When we look at the missional life of the disciples, it’s tempting to think the work they did in proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and engaging in the works of the kingdom were only done with Jesus. And while there is truth in the with, there was a much greater reality present in their time with the Rabbi.
More accurately, the apostles were being led into mission. Jesus said as much, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Following Jesus was prerequisite to mission with him. And while the disciples ministered alongside Jesus in many settings, all the while, they had actually been led into God-appointed missional ventures by the Godman.
While missional living could be described as something the church does with Jesus as well, it is more appropriately something the church follows him into. As we step out in faith to be a “city on a hill,” we must remind ourselves that Jesus is already at work and we are to join him in the work he has already begun to do in our cities. And in the times we live, we need to take special care to discern the time as “men of Issachar” so that the mission we are being led into is at its most potent.
Here are four ways that the local church can follow Jesus into missional living in the twenty-first century:
1. Following Jesus Into (And Out From) Worship
All missional living starts with worship and leads to more worship, both personally and corporately. Just as faith without works is dead, good works separated from active trust in the person and work of Jesus, is also dead. Entering into the mission of Jesus requires that we first enter into his rest . . . receiving his easy yoke and light burden of grace. To help cultivate this mindset, we will:
- Encourage our people to see that the only way to become like Jesus is to prioritize being with Jesus daily. Ordinary, common spiritual practices like Bible reading, prayer, and “one-anothering” community are at the center of this. Apart from (Jesus) we can do nothing.
- Emphasize worshiping God with God’s other daughters and sons each Lord’s Day—encouraging our people to order the rest of their lives around worship, versus the other way around. Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.
2. Following Jesus Into The World Through Public Faith
We are called by Jesus to follow him into the world as an expression of our worship. As carriers of heaven’s DNA and the aroma of Jesus in his world, we want to carry his grace, truth, and beauty into all the places where we live, work, and play–primarily through:
- Public forums and conversations (some church sponsored and others in living rooms and public spaces) about things that matter to us and to friends and neighbors who do not believe as we do. Subjects like sexuality, race and class issues, family-related concerns, the arts, politics, and loneliness are a few examples of subject matter. As some of your own poets have said . . .
- Loving friends and neighbors well. Being intentional, thoughtful, and creative about being the “first responders” wherever opportunities to extend the kindness, love, support, and hope that Jesus did to people who were hurting, lonely and alone, and feeling ashamed. Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Parties. Showing hospitality and giving life away by opening up our church, our homes, and our lives in order to turn strangers into friends, and friends into family. We have to celebrate.
3. Following Jesus Into The World Through The Integration Of Faith and Work
Because so many people spend the majority of their waking hours working—whether as a volunteer or for hire—it is important to see vocation as a calling from God and the workplace as a primary realm for following Jesus and loving the world. We express these truths by:
- Affirming that all creative work–work that takes raw material and makes something new for the benefit of the world and the human community—is an expression of God’s creativity through people who bear his image. God created . . . and it was good.
- Affirming that all redemptive work—work that fights decay and seeks restoration of people, places, and things—is an expression of God’s redeeming grace, also through people who bear his image. All creation groans . . . eagerly awaiting freedom. Jesus is making all things new.
4. Following Jesus Into The World Through Mercy and Justice
Because the poor in spirit are called “blessed,” and because Jesus gave special attention to the poor, the weak, the under-served, the overlooked, and those living on the margins, the church must dedicate her time, energy, service, and a significant portion of her financial resources to mercy and justice efforts. We will do this by:
- Emphasizing in our public ministry the importance of the poor, the weak, the overlooked, and the under-served in the economy of God’s kingdom.
- Creating intentional, supportive space in our community for children and adults with special needs.
- Forming partnerships and providing financial support to our cities “best in class” mercy and justice organizations.
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While there are many ways to live missional in our cities, these in particular have an eye and ear towards the age we live in. They place the onus on our churches to collaborate with culture rather than cede from it. The hope is that as we pursue this kind of missional living, our churches will, in the power of the Spirit, make Jesus, as Ray Ortlund has said, “non-ignorable in our cities.”
Scott Sauls, a graduate of Furman University and Covenant Seminary, is foremost a son of God and the husband of one beautiful wife (Patti), the father of two fabulous daughters (Abby and Ellie), and the primary source of love and affection for a small dog (Lulu). Professionally, Scott serves as the Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to Nashville, Scott was a Lead and Preaching Pastor, as well as the writer of small group studies, for Redeemer Presbyterian of New York City. Twitter: @scottsauls.
Brad Andrews serves as pastor for preaching, vision, and missional leadership at Mercyview in Tulsa, OK and as a religion columnist for the former Urban Tulsa Weekly. He also was one of the ten framers of The Missional Manifesto, alongside Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer, Alan Hirsch, Eric Mason, J.D. Greear, Dan Kimball, Linda Berquist, Craig Ott, and Philip Nation. He blogs often at mercyview.com/blog.
Adapted from www.scottsauls.com. Used with permission. Brad Andrews contributed the introduction and conclusion.