We have been talking about what I believe is an inescapable fact and that is that it is God’s intent to use the church as a revealer of his plan to the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms. Individuals in the church are gifted by the Holy Spirit in the church and then to go and witness to Christ in word and deed.
Human beings being what they are that rather simple concept is sometimes misunderstood or found wanting.
There seems to be an idea out there that we can separate the work of the church from the church. There is talk out there that we should not be about “church planting” but simply talking about Jesus. There are some who believe that eye glass clinics and English as a second language courses are some how “missions”. Now I believe that they are mercy works and can be hand in hand with mission, but “mission” is a proclamation of Christ.
If it is God’s intent to use the church as a revealer of his plan of salvation to the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms, we cannot separate the plan from the church. Yet that is precisely what we have done in many areas. Doctrine, what we believe, has been usurped by “how I feel”. I hear it all the time that we need less “doctrine and theology” and more action. Now I agree with the action part, but we need to remember that “doctrine” is God’s action. We have in many areas decoupled the mission from the church and placed it in the heart of the believer. The rise of para-church organizations and “mission societies” is an example. Needing to find their “ministries” apart from the church’s ministry, many organizations and even individuals have gone into the “business” of missions. The end result is to me, a huge issue, and that is the idea that we can “do mission” and never have the intention of starting or planting a church. There are practical issues here as well. There are at my last count at least 30 different individuals and organizations from Minnesota North and North Dakota sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to individual Pastors in Haiti, uncoupled from the “church” that partners with the “church” in Haiti and it is a nightmare.
There comes a point where this becomes “practical atheism” because the success of mission depends on our style, focus, charisma, or plan, rather than submitting ourselves to the word and wisdom of God revealed in the church. For some the “mission trip” itself becomes the end and personal transformation rather than witnessing to Christ is the idea.
Michael Horton in his book, Christless Christianity says, “In all of this we clearly recognize that the message cannot be separated from the methods, and soteriology (words about being saved) cannot be separated from ecclesiology (words about the church). We must distinguish but we can never separate Christ’s person and work (message) from the way we receive him (the medium). Once your faith is focused on what happens inside you instead of what happened outside you in history, it is easy to say that what you really need are good resources for private experience and moral improvement rather than any external Word. However weak and foolish in the eyes of the world, God’s methods and structures, clearly prescribed in Scripture, are consistent with the message. Preaching is not a bully pulpit for either our personal threats or helpful suggestions; it is a saving advent of Christ by his Spirit through his Word.” 224