I enjoy a good story and one of my favorite scenes from a great story takes place toward the end of JRR Tolkein’s The Two Towers. Frodo Baggins, the main character of the story, is extremely tired from his quest to destroy the “one ring of power” in the lake of fire at Mt. Doom. He is so tired and worn out that he tells his best friend, Samwise Gamgee, that he can’t continue in the journey any longer. In response, Sam helps Frodo to understand their story in light of a much larger story that had been going on for ages. In those stories, too, people had plenty of chances of turning back and giving up, only they didn’t because they were holding on to something important, life-changing and worth fighting for – they were part of a story that really mattered. Encouraged by those words, both Frodo and Sam continued their journey to the lake of fire in order to complete their quest and “save the Shire” (along with the rest of middle-earth).
One way that we can explore the question of what is the mission of the church is through the interpretative lens of story. Life is all about stories and every person, and every culture, has a story. Matter of fact, the way we understand life depends on what conception we have of the human story. The challenge for each human being is that making sense of one’s life story is not that easy to do and that the vast majority of the world’s population never does figure out the meaning of life and the way of salvation in Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13-14; 13:1-9).
There is hope, though, for human beings as they seek to make sense of life: God has a story that makes sense of every human story. The aim and goal of God's people is to help people make sense of their story in light of God’s story. In order to accomplish this purpose of God for every human life, it is essential that those who believe in and know Him to hear, know, tell and live the stories that really matter and serve others, as His edifying, evangelizing and missionary people.
Everyone has a mission.
Everyone has a mission, that is, everyone is being sent by God to do something, somewhere, at sometime; whether they fulfill the purpose for their sending, that is another matter. Personally I have embarked on many mission projects in my life. Some of them are rather trivial, such as my fifty-year quest now to get a hole-in-one in golf. But other mission projects are much more important such as earning a paycheck to provide for my family; being a loving spouse and caring father to my four children and grandson Jack; and being a good friend to many.
Yet my primary mission, the foremost reason that I exist according to God’s plan, purposing and sending, is to “go and make disciples of all nations.” This mission is to permeate all of my life and, if you are a Christian, it is to permeate your life as well. Forrest Gump, in the movie Forrest Gump, would periodically ask his mother, “Momma, what’s my destiny?” Your destiny, as a Christian, is to be and live as His disciple and to make disciples of the nations.
Abraham, and his descendants, is blessed by God in order to be a blessing to the nations
This was the missionary call that Abram received from God when God asked him to “leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land that I will show you” with the purpose that all the nations would be blessed. God is the One in search of the lost and, in His grace He called Abram, the idolater (Joshua 24:2), and placed him into the service of those whom he did not yet know and who lived in places where Abram had never yet been.
After the calling of Moses and the dramatic deliverance from Egypt, Israel’s understanding of its covenant relationship with God as His chosen instrument of blessing to the nations was more fully developed and strengthened. Through Moses at Mount Sinai a covenant was made with Israel, an election not only to privilege but also to service, to further God’s purposes for the nations. God did not choose Israel because they were more worthy than other nations or because He had no interest in the other nations; He chose Israel because He had a concern for all the earth and that all of the earth would know of His salvation.
However, as time passed, Israel neglected her mission to the nations and came to see herself as the sole object of God’s mission. Consequently, they came to see their mission as one of preservation rather than of proclamation; of determining “who was in” and “who was out.” This was a far cry from the conversation, and the sending, that God intended for the descendants of Abraham as His missionary people for, and to, the nations so that they might be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:6-9). By the time of Jesus, a Pharisaical spirit permeated the land so that when the "friend of sinners" came, there could not recognize Him (John 1:1-14).
In baptism God reaches into the life of the baptized and claims him or her to be His own. The newly baptized is commissioned into His service and mission with the words, “through baptism God has added you to be His own people to declare the wonderful deeds of our Savior, who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Every baptized believer has been called, and set apart as the temple and instrument of the Holy Spirit, to be a Kingdom of priests and to be His light to people walking in darkness so that they might know Him who is the Light of the world (Matthew 4:13-16; John 1:9-14; 8:12).
As His Reformation people, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, may you be faithful children of Abraham... a people sent on His mission to be a blessing to the nations through your Gospel words and loving actions.