God has a mission. God’s mission is to redeem a broken creation, broken as a result of sin and disobedience. He has done this through the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus and through the gift of the Spirit to God’s people. And He has done all this in order to bring creation back into its perfect order. Of course, I speak here of God’s final Kingdom, but the challenge of God’s people is to live into that kingdom now. That is God’s mission, and because God has a mission, there is a church. Because God has a mission, there is the local church.
Therefore, it follows that the church exists for mission. Mission is to the church what flames are to the fire … no flames, no fire. No mission, no church. What is our mission? Our mission must be to align with God’s mission. And what is God’s mission?
God’s mission is to redeem a broken creation, broken as a result of sin and disobedience. He has done this through the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus and through the gift of the Spirit to God’s people. And He has done all this in order to bring creation back into its perfect order.
How do we do that? Well, we preach the gospel, using words only when necessary, and introduce the God who is Immanuel to people who don’t know Him and invite them to become part of His Kingdom on earth, here and now. To enter this Kingdom one must be born again (saved, redeemed, etc.), baptised and then discipled.
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
0ur great teaching as Protestant Evangelicals can be summed up in a few verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Saved by faith, baptised into the body of Christ, the church, taught and equipped (ie discipled) to do the good works that Jesus did and taught, and then like Him, helping God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done.
And throughout the New Testament we find churches being planted, leadership being appointed, and all followers being held to account … and often being rebuked, as individuals or as a church, and called to repentance. Paul often follows this pattern, but we see the best examples of it in Revelation 2 & 3 where it is John who conveys the words of the Spirit to the seven churches of Asia Minor in the Book of Revelation, written by John in +/- 95.
John had been exiled to the island of Patmos during the persecution which occurred under Emperor Domitian. Before exile he was closely associated with the church at Ephesus. Paul had planted the church at Ephesus in +/- 51, when he spent 18 months there. Between 51 and 95 the church had grown and as a result of its mission and witness, Christianity spread to the whole region. When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians in +/- 61, he sent it with Tychicus, who became a Christian leader in the region and was followed some time later by John, who led the church for some time before being exiled to Patmos in the early 90s and he writes these letters to the seven churches in +/- 95, by which time the church at Ephesus is in her mid-forties, about the same age as Meadow Way Chapel is now. So let’s read the Letter to the Church in Ephesus from Revelation 2:1-7
‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first.5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favour: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
And perhaps the last one, to Laodicea 3:14-22
‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
You will notice that the order of the churches is in geographical order. These letters were read to all the churches in the circuit, starting with Ephesus, moving up to Smyrna, on to Pergamum etc. Each letter follows a similar pattern.
Jesus identifies himself uniquely for each church; He then goes on to compliment the church, highlighting its strengths (although He struggles to do this in some); then highlighting its areas for improvement. In other words He tells them where they are getting it right and where they are getting it wrong. Notice that when Jesus gives His assessment of the church, He has more to say about the negatives than the positives. He then goes on to give a command; then he asks them to listen; and He closes with a promise of reward.
Whether the recipients felt that it was John or the Spirit speaking to them is unknown … in other words whether they said “How dare John say that” or whether they said “Oh my goodness listen to what the Spirit of God says about us” … we don’t know. As you know, I am here because quite some time ago, the Elders became sensitive to God’s prompting that it was/is time for change at MWC. Meadow Way is different in many ways to what it was just 18 months to 2 years ago. You have me, Lead Elder with the specific task of pastoral care, preaching and teaching and working with the Elders as an equal in order to take MWC forward. One of the ways I said I would gain input as a complete newbie to MWC was to move around the fellowship and asking the congregation what you perceive as MWC’s strengths as well as the areas you would like to see improvement. I have collected that information, collated it, prayed and fasted over it, waited on the Lord and eventually discerned strands becoming threads; some going on to become cords and even one or two ropes.
This has not been a scientific process, but rather a process of spiritual discernment. I have prayed and fasted around what I present to you so that I believe I have been sensitive to the Spirit, … but … I will seldom say to you, other than when I read Scripture, that “This is the word of the Lord and woe to you if you don’t accept it as such.”
Based on a process of listening to more than 80% of our congregation in your homes and to what the Spirit might be saying through you, it is (unsurprisingly) clear that we have some very, very strong positives (the following are some that stand out above the others):
We have, unsurprisingly, some areas where there is the possibility for improvement (the following are some that stand out above the others):
What does Cedric (and perhaps the Spirit) say (and now you have to discern)?
There is work to be done at MWC (and at every other Christian church this side of glory) … let the church that believes there is no room for improvement beware. MWC and her Elders have recognised this, hence the lengthy and prayer filled process that has led to my presence here. We are not sitting on our laurels and let no one suggest we are! I believe our congregation is ready to embrace (the always scary) movement to the new place our Lord is always calling us to, and which He has already prepared for us … let us step out onto the water
We close with "Where feet may fail"