This Sunday, our church concluded a series titled This is Our God. For the past 3 months, we’ve looked at the essence, nature, and character of God. As we ended our series, we spent time looking at responding to God through a special service that included corporate prayer, extended praise and worship, proclaiming our faith through the Apostles Creed and celebrating communion and generosity.
It was a special service and different from what I am used to, but as I prepared for it, I found myself reading the Westminster Catechism. It is one of the most famous documents to come out of the English Reformation, developed in the 1600s and used to educate people on doctrine and belief.
It is a series of questions and answers. It starts off in this way:
Question: What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.
It references so many scriptures that speak to this reality and I’m a big advocate for enjoying God as the aim of the life in general and especially for the Christian.
As I thought through this idea and continue to listen to the missional community conversation, there seem to be mixed messages about the chief end of missional communities.
If this is the end of man, to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever, why would it be different for a collection of Christians pursuing the chief end together?
Mission is only fueled & sustained by joy
Often the missional community conversation is characterized by describing the lack of mission or ranting against the over-focus on the community as the motivator for change towards extending the gospel. These things are true; the church has lacked being on God’s mission to extend love, grace, mercy and fix the brokenness of the world. A lot of this is due to an inward focus on caring for the community at the detriment of mission.
These truths point to a deeper issue regarding motivation. We can move people to action by pointing to the lack of it or open their eyes to see beyond their own community, but these ideas alone won’t sustain or increase mission. Mission is the result of joy. If mission is lacking, it’s because joy and delight in God are lacking.
What we enjoy, we will discuss. What we enjoy, we will do. What we enjoy, we will give our time, resources, and lives to. This is true of ever idea, cause of mission that exists and it is true for the Christian in joining God’s mission.
When we grasp the acceptance, love, forgiveness, mercy, justice that is the character of God revealed most gloriously revealed in Jesus living an amazing life, teaching astounding truths, and then dying on the cross for the mistakes and sins of the whole world only to resurrect 3 days later. It’s a pretty powerful truth and when it sinks deep within you, there is a joy that you want to share. It is compelling beyond guilt or duty.
The love which God has given you moves you to want others to know it and experience it. This is the motivation, the fuel, for mission and it’s the only thing I’ve seen sustain mission. Duty can get people started, but extending the love of God through selfless sacrifice can exhaust us out of duty-based living. Returning to the gospel repeatedly to be reminded and refreshed by the love of God reminds us that our selfless sacrifice is minimal compared to Jesus.
There is also a peace that comes from remembering and hoping for the good news of Jesus Christ. It propels the Christian to embody Jesus to the world through action and relationships.
Joy Comes From Mission
Glorifying God through embodying Him to the world also is a cause for greater joy in God and in life. It requires that you give of yourself for someone else’s benefits, often not out of calculated thought, but reaction to caring for others as Jesus as cared for you.
Isaiah 58:10-11 says “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched laces and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
It seems counterintuitive. Giving of yourself can be one of the greatest gifts to yourself. Light shall rise in the darkness and gloom will be like midday. Self sacrificing is life-giving. Joy comes from being on the mission of God caring for others more than yourself.
Lead People to the Chief End
Forming missional communities that sustain their love for others on the mission of God requires that we lead people back to the chief and highest end first. We can get people to start doing something by pointing to their lack of missional activity, but that does not change their motivation, only their actions. We can also pound the drum against community, but we’ll only hurt the community in our efforts to move it beyond itself.
Leading people to the chief end of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever will accomplish the types of missional communities we long for our churches to be. Places where the love of God flows freely from those experiencing the love of God given to them freely.
This is a longer road than many of us want to take, but we do are not looking for a splash of mission, we are looking for restoration of broken relationships with God, people, and the world. Restoration takes time and the only sustainable motivator is enjoying God fully.