mission of love

A church on mission is forward-thinking. Though it is respectful of the history and traditions that have been created behind it, it always looks to the future with great anticipation. It’s like hiking a high mountain; there are various campsites on the way up, but the goal is to reach the summit. We must move onwards and upwards. To have a view of distant landscapes, even if shrouded in mist, is to be aware of the terrain that has to be crossed to reach the summit.

Engaging mission is like traveling. It is being on a journey. It is a restless moving towards the time when God will be all-in-all with his creation (1 Cor. 15:28). Missional churches understand that Christians are in transit. They have not landed at their final destination in life. Missional churches recognize that there is no vacation from the calling of the Gospel. They know that the only thing in this world that “cannot be shaken” is the kingdom of God (Heb. 12:28). Therefore, the Church exists because of God’s mission: missio sit ergo ecclesia sit. To be the church is to be on mission; to not be on mission is to not be the church. Period. There is no church without mission.

Because the church collectively is missional by definition, we must teach and equip every member individually to be missionaries in the world. Because our mission includes the world, we understand the importance of God’s mission being the driving force behind all we do. Missionaries are at home everywhere, but not quite at home anywhere. They are persons who can move easily from one place to another, from one culture to another, and not become confused, or lost, or incapable of action. This means that there are no “no go” areas when it comes to what God is going to accomplish in the world. The Gospel knows no boundaries or limitations.

God’s mission is our mission and his mission starts with love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If God loved the world (you and me) enough to lay down his life through Jesus, then our calling to the world included loving sacrificially. Mission starts and ends with love. Love must be the centerpiece in all we do. It is foundational in the work of the Gospel.

My prayer is that the church will love their city, the people of their communities, the families and children of their congregations, and the people they’ve yet to meet unlike they’ve ever loved before. Let’s love people to the point of response, meaning either they love us back or run away frightened because of the radical love we have for them.

Let’s sacrifice more time, energy, money, and resources than ever before to loving people. The command to love is a command based on the hope of Christ and our satisfaction in God’s great promises. We must be persuaded in the midst of our sacrifices that the love of God is “better than life” (Psalm 63:3). Loving people doesn’t earn you the reward of heaven; it gives you the peace and joy of the Lord. May it be ours as we engage God’s Mission of Love!

(Sources: Kirk J. Andrew; Shane Claiborne)


Church is a Verb! The call of Christ is not passive. It’s active. It includes becoming a visible expression of God in the world. It consists of a group of people called to participate in God’s redemptive plan for humanity. Jesus calls his followers to a life of sacrificial service. Being the Body of Christ involves being committed to the mission of God for the sake of the world.

With that said, one must note that being the church in a consumeristic society is particularly difficult. Countless congregations vividly reflect the consumer-driven culture of our age. Because of this popular approach mission is often sacrificed for entertainment and churches frequently become nothing more than a marketplace of spiritual services where individuals get their needs met. Churches that do not strive to find a way out of this prevailing mindset, by default, become saturated in consumerism, which is a detriment to discipleship. Without a strategy, instead of intentional disciples, we create shoppers: individuals who want nothing more than to consume.

As a pastor, I want to continually challenge my congregation to “think,” because we are what we think. I hope to push new ways of thinking through the doorway that God is opening. The mindset of Christ is the ultimate goal: a transformation process that is so profound, enormous, and astonishing that it changes the life of everybody we come in contact with.

The church should represent a new way of functioning in the world that absolutely brings transformation to the community. A key component becomes helping people learn to think like authentic Christ-followers. Scripture teaches that as a person thinks in the heart, so is the person (Proverbs 23:7). The problem is too many people are not what they think they are. Then there are those who are controlled primarily by what they think others think they are. If people do not first discover that their true identity is only found “in Christ” and that they are abundantly loved children of God, they don’t stand a chance at discovering their purpose in the kingdom.

The test of our authenticity in God’s eyes is found in how we express our love for one another. How we represent the kingdom in the local context is critical, because if we can’t do it well in the local church, we don’t have a chance in the world. For us to come to grips with the idea that the church is a contribution to society, we need to understand that the gospel is the “Good News” of reconciliation for everyone. Every person is invited to the table. God wants to rescue people from darkness and to transfer them to the kingdom of light. That is God’s desire, that he should lose none. That means that people do not have to earn a seat at the table; instead their seat has already been purchased by Christ. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation and it includes everybody.

Church is a Verb!

I do not want to stand before God one day and say, “I didn’t do anything!” In the end the question will not be, “How much have you obtained?” but “How much have you given?” Not “How much success have you achieved?” but “How much have you provided for others?” Not “How much have you saved?” but “How much have you sacrificed?” The missional mindset understands the church as a group of ambassadors who will not take no for an answer when it comes to serving the world.

As the Body, our job is to create a culture of celebration that reflects the culture of heaven. Church needs to be a safe place for people to discover who they are: a place where they realize their dreams and learn to be more than they ever thought possible. As Christ’s Body, we help align people with God’s plan for their lives; we give them room to grow and make mistakes as we journey together. That takes being intentional and strategic in all that we do. There’s no time for consumerism. The call of Christ is a call to action. Church is a Verb!


About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

These same people had enough vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. However, in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

Too many churches surrender to existing without a vision for advancing God’s Kingdom. In the midst of a committee meeting at some point in time, that flame, that fire of vision for the Lord’s work began to fade away. If we fail to have a vision that transforms lives, we will become like the people in the illustration. We will lose our pioneering spirit. We will become grumblers. We will become ineffective.

Vision is defined as “an experience in which a circumstance or event appears vividly to the mind, although not actually present…” Vision occurs when we allow God to show us our future path. Many congregations allow vision to diminish, and as a result they wither into obscurity. Without vision people perish! (Proverbs 29:18). We must be willing to invest our time, energy, and resources into the fulfillment of vision. After all, Jesus calls all of us to surrender everything. All that we are and all that we have belongs to God; we are merely stewards for a lifetime.

Striving toward vision requires many things. As individuals and as a congregation, we must develop several traits necessary to move toward the fulfillment of vision. These include: (1) Willingness to invest in the future, sometimes called “risk-taking”; (2) Willingness to let go of the past, sometimes called “change”; (3) Willingness to give up that which is good individually for that which is best for the entire group, sometimes called “sacrifice”; and (4) Willingness to proceed in a manner that brings the greatest number of persons along, sometimes called “patience”.

Our task is to be faithful in our generation. We must place our trust, not in our own efforts, but in the providence, graciousness, and goodness of God. Let’s boldly cross bridges that take us from the past to the future. I urge you to find a place to plug-in and help take your church to the next level. I ask you to pray, support, engage ministry, and to commit to the vision of the local assembly so that the Body of Christ will be ever-effective in making Christ-like disciples in the nations.

(Sources: Lynn Anderson; Paul Harvey, George Barna)

Jesus was incarnational: God in flesh. He lived among the people. Being missional means being immersed in culture, understanding how to speak the language, and not being scared to engage people from all walks of life. Jesus did not come to erect a building, introduce a new style of worship, or invite people to a service on Sunday. He became friends with the poor and marginalized… those in need of a physician.

Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to be incarnational. When God puts on flesh we’d better pay attention. He was born poor and grew up in a meager town on the wrong side of the tracks (or should I say sea). The very people that watched him become a man also rejected him. Jesus made little impact in his hometown amount his own people. How would you handle being rejected by your own family and friends?

So, Jesus became friends of sinners. He hung out with those who had been rejected by society. He lived on the margins. He took God’s love to the place people never expected to find it. Jesus because love to those who had never experienced it. His radical acts of love caused him a tremendous amount of trouble in the eyes of the religious establishment. But he kept loving anyway.

I think the church today seeks too much esteem. “Look at what we’ve accomplished” is the cry of our age. However, when we examine the Early Church, we discover that the only model they knew was one of rejection by the world’s standards. Those that had been Jesus’ disciples saw how he removed himself from the crowds and wanted no fame or fortune for his ability to lead others to God.

His purpose was to make disciples: to create clusters of people that carried out the mission of God. He realized that only through discipleship would the kingdom mandate be carried on after he was gone. In fact, it’s through discipleship that the kingdom lives on forever.

A missional church understands that it is primarily a community of people being trained and equipped to live among the world as missionaries. The same principle as learning to be a missionary in a foreign field must be applied in our own backyards. We must learn to live life with the people we are trying to reach. This means we learn to speak the language, go to the places, and immerse ourselves in the culture. It involves spending time with real people in the real world.

Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples. The scripture teaches that they traveled together: eating, sleeping, and sharing life. The Greek word is diatribe means “to wear through.” That’s what spending time together should do: force us to wear through on one another. Discipleship involved ‘wearing through.’ It means that I wear through on you, you wear through on me, and one big family we shall be!

God With Suffering
The term “theodicy” comes from two Greek words: theos = “god” + dike = “justice.” This word commonly refers to an attempt to resolve the occurrence of evil in the world by reconciling God’s characteristics of being all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing. To find an answer, we essentially have to identify God in human suffering. Many people have a hard time watching human beings experience undeserved pain and tragedy, and then trying to reconcile that an all-powerful God really cares.

So where is God in the pain and suffering of life? In answering this question we must always start with Jesus. Everything starts with Jesus; he is the perfect reflection of an all-loving God. He came to earth to show us what God is like and to also show us what we should be like.

Unlike many evangelicals, Jesus never tells people who are suffering that it’s because they did something wrong or have unconfessed sin in their life. When Job lost everything and sat in sackcloth and ashes, the best thing his friends could have done was keep their mouths shut. When they started talking about “why” Job was suffering, they only showed their lack of understanding pertaining to the nature of God. What they failed to see in the midst of Job’s suffering was God’s.

Jesus always starts with compassion. He makes wrongs right and justifies suffering and pain with love and mercy. What we learn from Jesus is that God always sides with the one who is suffering. He’s not out in the distant universe somewhere picking at people and making them feel worse than they already do.

God is on the side of the sufferer, and we cannot find an exception to that in scripture. Notice the Disciples and the Pharisees demanded answers as to why bad things happen to some people and not others. Interestingly Jesus never spoke to the reasons “why.” Actually, Jesus always blew off the questions of “why” and instead focused on the response: “What can we do about it?”

When Hurricane Katrina blew into Louisiana, or when a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, unlike some evangelical voices that declared God’s judgment on the people in these areas, we should respond like Jesus by saying, “What can I do to help?” The scripture indicates that God grieves about human suffering even more than those who are experiencing loss.

Think about it, when Jesus responded to a widowed woman who had lost her son, when he ministered to a Roman soldier whose servant was sick, when he heals the blind, crippled, and diseased… He always, always, always extends compassion, not judgment. God sides with the suffering and his response is always marked with love and compassion.

“God is like Jesus.
God has always been like Jesus.
There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus.
We have not always known what God is like—
But now we do.” ~Brian Zahnd

(Sources: Brian Zahnd; Shane Claiborne; Jürgen Moltmann)

Our job is to make goodness fashionable. It doesn’t matter if someone’s life is ruined, degraded, or wrecked beyond comprehension, as God’s ambassadors we connect the world with the goodness of God in such a way that anyone has the potential to become a new creation. Then God will make of others what he is making of us: people unlike the world has ever seen.

When followers of Christ become God’s visual aid in the earth, they show others what heaven is really like. Missional is a code word for people who have learned to think properly about the kingdom of God. God calls them: “My Body,” and Christ’s Body is supposed to be distinguishable from all other bodies.

The church should understand itself as a redeemed community in a reconciled society. We see all created things as having the possibility of reconciliation with the Father. We reject the term “non-believer,” because everyone believes something. And what we believe about God is the most important thought we will ever have. What we need to call people who have yet to believe is “pre-Christian.” This helps us view them with potential to become part of the body, because the Father is not willing that any should perish.  Everyone is part way there in terms of being reconciled since Jesus died once for all.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again… Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” ~2 Corinthians 5

God is not holding people’s transgressions against them (he is not like some evangelicals I know). The reason God’s not holding anything against anyone is because Jesus died once and for all. Therefore, since all are reconciled the way is open for all who will to come and stand before God and receive redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In the body, we build the society of heaven where it’s safe for people to discover who they are: where they realize their dreams and learn to be more than they ever thought possible. As Christ’s Body we show the world what heaven is like and connect real people with God’s goodness and majesty. We make goodness fashionable. Ladies and gentlemen this is the church; anything else would not be the church.

(Sources: William Wilberforce; Graham Cooke)

We exist for one-another-ness. Our connectedness extends beyond ourselves. That’s why the church is so important: it connects people. The church is the only organization on earth that exists for the benefit of its non-members. It’s for everyone who needs God whether they are seeking him or not. That means everything we are becoming in our relationships with one another are not just to be spent upon ourselves. Christian community practices love and grace on each other so that it can offer them perfectly to a sinful world that desperately needs the love of Christ.

The test of our authenticity in God’s eyes is found in how we express our love for one another. How we represent God’s kingdom in the local context through service to others is vitally important. If we can’t do it well in the church, we don’t have a chance in the world. We must come to grips with the idea that the church is a contribution to society: we are created for others.

The gospel is the “Good News” of reconciliation for everyone. God wants to rescue people from darkness and to transfer them to the kingdom of light. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation and it includes everybody. As ambassadors of reconciliation our job involves opening up embassies in our homes, offices, schools, and neighborhoods that reaches out to everyone in the community. The authentic Christian mindset understands the church as a group of ambassadors who builds genuine relationships with people everywhere.

Reconciliation means that God has declared that there are no obstacles in Christ. In other words God is saying, “There is nothing standing in the way… I’m not mad at anybody.” God poured his wrath out on Jesus so that anyone can freely come and take a seat at the table.

Our calling consists of being authentic Christ-followers who offers the world a taste of what the kingdom is really like. If God has removed the barriers, then we too must remove anything standing in the way. There are no walls built around God’s kingdom. It’s an open door, not a protected fortress. There is an invitation for whosoever will come. If God has made the way, and we travel the way, and the way is open… Then it must be our job to extend the invitation to whosoever will.

The Father sends the church, the ekklesia, the body, a group of people, to teach the world to be like Jesus. The church teaches others to be disciples fashioned in the image of the invisible God. The church should be a place where people discover what it’s like to be connected to the kingdom: to be connected to a family, a group of friends, part of a body, and to belong to something where people are given a part and a purpose in which they learn to function and live. This is the call to one-another-ness.

(Sources: Various Lectures by Graham Cooke; Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans)

Missio Dei starts with God, not with something we decide that we are going to do for God. Mission does not start by implementing a new program or starting a new class at church. God’s mission starts with God himself. We too often assume that it begins when we discover a felt need and respond by giving money or doing a service project.

The “sending” Jesus speaks of in John 17 is plural. This means that we do not merely send people and funds out of the church to solve problems in the world. In other words, the church is not just a “sending agent.” The church is “sent” itself: as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One, when we participate in God’s mission to the world we are one on mission with God.

The church has no mission apart from its participation in God’s mission. As God expands the kingdom we either participate in what he is doing or we do not. To be missional means that the church actively engages kingdom-expansion by identifying where God is working and joining him in his activity. God is always working, but we must have eyes to see and ears to hear.

God is not just working in the church. Instead, he is always working in every part of society and culture. God is at work in the margins, in the places where no one is looking. God never starts in the center and works his way out. It’s his nature to start on the fringes and work inward. “Participation” means that we intentionally look for ways to join God in his mission. When we share in the life of God for the sake of the world, by default, we participate in the mission of God.

In Philippians 2 Paul uses the Greek word kenosis. Literally, it indicates Christ participating in the act of “self-emptying.” It demonstrates the out-poured love of God for the world. Emptying oneself is what being incarnational looks like. If you really want to take on the mind of Christ, if you really want to follow him… it requires kenosis.

How is this relevant for the church? Missional means moving away from attractional models of ministry to incarnational ways of existing with God for the benefit of the world. Only as we identify with the suffering of humanity can we identify with the suffering of Jesus.

God lives on the fringes. That’s where the story of the mutilated Body of Christ begins. This is where we see redemption being established. When we enter the margins intentionally and incarnationally we become the hands and feet of Jesus. Through this participation the kingdom of heaven is revealed.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John the Baptist declares these words as he proclaims the advent of our Savior. He was announcing the coming of a new way of understanding life in relation to God. It wasn’t that God’s kingdom was coming in the future; it had arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. John announced the inauguration of a kingdom and if the kingdom has already come then that makes us subjects of the King.

This way of thinking disorients many evangelicals. They like to think of God’s kingdom only in physical terms. In this they often neglect the spiritual development of a present experience with God. Many become so consumed with future apocalyptic doom of the world that they are no earthly good. They swallow the pill of Left Behind theology and subscribe to the late night televangelists who make a living pedaling fear. It’s not to say that the full realization of God’s physical presence will not be established in the future, but only to say that we need to be celebrating the kingdom as a present reality.

Christ has come. He is incarnate. God dwells among us. The Spirit never forsakes us. God is making all things new and making all wrongs right. It’s called redemption. Valleys will be full, and are currently being filled. Mountains will be made low, and are currently being flattened. Rough ways will be smooth, and are currently being made level. What does this mean? Drastic changes in the way we think… old ways shattered and new ways recognized.

The key to understanding the kingdom of God is revealed in what you allow yourself to think. What you hear the most is what you think about most. You are what you think. If you listen to doom and gloom often, you will think about doom and gloom more than anything else. What you think affects how you act. What you think is what you become. As a person thinks in their heart so is that person (Proverbs 23:7). This means that if you want to change, you must start by changing your mind.

Jesus started his ministry with one message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mathew 4:17). Repentance means, changing your mind. It means altering the way you think. It means living in a new reality as a citizen of a Kingdom. Bottom-line: to enter the kingdom of God, one must learn to think properly about God.

Repent. Stop of thinking about the kingdom as if it is not yet. The kingdom has come and is coming. It has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ and is continually coming though they indwelling of the Holy Spirit.. The kingdom of God is a central message in the teachings of our Lord. The theme of the “kingdom” is the essence of God’s message to the world.

What did Jesus want us to understand through this message? To live inverted. To live counter to the spirit of the present age. To live in such a way that our presence in the world flips the world’s economy on its head. It is opposite of everything prevailing culture and society wants us to believe. It’s an upside-down way of life that challenges the prevailing paradigms of popular religious culture and societal norms. You are what you think… so what are you?

(Sources: Shane Claiborne; Donald Kraybill; Brian Zahnd)