|Maturity and Missions
From Pastor Chris
On Sunday, our time in Ephesians 4:7-16 focused on the issue of church growth—how we grow into a mature body by speaking gospel truth to one another in love. Whenever we spend time looking inward regarding church health, it is necessary to remember how this affects our call to look outward regarding our world that needs Christ. To use the language of Jesus’ Great Commission, how does our work of making disciples within the church (teaching one another to obey Jesus’ commands) affect our work of making disciples outside the church (baptizing new believers)?
Yesterday I heard a challenging word about this from Dr. Gordon Fort, who serves in a senior role in the International Mission Board. Dr. Fort has been involved in missions his entire life—born into a missionary family in Zimbabwe, 20 years on the field in Africa, and multiple leadership roles in the International Mission Board (IMB). He shared two experiences and asked a stinging question that highlights the crucial connection between maturity and missions.
The first experience was of meeting with two Muslim-background ladies in Yemen who had become followers of Jesus Christ. Shortly after they met, one of the women was imprisoned and beaten. The crime? Doing chores for the widows in her village at no cost in the name of Jesus. The second experience Dr. Fort relayed was travelling and speaking here in the states to various churches, state conventions, and other gatherings in his roles with the IMB. Often he walked away discouraged at the mediocrity of the faith and passion of those he got to know.
This sets up the stinging question: Will the woman in Yemen be sustained by a mediocre faith?
The International Mission Board, Dr. Fort shared, is only as strong as the local church. Local churches are where IMB missionaries come from. So if our churches live out a mediocre Christianity, we will be exporting mediocre Christianity to people facing extreme challenges. This is why Gordon Fort has devoted his final season of ministry to calling the people of God to prayer so that a revived church can send revived workers to preach Christ where he has not been named.
As we relate this to our study of church growth from Ephesians 4, the global impact of our faith heightens the stakes of our call to speak gospel truth to one another in love. We want to nurture the type of mature faith and church health that we will not be ashamed to take either to our neighbors or across the globe. Indeed, apart from a vibrant, growing church it is unlikely that we will engage at all in Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations.
On Sunday we identified three application question: Do I know how to speak gospel? Do I know others in my church family? Am I speaking gospel truth in love? May God grow us in these areas, not only for our sake but for the sake of the nations who need to know this gospel truth.