With Restore Mission Conference coming up this weekend, it made me pause and think about the state of things in our church–mission wise. Through conversations with various members, I’ve sensed an increasing (holy) discontent about where we are vs. where we want to be concerning local and global missions. This is good and we ought to keep praying and probing.
In this post, I’d like to offer a brief snapshot of what I believe we are called to as the church. In essence, the church has a “double identity” (Stott, The Living Church). She is in her very essence “called by God” (ekkelesia). The church is called out of the world to worship God and she is called to back into the world to serve and minister. Our double identity is one of worship and missions. She is both holy and apostolic, both separate and engaged.
We see the marriage of these two seemingly contradictory values in our Lord himself. The beloved disciple writes in John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
He was immersed in our world—he “dwelt” (lit. pitched a tent among us) by “becoming flesh.” He was in the world, close enough for people to catch his scent. The gospels show a god-man whose life was an open door to society’s lowest riffraffs. He was fully immersed in society unlike the pristine religious leaders who dared not dirty themselves with “sinners.” His engagement with the world was neck-deep, not ankle-deep.
However, his engagement with the world did not make him less holy. He touched the world without being stained by it. His glory remained perfectly perfect. He was “full of grace and truth.” So pure was he, that looking at him was catching the face of the invisible Father–“we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
We see this double mission of the church again in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” We are to be called out of the world – “Unstained from the world” and at the same time immersed in the world – “visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”
Lord, give your church both holy heart and humble hands.