ROAD 101: Session 2: The Church & Mission
Topic: Gospel Passage: Acts 2:41–2:47, Matthew 28:18–28:20
Christopher Rich – January 22, 2017
Wk #2 The Church: What is it, what must it do, what is her mission? |Acts 2:41-47 & Matthew 28:18-20
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we begin our Road 101 sermon series covering who we are, why we exist, what we do, and why we do it. This is a time to reinforce for those who have been a part of our church and integrate for those who are new so we can be unified as a family on mission together. Today we will look at our What is the Church? What MUST a church do to be a church? What is the church’s mission?
What do you think about when you think of “Church”? How much of what you think about is from your own unique experiences? Where have you gotten your definition from? We have to get a definition derived from the narrative of God’s word otherwise we’ll rely too much on our experience or emotions.
PART I | What is the church? God and His People
In the first session, we discussed the gospel, namely, what God has done in history, to redeem men through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This plan of redemption was not a backup plan hastily put together after sin entered His creation. God always had a plan to gather a people for Himself. Beginning with the garden, we see God’s story does not end where it starts—giving men the punishment they deserve. Instead, God gives them a promise of a Savior who would one day restore creation to all the goodness God desired. The whole Old Testament is God, despite sin and unfaithfulness of humanity, pursuing, calling out to, making covenant promises to a people, saving them from slavery, guiding them to a new land, and gathering them around the worship of the Creator in a “come and see” temple where God’s glorious presence dwelled uniquely. God’s people, (in the OT Nation of Israel) physically gathered regularly to make sacrifices, to worship, to feast, to pray, ALL intended to remind them WHO THEY WERE. But it is clear, in the Old Testament, that they forgot…often. They pursued idols and rejected God. Again, though it grieved Him, it did not surprise our God. Over centuries, God raised up priests, prophets, and kings to call them back into right relationship, always cycling from repentance to rejection. God’s mission to His people does not fail and the promise of a future savior who would set all things right was realized. God’s people would be defined not by their family bloodline or temple sacrifice, but by the shed blood of Jesus the perfect sacrifice who died on the cross in their place. God’s people are saved by Jesus, for Jesus.
Beginning to define the church means we recognize first a spiritual reality that transcends what we see and experience. The church is more than a place where Christians just happen to hang out on Sundays, is more than a once or twice-a-week event/program, social club or community activism group. It’s also a lame hobby. So we have to see the church as more significant, we have to see the church the way God does. The church was not an addendum to God’s plan for salvation, in fact, we believe it is central to it. Jesus did not die for a person, he died for a church—a specific group of people—through whom he would continue to restore the world with the gospel. The church is the fellowship of believers, the family of God (a family of families), where the presence of God’s Spirit chiefly dwells, and where the wisdom of God is uniquely made manifest. Damascus Road church is not the only expression of God’s family. The church is both universal and local, both invisible and visible, both spiritual and physical. We experience the local, visible, and physical gathering of the church, but in Christ we are part of the universal, invisible, and spiritual body. According to Scripture, the universal, invisible, and spiritual church refers to:
All the true Christians around the world past, present, and future. The local, visible, physical church refers to an assembly of disciples saved by Jesus, unified by their gospel identity, sent into the world on mission to proclaim the gospel, led by biblically qualified elders (more on that next week), committed to proclaiming gospel truth and living as gospel community in the world.
Some other Biblical descriptions and metaphors for the church include: vine and branches, one body (organic life), God’s field/building (organized for a purpose), the household of faith (family), Bride of Christ (beloved by God’s covenant love) a holy temple in the Lord with God’s Holy Spirit dwelling with them. (people of worship not building) How the “Manifold wisdom of God is upheld.” and a pillar of truth. This paints both a colorful and complex picture of how God see His church. It is more than we typically think, and it is necessary for believers in Christ to participate in. Through our shared identity in Christ, God brings us together into one family through adoption, as brothers and sisters, He intends to build us together, encourage us together, and grow us together so that we look more individually like His Son and corporately like His people. Jesus loves the church. He loves it so much He gave up everything for her, purchasing her through His death, but He also promised that His love would continue to make the church more beautiful (Ephesians 5.25-33). It is impossible to love Jesus and not His bride—they are inseparable
PART II | What a church MUST do to be a church? | Acts 2:41-47
There are many people who view the church as a building or an antiquated institution unimportant to their faith. In fact, there are an increasing number of people who can easily describe why they love Jesus but hate the church. “Organized religion” is opposed, and many have too low a view of what the church is so they begin to try “new expressions.” Or at times visible, local church, has started to lose focus on what they are called to do faithful Christians began to pour time money and energy into a variety of other missional pursuits, so you can have big evangelistic rallies in the 70-90’s and para church ministries like YoungLife, seeking to reach people with the gospel where the church wasn’t reaching out, you have missionary organizations in the last hundred years where the church was no longer actively sending, para church bible studies like BSF where the church wasn’t teaching, and missional coffee shops and community organizations where the church wasn’t incarnating in their cities and communities. This has led to at times great confusion as to what a church MUST do to actually be a church. There is much we CAN do as the church, there are a few things God has commanded we MUST from the example of the first century church and scripture:
Acts 2:41-47 |41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A Church must preach the Gospel- People received the word because it was preached. Not discussions, good ideas for living, or group counseling. There is only one gospel, God saves sinners through Jesus Christ alone, and we have a responsibility to preach it! Jesus preached and he commanded his disciples to preach. And though we don’t think preaching should be boring, our aim is not to entertain, but to be faithful to the truth. A church must have Preaching as a high priority because it displays Word of God is a priority. We preach God’s Word because there is power in it. We preach God’s Word because God’s Word is central to every aspect of our lives. We preach God’s Word because, if we don’t, we are not doing what Jesus told us to as the church. We preach because God’s Word has always been His chosen instrument to create, convict, convert, and conform His people—it is the power of salvation and the way God works.
Rom 10.13-15 |13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
The Gospel is our salvation AND our transformation. We see the gospel preached in churches that flourish. We preach to non-Christians praying for the miracle your salvation and we preach the gospel to Christians praying for gift of continued repentance from sin and greater joy and rest in Jesus. Outside of the great evangelistic sermons acts, in the new testament nearly all the gospel proclamation and exposition is from Christians disciples to Christian disciples.
A Church MUST baptize disciples. They received the word and they responded to the word in baptism. Once a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and receive the seal of our faith in the person of the Holy Spirit, then the Bible calls us to make our private commitment a public declaration. What is Baptism? Is not “magical”, nor does it come before salvation. Simply, Baptism is a visible representation of the invisible change that has occurred in the individual as a result of belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A believer is someone who realizes that their sin separates them from God. They depend on Jesus Christ's death on the cross alone to pay the debt for their sins, declare them innocent, redeem them from slavery, appease the wrath of God on their behalf and, ultimately, bring them back into right relationship with our Creator.
Baptism is a physical act with spiritual meaning. We believe Baptism is an act of obedience to Jesus command to be baptized. The act of Baptism is the literal immersing of a believer under water and then bringing them out of the water. Symbolically, the person being baptized buried in the water to rise again, the same way that Jesus was buried in the earth and raised on their behalf in forgiveness of their sins. It is a public funeral for our old selves, public pledge of allegiance, to Jesus and initiation to His church.
A Church MUST administer communion. People heard the Gospel, responded in baptism as a one time right of imitation and then began living out rhythms of life as a Gospel community. This included begin devoted to the “break of bread” this is an allusion to communion that Jesus administered to the disciples on the night he was betrayed as a “remembrance” of what he would accomplish for them on the cross. Broken bread representing his body broken for us, the cup of wine representing His sinless blood shed for us. Regardless a variety of views on what communion is, or what different ways it can be administered (formally passing, taken all once, or less informally, common to all views are we are ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING, including:
NEW LIFE – It is a declaration of the eternal truth of the gospel—of the fact that Jesus died in our place for our sins, and he was raised to give us a new life. We REMEMBER HIS work on the cross is finished.
RENEWED LIFE – We remember what Jesus has done and IS doing. We recognize our continual need to remember the Gospel In communion Christians remember the call to put their sin to death in the light of the fact that Jesus died, compelling us to examine OURSELVES and repent before partaking.
SHARED LIFE –This a meal where we SHARE in our UNITY. We participate together in Christ’s death for the church—for us. The beauty of the gospel is seen in the unity of God’s people. As we participate in this meal together, we are saying “We are a family and we love each other in Jesus”
ETERNAL LIFE – Finally, Jesus told his disciples to do this in remembrance of him. Paul wrote in 1Corithians 11.26 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. It is not only our life, our growth, our unity, it is our HOPE. This one meal points us toward the future marriage supper where we will sit with Jesus and feast with Him.
Communion is more than a meaningless tradition; it is a sacred meal and active experience, we come to know Jesus intimately in a way that sets us apart as believers from the curious or hostile who are welcomed in our gatherings. Not only are we memorializing His death for us, we are proclaiming it.
In Unity they Gathered: They gathered to hear the apostles teaching and study God’s word, to pray together, to sing and worship corporately in the temple. Being reminded they are part of something great. They are not individuals going to attend a service; they are “together” AS the church gathered in a place.
In Unity they Scattered: They are meeting in homes, they are experiencing “fellowship” gospel community as different expressions of one body. Their, God created and Holy Spirit filled, unity is on display in the world and they have “favor with all people.” There is something inherently attractive about Spirit-filled spirit empowered unity which is counter to the world’s experience. What is God doing in the world through their Gospel Community? Are people being individually converted and saved by faith in Jesus? Yes! But it is so much more! These exiled divided sinners are being “added to” this unified body. This led to great joy, gladness in the hearts, and generosity in the actions, of the people who experienced Gospel Unity. Unity is not easy, it hurts, it requires self-denial, it is inconvenient, it is uncomfortable, requires discipline, and it is worth it. Because, it is worth it, and we are called to it, we work in the Spirit to maintain it. Yet as we look at this description in the book of Acts but there is something missing that is necessary for a church.
PART III | A Church must be on Mission | Matthew 28:18-20
Matthew 28:19-20 | 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What is the mission of Damascus Road Church? It is simply the Great Commission resurrected Jesus gave to His disciples before he ascended to heaven and that every church of disciples since is charged with. Jesus is no longer limited to his human form, he has told his disciple he has all authority over the entire universe, and yet he doesn’t then tell his disciples what He is going to do, he tell them what they are going to do because of it!! We are here because of the great commission. We are here for the great commission.
Go, Therefore (What is the therefore, there for?) In this case, because Jesus is the king, because Jesus has all authority in Heaven and on earth, now go and actively live out the mission of Jesus. He has authority over us and over our mission field. He will empower and equip us to fulfill the mission he’s called us to.
The word GO reminds us that building a community of believers has a purpose: it is a means to an end, not the end itself. Sometimes, however, we confuse church for the mission. The church does not have a mission, the mission has a church. God’s mission of redemption was to send Jesus. Because Jesus was sent…..
We are a sent people. But what does that mean? It means we are called to regularly go from our places of comfort to places that challenge us. It means we cross lines that make us uncomfortable in order to be ambassadors of Christ kingdom and pointing people to our risen king. Because we can easily forget this, Mission is never something that can be assumed. Jesus commands us to GO on faithful outward mission, meaning beyond ourselves, because he knows our default is to an inward focus. It also translates “as you go” meaning everyday life. Why don’t we do this? We like staying! We like familiar, we like comfortable, and we like settling. How tempting is it to be in places and with people that only encourage and never challenge. We need to have both a broader view of what it means to “go” Some are so excited about cross cultural missions, or believe the mission field is only far away and out. All of us need to living on mission in the culture we find ourselves in. Some are called to go to all nations, some are called to stay and make disciples of this nation. We talk about being missionaries and being a sent people that doesn’t mean everyone will leave Snohomish County or our region because there is a unique and challenging mission field right here. Because Jesus is sent Disciples of Jesus are ambassadors of Jesus’ kingdom and mission.
Make disciples of all nations. So going is clear but now we’ve got to know what we are going to do. What is a disciple? Disciples of Jesus increasingly submit to the authority and Lordship of Jesus in every aspect of life and encourage others to do likewise. Disciple is both a noun and verb. You are a disciple and you disciple.
The church, the people of God have a responsibility to make disciples of all nations, yet we are so individualistic we read a command and commission like this and we easily get overwhelmed and discouraged, and forget it is a communal charge. Jesus doesn’t pull Andrew aside and say “it’s on you buddy, all of it.” He tells all eleven. To be clear these guys saw some amazing things happen; but the commission is multigenerational. We have to be ok with pursuing this commission knowing we may never see the fruition of it in our life time. But understand we have people and responsibilities right in front of us.
Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. This is what we call Gospel Living. Jesus doesn’t say, so take what you like about what I said that works for you or in your context, he said ALL I have commanded. This will take a lifetime to unpack pursue, grow in, as we repent, believe, and obey over and over. It means there will be parts of his commands we find ourselves inclined to and should continue and other commands we will find ourselves hostile to we need to grow in submission and obedience. All of the law drills down to Love God and Love People and while that is incredibly simple it is also incredibly complex. How will you know how to be a disciple if you do not know the teachings of Jesus, sermons, parables, sayings, and even his very ways of being? This is where the student portion of discipleship comes in. Disciples are lifelong learners where your only graduation or promotion is when you move to glory at your death. Knowing the commands of Jesus are important, why? In order for you to ACTUALLY DO THEM! We are not to be hears of the word only, but doers. Learning Jesus commands is no less than knowing God’s word, but is also more than. Disciples of Jesus are learners and doers of Jesus’ words and ways.
What does the attempting to fulfill the Great Commission look like at Damascus Road?
We gather to worship our King, hear God’s word in a way we hope stirs worship of Jesus for who he is, to remember we’re part of something larger than ourselves, to be encouraged to go live lives of response.
We gather in groups to know each other well enough to see how we can learn from each other and encourage one another to increasingly submit more of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. It is where we make time experience the closeness, warmth, of being part of a family of families. “As family we go”
We equip one another by having intentional times to gather to study Jesus’ commands in book and bible studies, for men and women. We spend time intentionally training leaders hoping they will do likewise with others. We create spaces for people to live out the commands of Jesus in the church and community.
We GO as individuals and families scatter into our jobs, or neighborhoods, and activities always being prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us. We love and serve our cities. We Go as families sent out in to foreign mission fields (Chad and Jamie Dimon with MAF). We Go sending out church planters and core teams to plant churches from our body and financial support the work of other church planters.
What is your next step? Do you need to repent of your sin, believe the gospel and submit your life to Jesus? Have you believed in your heart and confessed with your lips the Jesus is Lord and now you need to be baptized publicly declaring your allegiance to Jesus and the God of the bible? Do you need to start living life as part of the family on mission together? Join a ROAD Group or start serving. We believe as we faithfully practice preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, and being on mission to go and make disciples that God will bring fruitfulness in the flourishing and reproduction of the local church. We have endless hope because he tells us while we’re on mission that he is with us always to the end of the age so we have freedom to purse this commission and tell the world to Trust Jesus!