This is an edited version of the talk given to a group of final year students at Moore College in 2019.
Setting and Achieving a Ministry Vision
We are looking at setting and achieving a ministry vision today. It’s important that we look at this topic, think about this topic. Coming out of college, what is the vision? What are we going to do with our lives? What are we going to do with the ministry that we conduct? What’s the aim? What’s the goal? What’s the direction? What’s the vision that we have?
How Not to Do Ministry
Most people, when they come out of college and start ministry, rightly do what the boss tells them to do. And the boss tells them to do what their boss told them to do when they were coming out of college. So, we just do whatever has been done, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Exactly the same kind of ministry.
I actually saw an old man who did it exactly that way. He came out of college in the late 1930’s. In the late 1980s he was still doing exactly the same style of ministry as the 1930s. It was a very depressing ministry that he was conducting but it was an interesting one in the style of which he did it.
He assumed that everybody in the community was his responsibility, and what he did was visit. He produced a parish newspaper which had all kinds of information about what was happening in the community, not necessarily the church. So, he would tell you the local district cricket results and football results and who was elected as school captain of the local school. It was a village newspaper that he published and then he went door to door for a month distributing it and talking to people. Then next month he would do the same. So, every person in the parish (it was a fairly small parish) was visited by him monthly as he gave his newspaper out to them and asked for a donation at the same time.
I took over from him in the ministry which is how I found out about what he was doing. He gave me his fascinating handwritten roll, with details and all kinds of information, all organised on street numbers. So, if I looked up Mr Smith or Mr Jones, I couldn’t find them. But if I looked up number 12 Albion Street there was a list of all the people who lived there. So, you actually had to do the same to actually make use of the roll. It was most useless and at the same time the most complete roll I’ve ever been given. Because for each family he could tell you the date of birth of all the children. He would tell you about their sickness, it was all there in the roll but organised by street numbers. He consistently visited like this, he alienated lot of people because of his bad manners and also alienated people because of his forthright gospel preaching. I mean he would write in this roll things like – ‘Roman Catholic family, I told them about hell’ and things like that very clearly and explicitly. I’m sure he did. ‘Mr and Mrs Jones three children none of them baptised though I’ve told them.’ He was very strong in his views. The congregation had three services on Sunday that he would be conducting. One of them was at 2:30 – 3 o‘clock in the afternoon because that’s when you have evening prayer in the 19th century, and this was the 20th century, but he was still doing it as in the 19th century. The combined congregation from the three congregations were six people. He would often be conducting the service and the register would have the number attending–one, that was him. But he would conduct the service nonetheless because that’s what you do.
So, there is a man of great faithfulness, but his vision of ministry was set by what he saw done. Now in that extreme case, you almost feel some kind of pity but frankly, it’s what most people do.
Why Do We Do What We Do?
Why do we do what we do in church? I mean what is the fundamental thing you do every Sunday in church, that every church always does? What is the thing? I travel around churches these days I’ve never been to one that doesn’t do it. What is it they all do? … They all give notices! Everyone has that. Most also have an offertory.
Why do we do what we do? How many songs do we sing? Why do we sing the number of songs we sing? Do we need to sing songs? What kind of prayers do we have? Do we have the Lord’s Prayer? Need we have the Lord’s Prayer? Do we have the Creed? Why do we have the Creed? Which creed do we have? If you are an Anglican, you have the Athanasian Creed thirteen times each year. I am yet to be at a church that does have the Athanasian Creed thirteen times each year, in fact generally when it is put on, people are astonished that there was the Athanasian Creed, let alone what it was all about and why we had it. Why do we have the Apostles’ Creed, and do we have to have the Apostles’ Creed? Do we have a confession? Do we have an absolution? What do you need to have in a church gathering? Well, if you are going to run a church, if you are going to be the minister of a church, what’s your vision for the church?
Setting and Achieving a Ministry
I want to go through this quickly. I have a set of notes, it is a talk I’m sorry, and then I want you to ask questions. I’ll rattle through this quickly under three headings.
For the ministry vision, you’ve got to start with God, and you. And you need to start it now. It’s not something you could develop later. The reason you are at college is to develop your mission vision in a sense. What is God’s vision for the world and where do you fit in that vision for the world?
Now because I am talking with college students even though, through the wonders of videos, I’m talking to everybody, I’ll give you the passages and just refer to them rather than spending the time reading them in detail.
a God’s Grand Scheme for Everything
Ephesians 1: 3-10 is a critical wonderful passage because it covers from before the foundation of the world in v4 to the time of the end in v10, so it gives you God’s grand scheme for everything. And God’s grand scheme for everything for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, because it is ‘in him’, ‘in Christ’, ‘in him’, ‘in him’ all the way spattered through this little passage. It is all one sentence in Greek of course. We chop it up in English, into sentences, but it is one long sentence in which Paul says we have received every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. Then he rattles out what the blessings are. From before the foundation of the world, there’s election then there’s predestination, there’s adoption, there’s redemption and then there’s the knowledge, the great knowledge of the mystery of God’s will, God’s plan from before the foundation of the world to sum up everything under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is God’s plan from beginning to end, from before the beginning to the end of the end. It’s to sum up everything, to bring all things under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the gospel, redeeming and adopting people in his kingdom. Electing and predestining people into his kingdom.
Or you can think of Romans 8. This short little one Romans 8:28-30. I have learnt it in the wrong translation, so I just need to read it Romans 8:28 to 30
“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose, for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called those he called he also justified, those he justified he also glorified.” (vv28-30)
People hear the passage that God is at work in all things for our good, but they then define ‘the good’ the way they want to define ‘the good’. So, God will give me whatever I want. It is used often when people are suffering which is not unreasonable. That is the context and so you know ‘what is God going to be working for my good?’ ‘well, my suffering will be overcome.’ A country and western singer’s dog will come home, his ute will be fixed, his guitar will find new strings and his girlfriend will come back. So, there is God at work in all the things for my good.
But the good that God is at work for in everything, in this passage, is to conform us to the image of Christ. Which may mean we are going to suffer more. He is the Man of Sorrows and a man of suffering, the suffering servant. It’s not a promise that we’re not going to suffer. It’s a promise that God is at work even in our suffering to make us like Christ. But that is not the plan of God. The plan of God goes beyond that. Why does God want to make us like Christ? In order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. We are being made like Christ, not for our sake but for his sake. We are never the centre of the universe. God is the centre of the universe, and his Son is the centre of the universe, and we are made for them. The Lord Jesus was not made for us. He gave his life for us; he loves us so much as to give his life for us. But in the end, he is the visible likeness of God, the firstborn of all creation and we’ve been made by him, through him and for him in Colossians 1.
b God’s Three Phase Historical Plan
So, to put it more prosaically rather than theologically, you go to the end of Luke 24 where right in the last scene, where Jesus is with the disciples. In verse 44 he says
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (v44)
I like the important little word ‘must’ – dei – in the Greek. There is a necessity about the fulfilment of the plans and purposes of God. God has spoken by his prophets and what he has said, he will fulfil. So, it must happen.
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (vv45-47)
Here is the three-phase plan of God. He reveals his plans and purposes through the prophets in the Old Testament over thousands of years, and then Jesus comes and in just three years of his public ministry, he teaches, he gathers his disciples, he is crucified, rises again and ascends to heaven. Then the third stage is ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all nations.’
So where do we fit into the plans and purposes of God? That’s in the third phase – that’s where we fit in. We are now in that phase when the name of the Lord Jesus is going out to the end of the earth. The disciples who were the witnesses in the first place, were given the promised spirit, so that they would remember everything they had been taught, so that they would be the witnesses to the truth, as he is the witness to the truth. But the ongoing work of the gospel is to the ends of the ages and is the spread of the name of the Lord Jesus, to all nations bringing repentance and forgiveness of sins.
c The Plans of God are not about you and your success
You’ll notice that the plans of God are not about you. They’re not dependent upon you and they are not about your abilities, your competencies as I want to call them (so that I can have a three-point alliteration later). It’s not about your successes. Kent Hughes wrote a very helpful little book for us some years ago called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. A very important thing for an American – Australians don’t expect to succeed but Americans ‘can do’.
The Sermon on the Mount is a very interesting, wonderful part of the scriptures but people do not take seriously enough the context of Matthew’s gospel. That is, people seem to take chapters 5 to 8, as one of the teaching blocks of Matthew’s gospel, and detach it from the gospel. There are books on the Sermon of the Mount which don’t mention chapter 4. Whereas chapter 4 is a key introduction. Verse 1 of the Sermon on the Mount
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. (v1)
It is in response to the crowds that Jesus teaches the Sermon on the Mount. The crowds are extraordinary. He called the disciples in chapter 4 verses 18-22 to fish for men. Then in verses 23 to 25 we hear of these massive crowds travelling for weeks to get to Jesus from all over the Palestinian area. From Galilea, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea. They continue to come to him for healing. And he does these miracles that are so extraordinary that his fame spreads everywhere because he heals every disease and affliction amongst the people. Because if you were genuinely doing a healing ministry of healing every disease amongst the people, there would be no stopping the crowds coming to you.
I mean even if I could wave my hand over here and everybody’s eyes were fixed so none of us needs glasses and if I said to you “Don’t tell anybody about it.” I guarantee there would be huge crowds lined up with glasses outside within forty-eight hours. You couldn’t resist telling somebody who would tell somebody else. The idea that you can have your eyes fixed just by a man waving his hand is just too good to be true, isn’t it? Everybody would turn up -I would turn up to have my hand waved over myself!
Jesus was doing miracles and there really were healings because there were crowds from everywhere. When he saw the crowds, he calls the disciples together and the fundamental of what he was saying is found at the beginning of chapter 5 and the end of chapter 7.
In the sermon, Jesus talks about the Kingdom and how the kingdom is for the little people, the struggling people, the mourners, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness etcetera. But then the barb comes in the verse 11 because up until then the Beatitudes in verses 2-10 are all about ‘them’; “blessed are those…, blessed are those…, blessed those…, blessed are you. The shift to ‘you’ is a very important shift and what’s the blessing for the fishermen?
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (vv11-12)
That is a stunning address to a group of men who just think that they have landed in the most successful ministry of all time. Jesus says, “Come fish for men”, so they come with him, and multitudes turn up. They think “I’m on a winner here.” Then he takes them aside and says, “you going to be beaten up and destroyed”. “That’s not what we signed up for! We signed up for thousands being saved, healed and rescued.” Jesus says “No, no you’re to be the salt, you’re to be the light, you are to be the city on the hill; that is, you are to be different to every else. When you’re different to everybody else they hate you. That’s what happens. If you’re the same as everybody else, they will love you.”
That may have been true in Palestine in the 1st century but let me tell you something – you must, underline the truth of it in Australia. Australians do not like anybody who is different. We are one of the most conformist societies. We have a thing, that the rest of the world doesn’t have, but we have it. It’s called, “cutting down tall poppies”. Nobody in Australia is allowed to stand out. In America, they love someone who’s a tall poppy. But we hate anybody who is a tall poppy, even if they are good. We like to have them pulled down to size. So, ‘you’ll be persecuted and hated’ is Jesus’ message to those who would fish for men.
When you go across to chapter 7 there’s a huge section of the sermon about the Law and the Prophets which goes from 5:17 through to 7:12. That’s how you are to be different in terms of keeping the law, in terms of your piety and fasting, your praying and your attitude towards money in chapter 6. In terms of your judgement of other people in chapter 7. You are to be different because you are to keep the law from the heart.
The applications of the sermon, as we would call it today, sadly occurs from verse 13 of chapter 7 to the end. There Jesus says enter by the narrow gate, there will be few in it. There will be many at the broad gate that leads to destruction but few at the gate that leads to life. And beware of false prophets because false prophets come in sheep’s clothing, but they are really wolves. Then he says, verse 21
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (vv21-23)
Do you think that fishing for people is simply about gathering huge crowds? Doing great miracles? No! It’s about being fundamentally different to everybody else; hated, reviled and persecuted in the name of the Lord Jesus. That’s what it’s about. The Sermon on the Mount is a very stark sermon. When people tell me they love the Sermon on the Mount I know they’ve never read it. If they did, they didn’t understand what’s happening.
d The Heart of Ministry
The heart of ministry has got to do with character and convictions, and that comes from the gospel. The idea of conviction is that firmly held belief and opinion that you have. The quality of showing that you are firmly convinced of what you believe. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 talks about “we are convinced, I have concluded: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.” Because of that, the love of God constrains me to proclaim the gospel in the face of opposition.
It’s the conviction that comes from the gospel, that interacts with your character. As you become more and more convinced of the truths of the word of God, so you change your character. And as your character changes so you gain greater convictions. In Christian living, you’re either spiralling upwards or spiralling downwards. The fool becomes more and more foolish through their immorality. The wise man becomes wiser through his obedience to the word of God. Convictions and character – it’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s a bounce back and forward kind of relationship as you grow in your understanding of the word of God. Because the way you are to be different to the world is in your heartfelt genuine spirituality of keeping the law; of praying and giving arms properly; of your attitude towards money that is right and proper. So, your character and your convictions are critical.
Your competencies: that is your ability to speak, your ability to sing, your ability to tap dance, your competencies are are cradled in the context of character and convictions. “c’ is a really good letter to do alliterations with. Your competencies are cradled in the context of character and convictions. If you don’t have your competencies there, your competencies will destroy you. Because you’re a great preacher – without character and convictions, you’ll be a false prophet leading people to hell. And because you’re good at it, you’ll lead lots of people! If you’re a crumby preacher, you wouldn’t be able to lead as many people to hell. You’ve got to have your competencies in that cradle of this character/conviction element. So, success is not the goal, faithfulness is the goal, but faithfulness is not the goal in itself – faithfulness must be to the purpose of ministry.
That is, some people see faithfulness like my old friend that I mentioned in the first place. He was doing what he was taught in the 1930s even though it was the 1980s. He was faithful. But his vision was not a vision of the gospel. He was not seeking to win the world to Christ, he was seeking to do what he’d been told to do. It’s like the Japanese soldier they found in the 1970s who was still waiting for the Americans to come. He was in the jungle pointing his gun, waiting for the Americans to come; he lived there thirty years after the war had finished, still waiting for them to come. You missed the point; you missed the war in fact.
e The End Goal
We have an end goal, that is to win people for Christ. That is to declare the forgiveness of sins, that is to see people repent. Take for example Paul in Colossians, the end of Colossians 1 where he is saying what he is aiming to do. (I read it in the NIV and that’s really unhelpful because it uses the word ‘end’ which makes it stronger actually than the text is saying.) Colossians 1:28-2:2
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all the energy that he powerfully works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those in Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts maybe encourage being knit together in love to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (1:28-2:2)
He has a goal in mind. His faithfulness is to the goal; his faithfulness is to the outcome. It’s not just to the input it’s to the outcome. We have an aim and a goal to present everyone mature in Christ; to bring all the world under the Lord Jesus Christ; to make Christ the firstborn among many brothers. Our goal is to call people to repentance and to declare the forgiveness that is available. And if we are faithful to the goal, things will happen. It may be that we will be the stench of death in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, or it may be that we are the sweet smell of salvation. But we won’t be nothing. If nothing is happening, then you’re not doing anything. Something will happen. They will hate you or they will love you, but they won’t ‘nothing you’ because that’s not the option that’s available to us. We are not just being faithful in the sense of passively doing the right thing, we are faithful in our intent of making Christ known. That’s my intent. I might fail to make Christ known but I’m working to make Christ known, wherever it may be.
What is the vision for the congregation? Given your life to ministry, what will be your gospel, your ministry vision for the congregation you serve? It’s not just gospel workers who need to hear the Bible and draw their vision of life and ministry from it. God’s vision is to unite all under Christ. To have Christ the firstborn among many brothers, to reach the nations with repentance and forgiveness and that involves every member of the congregation. So, the end of Ephesians 4.
… speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, jointed and held together by every joint with which is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (vv.15-16)
It’s not just the ministers, everyone who is a Christian is a minister. So, our task in ministry is to see every person engaged in it.
So, what’s the vision for the congregation? It starts with every member finding forgiveness in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the first and foremost thing you need to be doing is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection in order to call the congregation members to repentance, reassuring them of forgiveness as a top priority. Whatever else we do, we must form our fellowship on the basis of the gospel of Jesus. I’m sorry, most churches are not. Most churches are formed on the basis of being Scottish, if they’re Presbyterian or if they’re South African or formed on the basis of being royalists, if they’re Anglican. But we must base whatever we’re doing on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, whatever else, we must then, preach the word; that is the gospel. Not simply to bring salvation to people, though that’s true, not simply to bring glory to Christ, though that’s true, but also to form the base of the congregation and its gathering on the gospel. That is the reason for which we gather.
Liturgically the high watermark of church is the call to repent, the confession of sins and the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. That is the high point of a church gathering. I didn’t understand that properly for many years and in the liturgical variations of our – of my period of life, we stripped away from church all kinds of things and one of the things we stripped away was the weekly call to repent of sins, the declaration of the absolution. And I go to churches these days and there is no declaration of forgiveness of sin for people and there is no call for people to repent of their sins. It’s not part of church life. We will sing for half an hour, mindless, stupid songs very often. We’re very happy and very clappy, but we will not tell people about sin, and we will not tell them about forgiveness of sins. And we will not get them to tell God about their sins. – that’s apparently not an important part for us. Yet this is the phase of life that, in God’s plans, we are in.
We don’t draw what we do in church from the principles of the scriptures but from the practises that work – drawing the crowd and making people happy. A woman I met a while ago was raised in a charismatic church and family. But, though active in church and ‘speaking in tongues’ she said it wasn’t till her early 20’s that she was converted. She told me that one of the great changes that came about when she shifted out of charismatic churches into evangelical churches was to discover that the gospel is about sin. She’d always been raised hearing that the gospel was about having a fulfilled life, having a satisfying life, having an abundant life, having a good life, and you get all that from Jesus. But nobody said having a forgiven life because that would require you to talk about sin and judgement and condemnation and that’s all negative and you don’t make a church grow talking about negatives. So that was just never part of her experience in that kind of tradition. Well, they had Jesus, yes, but a different Jesus with a different gospel, very sad. However, she was wonderfully converted out of it. So, Evangelicals ditching the liturgical high water mark of confession and absolution, is a very sad thing.
Seeing that we are to form our fellowship on the gospel it is critically important that we hear the word of God. That reflects the purpose of the church in the Old and New Testaments. If you want to understand the church, you go to a passage like Hebrews 12, which talks about the heavenly gathering, and you’ll see that what it’s comparing and contrasting itself with is Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 4 is the passage that explains to you what church is about. That is where the people were assembled; it is the verb of ekklesia because church is a dynamic event rather than a static institution. It was ‘The Day of The Church’. Both Deuteronomy 9:10 and 18:16 talk about “The Day of The Church”. What was The Day of The Church? It was when all God’s people were gathered at Mt Horeb to hear the word of God. They had been rescued out of Egypt, taken through the Red Sea, wandering across the wilderness, all gathered there. And that’s where the great marriage service took place between God and his people, and they gathered to hear the word of God. And what Deuteronomy says is ‘keep teaching the word of God’, ‘teach your children’, ‘remember’, ‘do not forget’, ‘keep gathering to hear the word of God’. For that is The Day of The Church. The word ‘church’ ekklesia keeps being used in the Septuagint throughout Deuteronomy as the Assembly of God’s people, and that’s what our church is. So, in chapter 4, you’ll see that our relationship with God is not visual but auditory. You did not go to Mt Horeb to see God, in fact, you could not see God. You heard God, and the verb to hear is the same as the verb to obey. You harkened to God. You didn’t discuss, you actually listened in order to obey.
That is, the nature of church, the activity of church, and the direction of church is downward. Grasping that changes the way you run ministry, totally. The activity of church is downward, it’s God speaking down to us. It’s not upwards. Most people come to church in order to climb up to God, which is the exact opposite to the gospel. God comes down to man to reach out to humanity. We gather to hear God’s word to us, not to see him, not offer sacrifices or worship, but to listen obediently to God speak. And that listening to God speak, will change our life. So, it says in Deuteronomy 4:6-8
Keep them (the law) and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as Yahweh our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (vv6-8)
This is what we do; we gather together to hear the salvation that God has won for us in Christ Jesus.
This is the Church of the New Testament where the message we have is a better message because the church is a spiritual one not a physical one; we’re in Heaven not at Mount Horeb and the message is of Jesus’ blood which speaks a much nicer message than Abel’s blood because Abel’s blood called for vengeance. Jesus’ blood calls for mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, when we gather together in church it is to hear God’s word. Take, for example, 1 Corinthians 14 with the whole discussion of prophecy and tongues and the rest, in verse 26 he says.
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, (v26)
You gather together for the word. The word of Christ must dwell in you richly as you teach one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The word of Christ is what builds the church and builds the Christians in the church. This then frames your ministry vision for the church.
How do I teach, remind, promote, and declare God’s word to the congregation so that they will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the very words of God? That’s the vision. So many other things get in the way of that vision – good things, irrelevant things, distracting things. You’ve got to have a building, okay that means a building committee and a finance committee to look after the building. You can get so caught up in all the other activities that the thing that doesn’t get mentioned is the word of God. And when you gather together people want notices, and the treasurer wants the offertory, and the choir and the musicians have been practising all week and they don’t want to just do one thing they want a concert, and everybody wants everything except – hearing the word of God. When the very rationale and reason for which you were gathered is – to hear the word God. In particular, to repent and find forgiveness in the Name of the Lord Jesus. And so that is what we need to be doing.
I remember Boughton Knox said to me as I left college, he said to me “Phillip be careful. Whatever happens in church life, they will try and squeeze you out of the pulpit.” I thought that was a very strange thing to say to me. Broughton was a very wise old man and a very clever man, and I found through the next forty years of being in parish ministry, the one thing people wanted to do was squeeze me out of the pulpit. That’s exactly the thing that I was always being pressured to give up. But it was the one thing by which people were being converted, saved and church was being built – namely the word of God. That’s the essence of it.
Think of the Prayer Book in this regard too. Morning prayer – what you are supposed to do every day is that you gather together, What’s the purpose? “You meet together to render thanks for the great benefits you’ve received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise (that is to tell the great things he has done) to hear his most holy word, and to ask those things which are requisite necessary for the body as well as the soul.” That’s what church is about – the Anglican church. You then read the Bible. You read the Old Testament every year, you read the New Testament twice every year, and you read the Psalms every month, and you read Psalm 95 every day. Psalm 95 is the psalm that says, “Today when you hear his voice don’t harden your heart.” That’s a message said every day because Hebrews 3 and 4 tells you to do it that way. The Prayer Book was a very good thing, it understood church.
- God’s Vision is Reaching the World
But we’re committed to God’s vision for our ministry. We cannot limit ourselves to hearing God’s word for we must obey what God directs us. And we cannot limit the congregation to the congregation, for God’s vision is reaching the world. It is more than building my congregation. So, we are personally and congregationally to grow like the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we are going to grow like the Lord Jesus Christ then we must operate horizontally, outwards. Horizontally in loving one another in laying down our lives for the salvation of other people.
Christians must be committed not only to Jesus but also to the gospel. ‘You must lay down your life for my sake and the gospel’ says Jesus in Mark 8:35. Those unconcerned about the lost – are the lost! For a church that grows is a church that gives and goes. You can’t grow by giving and going but if you are growing in godliness, in Christlikeness, if you are being built then you will give money and you will go. You will give your sons to the gospel, and you will go. Over again I’ve had middle-aged people complaining about their sons giving up engineering, giving up law, giving up medicine and becoming missionaries. If you really are growing in Christlikeness, there is no greater joy than to see your children go into the world to preach the gospel.
So, our ministry vision is twofold at this point.
- Teach, motivate, train, organise the congregation in such a way that they can serve one another in love, and
- Teach motivate train organise the congregation in such a way that they are committed in practice to world mission.
We need to be looking at how we will reach the outsider with the truth of the gospel. Calling upon the outsiders to repent and declare to them the forgiveness of sin in the name of Jesus. A missionary-minded church is one that is growing like Christ, who sacrificed himself for the salvation of others.
In one sense you lead the Christians, in taking responsibility for the immediate missionary opportunities around about you: in the suburb or the network or the school, the work, the club. Whatever the opportunity is around you.
In another sense, you have to leave the Christians in taking responsibility for the world of humanity, outside, wherever they are. That’s done by raising up members to go into the world, leaving you, as full-time or part-time missionaries. And then prayerfully and financially supporting them. At the moment, it is a very great sadness that there are so few churches sending their young men and women into Moore College. This is a great sadness. It is not a sadness because Moore College is not doing well, Moore College is doing well. It speaks very badly of the churches. They haven’t got the mission of the world on their minds, they are so desperate to build their own empires, that they are not sacrificing their best for the cause of Christ across the world. The sign of true spiritual growth is self-sacrifice and congregational sacrifice.
So, what do we do? We preach the word in season out-of-season reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and teaching. You follow the example of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 doing everything that other people may be saved. Or look at him in 1 Thessalonians 2 where he describes himself – ‘I related to you like a nursing mother’ or ‘I related to you like a father to a son.’ His compassion for people, he says ‘we shared not only the gospel but also our very selves because you had become dear to us’.
The vision for ministry and the effect of ministry comes from the word of God in the life and person of the minister because you are living for this mission and you’re dying for this mission. The idea that you would have certain hours of work is a complete absurdity in Christian mission and ministry. You live your life and die your life for the salvation of the people around about you. You are not a detached person; you are a lover of the souls because how else can you teach them to love one another if you don’t love them. They are your joy; they are your crown on the day of Christ. You live and love and die for the people, and you set them the example of living and loving and dying. If you’re not concerned for the mission of the world, if you’re not evangelising your neighbours, the congregation won’t be either. So, you are not training them to be like Christ at all. I’m sorry so many of our churches haven’t got the right ministry vision to put it into application. Four years of Moore College is supposed to give you the right ministry vision.