No Engine, No Heart
Guest Blog by Missionary Chris Sadowitz
I'm not a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that a car without an engine just won't run. We could roll it down a hill, or tow it up one and give it some semblance of movement, but it has no power of its own. In a different analogy, without a heart, the body won't live. No doubt, technology and pharmacology can keep a body in stasis for a while but that kind of existence is artificial, hollow, and once the body is disconnected it dies, like dead. No heart, no life!
What may come as a surprise to the modern church is that the heart of Christianity is not predominantly, “Jesus loves me this I know,” as we sang in Sunday school,
rather it is the supreme necessity of God's holy name to be glorified all over the earth. Oddly enough, this comes to us in pretty stark terms, in John chapter 12 ( verses 23-29, to be exact). Here Jesus is entering his passion and suffering, and in response to the Son's cry for help, the Father cryptically responds, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (speaking of the self glorifying work of the Father). To really understand the word God, and the concept of monotheism, we must understand that, of necessity, it demands a dogmatic declaration of truth: “ I am God there is no other.” God wills, and orchestrates time, events, humanity, cultures and all of creation for the full glorification of himself as He is one of a kind. He can do no other.
Some theologians call this the “Missio Dei”, “the sending of God”. God sends himself through revelation, through the Son and the Spirit, and through us, to garnish glory from his creation. The Westminster Confession of Faith posits this question: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer? “To glorify God.” What's more, the one and only God who desires all glory puts to us a second question. “What is the chief end of God?” The answer? “To glorify himself.” In modern parlance, it is similar to sports heroes and entertainment divas who desire higher monetary reward commensurate with their supposed worth and faith. In the same way, God wants to be noticed, respected and worshiped as the only one worthy of the concept we call God.
As the Scriptures unfold, it is clear that God's plan to glorify himself by being sent into the world impacts both how we got the Bible and what the essence or “heart/engine” of the church should be today. For example, the book of Exodus comes to us from a conflict between Pharaoh and the false deities of Egypt, which are stealing the glory of the God of the Hebrews. God prevails for the express and repeated purpose “ that they may know that I am the LORD”. According to D.A.Carson, the Exodus narrative and rescue of the Israelites from Egypt goes on to form a major motif of redemption for the entire Bible. God's mission thus births the book of Exodus and subsequent references to all future redemptive activity of God.
How does the book of Acts come to us? Simply put, the Apostles go and engage the world and tell them of the glory of God in Christ Jesus! Philippians? Take a look! Chapter one: Paul praises the Philippian saints for their partnership in advancing the Gospel of Jesus (missional-sending glorifies God) no less than 7 times. Chapter two overwhelmingly emphasizes the glorious Jesus, followed by the commendation of high honor for Timothy and Epaphroditus for their partnership in the Gospel, (missional sending glorifies God best!). Chapter three turns introspective for a moment, as Paul reveals his heartbeat in life as nothing less than knowing Christ with all of his being. Paul warns of those who slip away from loving Christ and advancing His name among the peoples because they were focused on earthly things. The epistle closes in the final chapter where Paul commends Euodia, Syntyche ( 2 women) and Clement for they contended for the Gospel, (missional sending glorifies God universally!), and by the way, wonderfully earned places in the Book of Life!!!
And here is the point of it all: God, Jesus, Paul and a host of others throughout history did not condone the belief that missions is something the church does - rather it is what the church is. David Bosch, in his seminal work Transforming Mission, comments, "The New Testament does not recognize a mission-less church. Mission is previous to church. Church exists for the sake of mission. Church did not give us the Word. The Living Word gave us a mission and sent us out to bring Him great glory. The engine and heart of the church is nothing less than Gospel advancement. Where churches exist for their own sake and not the mission's sake, they become fossilized institutions which have lost their movement ethos."
For Personal and Corporate Reflection:
Is my church bringing me to Christian maturity so that I can reproduce spiritually, and provide stimulus to get me to make Jesus look good to the world?
Would we agree with the following statement? Am I a “ little Jesus” or a “representation of the church”, to the world? If so, when was the last time I took my Bible, my church, my Jesus, my faith, my religion, my denomination, and put it to the test by talking with and befriending people in my neighborhood, school or place of employment?
What can I do as a lover of Jesus to help my church and people in it to become more missional in daily life?