After a wonderful final Learning Community immersion (“Establishing Centers of Mission”) with the 3DM team, I’ve been thinking about mission a lot. Not mission-as-project or mission-as-event, but real kingdom-of-God stuff: people becoming disciples of Jesus and joining with him in his work. What is necessary for real kingdom mission to flourish? What hinders it?
This morning I was reading Andrew Murray’s wonderful little prayer primer With Christ in the School of Prayer, and came across this gem of a quote, which deserves a slow, careful reading, because the implications for mission are astounding.
Now that Christ was leaving the scene and could only work through commissioners [his disciples], it might have been expected that the works would be fewer and weaker. He assures us of the contrary: “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). His approaching death was to be a breaking down of the power of sin. With the resurrection, the powers of the eternal life were to take possession of the human body and obtain supremacy over human life. With His ascension, Christ was to receive the power to communicate the Holy Spirit completely to His Body. The union–the oneness between Himself on the throne and those on earth was to be so intensely and divinely perfect, that He meant it as the literal truth: “Greater works than these shall he do, because I go to the Father.”
The most profound implication here is something that is emerging as a core value in our church plant: The Holy Spirit is not optional. I get uncomfortable when the missional conversation drifts toward talking merely about structures, strategies, paradigms, and models. It’s as if we believe that if we can just get our thinking straight, we could bring the kingdom on the strength of our elegant structures and radical models. We give lip-service to the Holy Spirit in that we assume he is working in and amongst all our planning, but I wonder if we need to make it a more explicit element of our practice.
If we are the truly the Body of Christ, then learning to operate every day in cooperation with the Head ought to be one of the first, most basic elements of training people to join with Jesus in his mission. The simple fact is that Jesus told us we could do nothing without him, yet we so stubbornly insist on trying! Because Christ has “gone to the Father,” he is able to communicate his power and presence “directly to His Body.” This is the only fuel for mission: the power of Christ. As we abide in him, we learn to allow his power to flow through us, and this is what changes the world.
Let’s admit it: we’re uncomfortable with this part of life in Christ, for a variety of reasons. We’ve seen it done badly. We don’t want to look foolish in front of others. We have more confidence in our intelligence than we do God’s power.
But we need to grapple with this issue and learn to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit every day, because even when we have the most elegantly-designed engine in the world, it won’t make anything move unless there is a constant supply of fuel pouring in. So yes, let’s design better structures. We need them! But let’s not forget that the fuel of mission is the power of God.