Being The Missional Church

From the opening of my 2012 year-end annual report…

One of the things that has made the Alliance distinct is our missionary emphasis.

Well over 100 years ago, Dr. Simpson felt led by God to swim against the flow of doing church the normal way, and to reach out to people who didn’t know Jesus – particularly overseas. Simpson’s relocation from Toronto to Louisville to New York was intentional: He wanted to get near the Atlantic so that he could begin to send people overseas to proclaim grace to those who hadn’t heard. In that regard, we were purpose-driven before Rick Warren was born! (On occasion, you’ll hear people who object to being purposeful in ministry or folks who talk and blog about the dangers of the missional church. Those people aren’t Alliance. And, frankly, I worry that they aren’t even in tune with Jesus, who was undeniably missional.)

This missions heart beats deeply with me, personally. Since I first surrendered to Christ sitting in the car in the driveway of my parents home, I have been concerned about those who don’t know – and don’t care to know – Christ. But in addition to (note I didn’t say rather than) overseas ministry, I have felt God leading me (and us) to be mission-driven on a local level. This fire was kindled in me in a real way when I heard, then missionary, Carl McGarvey, speak at a Men’s Retreat. He said, Think globally; act locally. I’ve personally worked to do that ever since.

Many of you are new to Curwensville Alliance. We love having you here. And I am guessing that you like the atmosphere, the music, the message, and the presence of the Spirit. If you ever wonder, “Why do I like this so much?” part of the answer is in the reality that we are mission-driven. We are working to help you like it here so you can connect with God when you come. But my desire as your pastor is not just to keep you comfy here. I want to inspire you, yourself, to become mission-driven. In fact, that’s probably a big part of the corner we need to turn as a church.

How can we move from being a group of spiritual consumers to becoming spiritual contributors?

One way is to think like Dr. Simpson thought. He looked around at the needs he saw. He looked beyond himself at the needs he could only hear of. And he prayerfully considered which ones he could meet and which ones he could not. What are the needs you are aware of in our own community? What about the needs around the world? As much as I dislike cable news, it serves a purpose that can be beneficial, if you let it: It shows us how desperately this world needs Jesus. From Syria to North Korea, we see people in need — in need of peace, in need of everyday things, and in need of Jesus. When we see how messed up this world is, we should ask God to show us how we, as a church, can be involved in meeting those needs. And beyond this, let’s give consideration to what we can do locally. We do much – from stocking the local food-bank to assisting the ministerial association in their missions of showing the love of Christ to others. But let’s not be satisfied with what we do. Let’s press on to do even greater things.

It’s an honor to serve as your pastor. You are a great group of people with great potential. In 2013, may we examine how we can live out that potential for the benefit of those who don’t know Jesus and for the glory of God.

Avoiding Pain by Avoiding Purpose and People…

Some time ago, a couple came to the local churches asking for financial help. When Pastor George asked, “Where do you attend church?” the answer was, “We don’t.” They are professing Christians, but they don’t go to church anywhere. This is common.

I was thinking about why folks who call themselves Christians don’t regularly fellowship with other Christians, and while I know there are a variety of reasons, I think one reason is because they have been injured in the past. Sometimes avoidance of church is symptomatic of aversion to social interaction in general.

However, God created us as social people. The phrase, “It is not good for man to be alone” does not only reveal the origin of marriage, but verbalizes our need to interact with others. This interaction is essential if our lives are to have real meaning.

Paul Borthwick stated this well just over two decades ago.

It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man’s ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and his sufferings will be increased on every side. (Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way, Navpress, 1989, p. 86)

Borthwick says a mouthful in those few words. He speaks of being significant. He encourages sanctified ambitions. He addresses the purpose-driven life.

To me, he’s saying: Brave the pain, risk the injuries, and dream big for the sake of being significant in the eyes of Christ.