Mission in the life of the church is often thought of as a balancing act.
On the one hand, church exists to glorify God. On the other hand, we exist to reach out to the world. On the one hand, we worship God. On the other hand, we evangelise. On the one hand we seek holiness. On the other hand we sully ourselves by going out into the world to make disciples.
Mission is considered a counter-balance to the other activities which we know to be important. And maybe we think it's a major counter-balance. Maybe we think it's incredibly important and the mission side of things dominates how we shape church life. At that stage the glory / worship / holiness people say "You've forgotten our core business in the church!" And the evangelistic people say "You've forgotten the lost!" And probably both sides will make excellent points as they debate each other. But they're both wrong if they think that theologically there's a trade-off. Theologically there's no trade off.
Here's my central contention for this morning: The glory of God, the worship of God, the holiness of God are thoroughly missional. Such that you cannot have the glory / worship / holiness stuff without the outreaching / evangelistic / missionary stuff. And if you think you can have holiness without outreach, you haven't just lost outreach - you've lost both. Because these things come together. It's a job lot.
This morning we're going to look at Isaiah and see that Glory and Worship and Holiness are thoroughly outgoing things because God is fundamentally an outgoing God. If that's true, what does it mean for our churches?...
In Acts chapter 1, Jesus said “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” What happened in the 2000 years since then?
Notice how a lot of the video centred on Europe. And then from Europe the gospel went, especially from the 19th century onwards - to Africa, Asia, South America. It’s very common for people to think of Christianity as a European religion. And yet for the first thousand years there were more Christians East of Jerusalem than West. And certainly today Europe is decidedly POST-Christian. In our own denomination, the Anglican Communion, the average Anglican is a Nigerian woman who lives on $2 a day. Christianity has never belonged to Europe. And yet, notice how on the map, Europe is marked as Christian.
This is the effect of Christendom. Ever since Constantine supposedly converted in 312AD, the Roman Empire became Christian. Now it’s a very big theological question whether an empire can be Christian. Certainly we want queens and kings, and presidents and prime ministers everywhere to become Christians. Certainly we want whole populations to trust Jesus. Certainly there is no better foundation for any set of laws than the word of God. But still, the question of whether an empire can be Christian is hotly disputed. And so Christendom - having a state religion imposed from above - has been, to put it mildly, a mixed blessing.
Dev Menon's ascension sermon is the stuff of legend but these two Easter sermons from 2014 are equally rich feasts. Dev paints in such bold biblical colours - showing us the fleetingness of life, the horrors of death and the wonders of a God who would dive down into it, to swallow it (and us!) whole. Listen! (And don't get distracted by the video he plays halfway through).