What kind of church would we like North Springfield Baptist Church to be?
A church with good teaching? A church with genuine worship? A church with good children’s and youth work? A loving church? A united church? An evangelistic church? A church where people find God? A church which welcomes everybody? A church where Christians grow to be mature in their faith? A church where everybody plays their part? A praying church? A Spirit-filled church?
On the day he rose from the dead, in the Upper Room Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We should want to be the church God wants us to be. We should want to be the church who are doing what God wants us to do. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
So what did God the Father send Jesus the Son into the world to do?
Jesus came to LOVE PEOPLE
Jesus showed God’s love by welcoming everybody. Not just respectable people, but tax collectors, outcasts and sinners. Jesus showed God’s love by eating meals with people, which in those days was an expression of true acceptance and fellowship. Jesus expressed in his own life the love of God exemplified by the forgiving Father in the parable of the prodigal son.
God calls us to show His love to the world. We must show God’s love in the same ways as Jesus did, by loving our neighbours and accepting everybody just as they are. By caring for those who are poor and in any kind of need. By standing up for the rights of people who can’t stand up for themselves, anybody who is marginalised or an outsiders. Loving each other and loving other people as God has loved us.
Jesus came to SHOW PEOPLE WHAT GOD IS LIKE
John 1 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Now Jesus is no longer in the world in his human body, if people are going to see what God is like, they will look at Christians. We are the only way they will be able to see Jesus! We cach need to become more like Jesus, so that people can see Jesus in us. We need the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, Jesus living in us.
“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All his wonderful passion and purity,
O thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”
We want to be more like Jesus, so that other people to be able to see Jesus in us.
Jesus came to HEAL PEOPLE and to SET PEOPLE FREE
Jesus brought miracles of healing and deliverance in supernatural signs and wonders. And He commands His church to carry on this work, showing God’s love and compassion in human ways and in supernatural ways.
Jesus died on the cross to make a way for us to be forgiven. Jesus died on the cross so that we could experience eternal life, life in all its fulness which not even death can take away.
And he entrusted his disciples with the message of God’s forgiveness.
John 20 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’
Reaching this world which is running faster and faster away from God will be costly! It will demand sacrifices. It cost Jesus his life to bring us life, and he calls his followers to lives of sacrifice. We must take up OUR cross too.
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’
The Lord Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead. He is still alive in the world today. The world can’t see Him but He IS alive – inside us. Inside Christians. We are the Body of Christ. And God sends us to continue the work which Jesus began. Showing God’s love. Showing people what God is like. Bringing healing and deliverance. Bringing forgiveness. But there is one more thing which jesus came to do which he sends us out to do which I haven’t mentioned yet. Sometimes it gets overlooked.
Jesus came to TELL PEOPLE ABOUT GOD
Jesus didn’t just show God’s love. Jesus didn’t just show people what God is like. Jesus didn’t just heal sick people and drive out demons. Jesus didn’t just bring forgiveness. Jesus also preached the good news of the Kingdom of God. Jesus also taught the people. For us too, it isn’t enough for us just to show God’s love to people. It isn’t enough for us just to show people what God is like. It isn’t even enough to bring God’s healing and deliverance and forgiveness. We have to TELL people about God. Jesus came to tell people about God and he calls his church to continue that work.
Matthew 28 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We thought about this in our evening service last week when we asked, “What is the most important aspect of the mission God has given to the church?” Jesus and the apostles he sent out did not give up their lives to meet people’s material needs, or to address issues of social justice. Instead they preached the gospel of the Kingly Rule of God, the gospel of forgiveness and new life. That gospel is good news for the poor and the oppressed. It is that gospel which ultimately sets the captives free. It is only “in Christ” that all human beings can become one. So the greatest task of Christians is proclaiming that life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ – telling people about God.
Some churches devote all their resources to meeting people’s physical needs and never have time to actually tell people about Jesus. Some churches have taken up causes like equality and inclusion and spend all their energies fighting for the rights of minorities, as if that was the most important aspect of mission. Standing against the injustices of the world was one part of what Jesus came to be and to do, and that is part of what God sends his church out to do. But putting right the wrongs of the world must not be allowed to become the central thrust of the mission of the churches. Because, as important as issues of social justice are, there is a message which is more important than that. There are many other groups also fighting for justice in many areas, very often following paths which the churches first trod. But there is a mission which God has entrusted to his children alone – the task of telling people about God and proclaiming the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. The ministry of reconciling men and women and children to Almighty God. The core of the mission of the church has always been making disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them, talking to people about God.
The two tasks of proclaiming the good news in words and demonstrating God’s love in action must always go side by side. We must love our neighbours by serving our communities and by striving for compassion, justice and peace. But this should always go hand in hand with delivering the Good News of Jesus in words. In his book Mission Matters, Tim Chester makes the point very well. “It is not enough merely to address people’s felt needs. As well as their temporal needs we must also address their eternal need of Christ.” Christians must make sure that all the people who face a lost eternity without Christ are hearing about the Saviour.
The gospel of forgiveness and new life can be very uncomfortable to share, but Jesus did not send his disciples out to put right all the wrongs in the world. Jesus sends us out to preach the gospel of God’s free gift of salvation. When it comes to priorities in time and money and energy, we should bear in mind that many other people give generously to the poor and many people are fighting very hard for justice and human rights. But only Christians will give to pay for things like evangelism and church planting and theological education and Bible translation. Many people are working and campaigning for the needs of the poor. Only Christians can tell their neighbours that God loves them and Christ died for them. Only Christians can show their neighbours the way to be saved.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes,
Sometimes it looks as though many Christians are ashamed of this gospel which brings salvation. Perhaps some Christians have lost confidence in the power of the gospel to change lives, the transforming power of Jesus Christ which can save “from the guttermost to the uttermost.”
But this is the good news which Jesus sent his disciples out to share.
Mark 16 15 (Jesus) said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
And his disciples obeyed Jesus’s command. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
The first Christians never stopped talking about Jesus – some Christians never start. We have to stand up and be counted against political correctness which tells us that it is rude to claim that we know the truth which can set people free.
The Swiss theologian Karl Barth was quite possibly the greatest evangelical thinker of the 20th Century. He wrote, “The church exists to preach the gospel. The life of the one holy Universal Church is determined by the fact that it is the fulfilment of the service as ambassador enjoined upon it. … The “Christ-believing group” … is sent out: “Go and preach the gospel!” … In it all the one thing must prevail: “Proclaim the gospel to every creature!” The Church runs like a herald to deliver the message. It is not a snail that carries its little house on its back and is so well off in it that only now and then it sticks out its feelers and then thinks that the “claim of publicity” has been satisfied. No, the Church lives by its commission as herald.”
The church exists to preach the gospel. That is the heart of the mission Jesus has given to Christians – to tell people about God. Whether people respond or not to the gospel is all God’s work. That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. OUR job is to tell people!! We are not responsible for how people respond to the gospel. We ARE responsible for making sure that we have told them!! To make sure that the seed is sown! The old saying is true – you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Our job is not to make people drink from the waters of life. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. But our job is to MAKE SURE that EVERYBODY knows where to find those living waters – to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is the Christ using every means at our disposal, any which way we can.
In this Post-Modern Post Christendom world, that task is getting harder and harder. But the Covid Pandemic has had one very interesting effect on churches – it has led to the rise of what is called digital church. And churches are now reaching out with the love of Jesus in digital mission. According to the last year’s Ofcom report on the communications market, More than 80% of the population now use a smartphone. On average people watched more than 3 hours (3 hours 12 minutes) of television each day. On top of that, internet users spent an average of more than 3 and a half hours (3 hours 37 minutes) online every day. Two fifths (39%) of all that time was spent on sites owned by Facebook and Google. Online messaging services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram are growing and taking over from text messages. Two thirds of the UK population are active Facebook Users, 60% use WhatsApp and a third of the population watch videos on YouTube.
Then the Covid Pandemic struck many churches started putting recorded services online Others were livestreaming their services over Facebook and YouTube which allowed people to join in with services by watching from their homes. We were among the first churches to use Zoom to share our services online in a way which allowed everybody to participate from their homes. There are some churches who are continuing to livestream, but not that many are continuing like us to run services which are “fully hybrid” where people can lead us in prayer from their homes, or choose the songs as we do in our evening services.
Our morning services on Facebook are viewed live or watched later by typically 50 to 60 people. The service on 22nd May where I talked about “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” has had 114 views so far. Our evening sermons are typically viewed by 20 to 30 people on Facebook and more on YouTube. The one on helping people through grief has had 44 views so far. We have a good number of regular viewers. Some of them are friends who are not local to us and others are folk from all over the country and beyond who we haven’t even met yet. Week by week more people are joining in our worship over Facebook and YouTube than are gathering here in this building.
Our public North Springfield Baptist Church Facebook Group has 92 members. I have my online blog where I post the text of every sermon I preach and we also have a church website. Between those two we average over 2000 page views and 6000 hits every day. Back on February 11th we were particularly popular and we had had 13,000 page views in one day. Every day there are many people who are reading about Jesus on our websites.
These are aspects of what people mean by digital church and digital mission. People engaging with services and sermons online as well as, or instead of, face to face. Church is happening over Zoom and Facebook and YouTube and not just in person. For many, people services and sermons online are just as valuable as meeting in buildings. So I believe it is important that we don’t give up on using these channels to reach our neighbours and even other people who may be thousands of miles away. We need to invest time and money to find ways to develop the mission we already have over the internet and social media. At the same time each of us need to take every opportunity to talk about Jesus with our friends and connections over social media. This is digital mission and in today;’s world it is an important part of what Jesus sends his church to do.
All Christians are ambassadors for Christ. A long time ago I came up with this little quote.
“The greatest challenge the church faces in this generation is to become the church of this generation and not remain the church of the last generation – or the last generation really will be the last generation!” Digital church and digital mission are here to stay. They are very significant for this generation, especially for younger people. We need to find our place within them.
God has given us all the resources we need to continue Jesus’s ministry. He has given us His Holy Spirit inside us!
Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
God sends us out to continue the work which Jesus began, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Showing God’s love. Showing people what God is like. Bringing healing and deliverance. Bringing forgiveness. And most important of all, just telling people about God.