Summary: As title
I have a problem. Here I am stood in front of the joint congregations of Canford Heath and Longfleet. I have a sermon that I could have preached at either Church on a morning with only slight changes to the introduction. And before anybody says anything, yes, it is true, I do use my sermons more than once, but only if they are good ones. My problem is that I cannot preach it before a joint congregation with just one introduction. So tonight you are lucky, you get two introductions for the price of one.
For the members of Canford Heath, tonight I am going to be preaching about Mission. This should be something close to the hearts of each of you, it will not be long before we reach 2004, and Canford Heath Church stands or falls on its own. If you don’t start thinking about and moving out in mission now, it may well be too late. And if you think that those words are to dramatic, what would happen if I went up to Canford Heath on a Sunday morning and asked people in the shops where I could find Canford Heath Baptist Church? How many people would I have to stop before I found one who knows that you meet at St. Pauls? I would suggest that the answer I receive from many of the people I ask would be, “we do not know about them, but St. Paul’s Anglican is just over there.”
For the people of Longfleet, I want to mention something that happened when Captain Alan and his group were here. I got Thomas to invite some of his friends from school. They were all fairly local to this area, so I did not bother to write the address of the Church on the invitation, I just wrote at Longfleet Baptist Church. Do you know what five of the parents asked me (and that was out of ten invitations that were sent out)? “Where is Longfleet Baptist Church?” If we don’t start thinking about, and moving out in mission now, it may well be too late for this Church as well. Now I am sure that some of you will be thinking “But we are a mission church, we planted the Church at Canford Heath”. And you are right, Longfleet did do this some time ago, and God has allowed the church to have a rest since doing that. Even Jesus used to have times away from the mission field. But I believe that God is saying that this time is over now, it is time to get moving again, and sharing the good news with the people of this area who don’t even know that there are Christians meeting in this building.
God is a God of mission. We don’t see this any clearer than right at the start of Jesus’ ministry in the reading we had from Luke’s gospel. “He has anointed me to preach, he has sent me to proclaim, to release and once again, to proclaim.” It is with this fact that we have to start with in our thinking about mission. God is a missionary God, and it is His mission that is the only one we should be involved in. This means that any successful mission that we can accomplish must start with us seeking God and asking Him ‘What do you want us to do?’ As many of you know, I grew up in the Methodist church and they are great ones for holding meetings. In last week’s Methodist Recorder there was a large article giving advice on holding meetings. Many years ago, any mission event would start not with a prayer meeting, but with a committee meeting. Fortunately, many Methodist churches are now discovering that the time for starting mission like this has passed. If a mission is to be successful, it must be started by a group of people coming together and asking God ‘what is your mission plan for this Church today?’ A Church can do everything necessary to hold a wonderful mission, think of a good theme, invite the best speakers, train up all the counsellors and everything, but if that mission does not fit in with God’s plan, it will have little permanent effect.