During the President’s Report at our recent 2021 New Jersey District Convention, it was my intention to talk about a book, edited by Rev. Dr. Will Sohns, titled “The Great Sending: God’s Heart for the World Beating Through You.” This did not take place due to a national paper shortage that caused the printing of the book to be delayed until after our Convention had taken place; however, about five weeks ago, four copies of the book were sent to each congregation of the New Jersey District.
It is my hope that each Pastor, and at least three members of each congregation, will read this book and grow in their understanding of God’s heart and His mission in the world (and then, as they deem appropriate, encourage others in the congregation to read this book so that they might grow in their understanding of God’s heart for the world beating through them).
The book is a series of devotional thoughts on the sending activity of the Triune God as He calls, equips and sends out His people on His (and their) mission to make disciples of all nations. The authors of these devotional thoughts are all friends of mine whom I have come to greatly treasure as godly men and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Great Sending is a Scriptural immersion to re-set hearts toward the Missio Dei, the sending of God, for the salvation of the world. It is a call for all of God’s people to undergo a radical heart transformation, submitting to God’s will for participating in His mission.
A Theological Statement
Back in November of 2019, several current and former District Presidents, parish pastors and lay leaders came together for an informal gathering in order to discuss His mission in our lives; and here are a few take-aways from that time together:
+. God’s mission is summarized in our Lord’s testimony recorded by St. John, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17)
+. God’s mission centers in the person and work of Jesus Christ…from start to finish, the Missio Dei (the Great Sending) belongs to God and His love for the world. His unconditional and unmerited love defines all that God is and does (1 John 4). God’s love consists in this: that He gave His only begotten Son…
+. God’s mission centers in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross by which He draws all people to Himself (John 12:32)
+. His mission consists in three actions as foretold in many Old Testament prophecies: His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations
+. God accomplishes His mission by sending His Word (Gospel message) throughout the world…our Lord regularly referred to Himself in John’s Gospel as the “One sent by His Father” to save the world (John 3:17; 5:36; 17:3)
+. we recognize the necessity of God sending His Son into the world because the world has no desire or capacity to come to Him (Romans 3:10)
+. we cannot build our ministry in the 21st century on the false hope that the unsaved will somehow find their way to church in order to hear the Gospel…rather, the Lord tells us by word and example that the Gospel must be sent to the unsaved in order for them to hear and be saved (Romans 10:14-17)
+. this divine sending, while centered in our Lord Jesus Christ, includes His Church – all those baptized into Him
+. as God’s people receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, they are empowered and sent into their everyday world to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)
+. as Jesus says to us, “as you are going, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20)
+. the Lord’s mission is accomplished as the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world by the baptized as they go about their everyday lives
+. the focus of God’s love and, therefore, His mission is the whole world…our Lord “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4)
+. rather than the church seeing herself as the primary focus of His saving grace, the Lord intends that she, His Body, fix her attention on the “fields white onto harvest” (John 4:35)
+. we must ask ourselves: are we focused primarily on Christ’s ministry to the church or are we focused primarily on His ministry to the world with the church sharing in His missionary work?
In my final Grapevine article next week, I will be sharing some statements on a prayerful vision for the future of the LCMS along with twelve mission theses for your review and consideration.