getting rather than giving in their relationship with God. I often say that the Church in North America resembles an “Ecclesiastical Costco,” wherein the primary focus is “goods and services” for members only! No wonder pastors are burning out at an alarming rate. They are investing all their energy in stocking the shelves to meet the preferences of the members. How quickly we forget that the Church actually exists for “non-members!”
Individualism is the belief that everything in life revolves around me. David Bosch suggests that the notion of the “emancipated autonomous individual” has promoted a rampant individualism that has pushed the sense of church community into the peripheral. Individualism creates competing silos that erode the intended nature of the Church as a community that reflects the social Trinity. Lesslie Newbigin so powerfully reveals that Jesus has called his people to be “fishers of people,” but that he’s done so by forming a community. It is time to lay down our rugged individualism and recognize that we were intended to be formed and transformed in community.
Ethnocentrism is still alive in many churches. Churches zealous to reach the nations overseas can be reluctant to embrace the nations in their own backyard. God is bringing the nations of the world to our doorsteps, and yet we are often disengaged and even resentful of the ethnicities in our communities. Diversity is an amazing opportunity for the Church to be at its best in forming a vision for international communities of faith. May our hearts resist an unhealthy exclusivity and move toward a radical inclusiveness that expresses the Father’s heart.
The question is, “How do we unlock the doors?”
The answer to removing the locks and breaking free into a whole new missional passion is once again to embrace the resurrected, risen Christ! Jesus breaks into the “locked room” and stands among the disciples, and in that moment, everything changes. Despair is lifted, and an abundant, contagious joy breaks out!
This is an invitation to come out from behind the “locked doors.”
One of the part-time jobs I had when I was attending Regent College was to look after teenagers in the Social Services system. Many of them were deeply damaged and often had entered into a life of violence or sexual perversion. My very first assignment was to look after a twelve-year-old boy who had already been designated as a sexual predator. Shortly after I entered the home where he was staying, he escaped through an open window, and a serious chase ensued. It ended when he got back into the house before me and locked me out. After several minutes of pleading, he finally let me in. Once I had settled him down and put him to bed, I went to the room designated for the caregivers. It was equipped with seven bolt locks on the door for protection. I engaged all seven locks. There, behind the locked door, I argued with God about deserving better than this. In the midst of my anger and frustration, Jesus, by his Spirit, broke into the room. In light of his presence, I felt deeply rebuked, and the encounter ended in my repentance. I unlocked the door and entered into a ministry of giving “shalom,” the gift of God’s peace to the most broken in my community. I have never been the same. As we enter into this new year of ministry, may it be a season of coming out from behind our “locked doors” and engaging our world with fresh passion and vision as partners in mission with the Triune God.
“And so we must learn to recognize Christ in all His members and see the good in all the movements of His providence and grace without becoming bigoted or narrow in our exclusive attachment to any single one” — A.B. Simpson
Please find the original version in C&MA website