Pastor's Briefing: God's Missionary People
Our desire is that every one of our congregations will be an outpost of the Kingdom, with every member viewing himself or herself as a missionary on a mission. (Statement from the EPC at epc.org)
One discussion that the elders had recently at our annual planning retreat in January was on the topic of keeping the church focused on God’s mandate to be a missionary people. We discussed the biblical basis for the church’s high calling to be light and a witness to the lost. More specifically, we were discussed how ECC needs to bring this missionary calling to the center of our shared life together.
The biblical basis for this missionary calling is summed up well by author Robert Thune, in his book, Gospel Eldership:
According to the bible, the church is God’s missionary people. God’s called-and-sent ones. Throughout Scripture, God’s pattern is to call people to himself and then send them out to display and declare his glory to the nations. The Greek New Testament word for church, ekklesia, replicates this pattern; it literally means “the called-out ones.” And whom God calls out to Himself, He sends on mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
The plan of redemption can be understood as a divine missionary enterprise. Jesus is sent from heaven as a missionary witness of a kingdom that is not of this world. He came to preach good news to the poor and to gather His lost sheep. All of us are the beneficiaries of Jesus being sent and faithfully fulfilling His calling. Jesus then tells His disciples, “In the same way, you are to go and make disciples of all nations.”
The question that arises is, how are we to do this in our place and time? How do we do this in a world that is increasingly secular and in a world where the local church is increasingly alien? And how do we, in the context of our local church, effectively witness to and gather Christ’s lost sheep in Greater Cincinnati?
As elders, we realize that there isn’t a simple answer to this. It involves being more intentional in cultivating our relationships with the unchurched, growing in hospitality, increasing in our love for the lost, and recognizing the opportunities to communicate God’s love as they arise.
As we discussed this further, we decided that we would begin with prayer. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). And by this, we meant that we would begin praying on a daily basis for those neighbors and other unchurched individuals that God has placed in proximity to us. For most of us this is our immediate neighbors, but it may include co-workers and/or unchurched family members. We have committed to praying for these individuals daily for three months.
There is an online website that makes this easier. It’s called, blesseveryhome.com. It provides maps and names of our neighbors. It also sends a reminder email every day with a sample prayer to pray for your list of neighbors. I have been using this for the last month and it keeps me accountable to pray.
This is only the first step, but we believe it is a good place to start and a good place for anyone else interested in joining us to start as well.