Fathers do not like it when their children ask them questions they cannot answer. Yesterday Joy, our seven year old turned to me and asked, “Daddy, how many days have you lived?” Well I couldn’t let go of that and so I had to sit down and calculate it. It turned out to be 19,275! That got me thinking about how well I had spent that time. “Have I been making the most of my life? And will I make the most of the rest of my life?
So let me ask, “Do you think you are investing your life in what is ultimately important?
It was very exciting to read the new future vision statement at the launch for the 150th Anniversary celebrations. If you haven’t got one of the vision cards and read it yet here it is:
“Our VISION is that in one generation we will grow to ten thousand people on mission with God – half in Newcastle and half in new churches in this region and around the world.”
10,000 people ‘on mission with God’. Not 10,000 in the pews but 10,000 ‘on mission with God.’
So what will it mean to be ‘on mission with God’? That’s what we will be thinking about as we study today’s passage. We’ll be answering three questions: What will it take? How is it progressing? Who is it for?
1. What will it take? v. 3-6
It needs people willing to take a journey to share the gospel and build gospel communities.
Look at verse 6. It describes “the gospel 6that has come to you.”
The Colossians were able to respond to God only because the gospel had ‘come’ to them, v.5-6.
For God’s mission to be fulfilled, someone is going to have to take a journey.
It may be to the other end of the earth or it may be to the desk next to you in your workplace or classroom. It may be to those who share your background and interests or a journey into an unfamiliar cultural landscape.
But for anyone to accept the gospel it has to come to them and it won’t come to them unless someone goes to them with it.
“How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)
The feet of those who journey with the gospel.
In 1885 Bishop James Hannington, working with the Church Missionary Society, was seeking to bring the gospel to the area around Lake Victoria in Uganda. He and his party were held captive by a local chief, Luba. On the orders of King Mwanga II of Buganda they were put to death by Luba. The Bishop’s last words were “Go, tell Mwanga I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” He was 38. His son, also James was 7. The younger James grew up and followed his father into the ministry. He was curate here from 1900 to 1903 after which he also went to Uganda with CMS where he served until 1918. In 1906 he baptised the son of Chief Luba his father’s murderer.
There is a journey to be made.
The second thing that it will take is a clear presentation of the gospel resulting in life changing commitment to Christ.
The Colossians ‘heard about (the gospel) in the word of truth’ and ‘understood God’s grace it in all its truth.’ V.5,6
Paul spells out how the gospel has transformed the Colossians in v4: They now have faith – a restored relationship to God in Christ. They have love – the horizontal working out of that vertical relationship. And they have a certain hope to bring them triumphant through the darkest storm.
And perhaps a word here if you are someone who has yet to come to faith in Christ…
The gospel is the power of God for your salvation. It is God’s answer to your deepest need.
It is a gospel of Grace. That means it is not about what you can do to put yourself right with God. It is about what God has done to win you back to himself. He gave his most precious gift, His son Jesus, to die on a cross in your place, to put right all the mess in your life and He raised him to life again and promised eternal life to anyone who would accept this gift.
Don’t leave this place without ‘understanding God’s grace in all its truth.’ Get a copy of this booklet, Why Jesus?, from the welcome desk at the back of Church or join a Christianity Explored course, or you could talk to me or one of the clergy after the service.
When the gospel is effectively communicated it transforms lives and societies.
Earlier this year I was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia taking photographs for OMF. I visited the shanty town of Stung Meanchey. Until recently this used to be one of those places where people spent their lives scavenging on a vast waste heap trying to eke out an existence. Still people live in shacks of corrugated iron and plastic built on stilts above the foulest smelling festering pools of oil, water, excrement and garbage that I have ever come across. Here people continue to live in desperately unhealthy conditions. And yet even in this darkness there is hope, a Swiss OMF missionary and his team, including two young Cambodian colleagues are sharing the good news of Jesus to small groups of people in huts and on the streets around them. Few people here are literate so the team uses an oral approach telling Bible stories accompanied by simple visual aids. Three small groups have been formed and gradually an understanding of grace is pervading even this place like a sweet fragrance overcoming the stench of decay.
There is a life saving message to be communicated.
The third thing that is required is the planting of churches. We need to notice that this is addressed to a community, the ‘you’ is plural.
The end product of mission is healthy, worshipping, obedient, reproducing gospel communities – Churches.
In Stung Meanchey the work is just beginning but I was also able to see another church planting ministry when I was in Phnom Penh.
Bedro, a Korean OMF missionary worked shared the gospel with a group of students around 10 years ago. They formed a church called Jesus Village. Now those leaders have discipled and trained many young people who are themselves doing children’s work in 7 church plants they have begun in villages on the outskirts of the capital. It is a wonderful illustration of the principles of 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul instructs Timothy “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be able to teach others.” Four generations of growth establishing a church.
It is by establishing churches – gospel communities that we ensure the continued advance of the gospel.
2. How is it progressing? v. 5-6
Paul tells the Colossians that there is Global and local progress. It’s not ‘mission impossible’! We are talking about being On Mission with God. The end result is not in doubt.
The gospel does bear fruit. It is effective.
Let me give a few examples of this happening today:
As many of you already know we have spent much of our married life as church planters. 16 years ago we teamed up with Samuel and May Shau and a group they had gathered around them to begin planting the Banner church in Taichung. From that small group of 13 adults and 5 children we have seen amazing growth as the gospel bears fruit in many lives – with 2,500 worshipping each weekend in Taichung, 7 church plants (including the one we started in Kaohsiung), and at least 714 baptisms in the last 22 months.
And it isn’t just one church.
When I first went to Taichung there was only one church with a congregation over 500 and a handful in the 200 to 400 range. Now there are 5 churches with over 1000 attending, and many others growing quickly. Between 2005 and 2007, around 10,000 people started to attend church in the city; around 1% of the population. Taiwan still needs missionaries. There is much still to be done amongst those who have not gone to senior high school or beyond in their education but it is beginning to be very exciting.
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit. Despite much opposition amazing things are happening.
3. Who is it for? v.7-8
The answer is …it is for all Christians. Epaphras seems to have heard Paul preaching somewhere away from his home town of Colossae, responded and then become a man ‘on mission with God’ to his own city.
Antioch, the church that originally sent Paul on his missionary journeys, had initially been planted, not by apostolic leaders but by ordinary members of the Jerusalem congregation scattered by persecution. Being ‘on mission with God’ is for all. Some are set apart (as Paul and Barnabas were) to concentrate exclusively on it but all are charged to be involved.
When we started Banner Church most of the team members, including the Pastor were working in a variety of jobs. Mei-ling and I were the only ones on the team with any formal Bible training.
You don’t have to be a ‘full time’ church worker to qualify as being “On Mission with God”. You simply need to be a ‘full time’ disciple of Jesus, committed to bringing Him glory by investing your life in seeing others experiencing new life in Him.
So the question for every believer is not “whether or not I should be “On mission with God” but firstly “Am I”! “Am I, in practice, On Mission with God?”
And secondly, perhaps, “How and where should I be ‘On Mission with God?’”
Conclusion: What should I do?
Perhaps begin by asking yourself a question: “Am I ‘on Mission with God’ already?”
Is it time to be move from passive approval of mission to active involvement?
Could you join a short term mission team? Or could you pray for and support someone who will join one of those teams?
Is it time to join the support team of one or more of our mission partners? What we do is really only possible because of those who see one aspect of their own being on mission with God as praying for us, providing the financial resources we need and encouraging us in our ministries.
Perhaps there is a colleague at work, a neighbour or a fellow student who God wants you to share His Good News with. Do you need to make that journey to draw alongside them and share the gospel or invite them to one of the many activities where they will hear it?
Is God calling you to get involved more with the international student ministry here? Could you host a couple of students and help them feel more at home in the UK, showing Christ’s love and explaining your faith? Or perhaps you could join the teams at Globe Café or Globe Christian Fellowship.
Or are you a 21st century Epaphras? Perhaps you have come to study here from abroad. You have come to know God and now He wants you to share the gospel, perhaps even plant a church when you return.
Or is God calling you to give a large portion of your life taking his gospel beyond your comfort zone, beyond your culture, beyond your own passport country perhaps to where it has never been taken before?
Recently I noticed a poster advertising a new hotel that is going up in the city. The message on the poster was simply this:
Eat, Drink, Sleep, Repeat…
Does that describe your life? Eat, drink, sleep, repeat. Eat, drink, sleep, repeat. Day after day. Until one day it is: Eat Drink, Sleep, Expire.
Or are you going to join your story with God’s story? Will you spend the rest of your life ‘on mission with God?’
Jesus is inviting you to join Him on the greatest adventure of all. How will you respond?
Let’s take a moment’s silence to listen to and respond to what God is saying to us about being “On Mission with Him”?
Tell all the world of Jesus,
That men in him may find
The joy of his forgiveness,
True peace of heart and mind.
Let’s stand and sing “Tell all the world of Jesus Our Saviour, Lord and King.