Summary: The mission of the Church is really to participate in God's mission to the world. He sent His Son to undo the effects of the Fall, reconciling us to God. The work of the Church, then, is to work to undo the effects of sin in our world.
Some of you may remember a movie that came out about 25 years ago. The film was a story of redemption and it featured two prominent theologians of the time, Jake and Elwood. If you saw the movie The Blues Brothers, which you probably shouldn’t have, you’ll remember that line they use a number of times is, “We’re on a mission from God.” Well let me tell you, if you are a follower of Jesus you really are on a mission from God.
Today is our annual missions Sunday and we have invited a number of our mission partners to join us this morning for the Missions Fair over in Kleberg Hall. So today I want to talk about the importance of missions in the church. Let’s start with the most important question, What is mission? When I was growing up I remember our church supported a missionary couple in Mexico who would come speak to the church every few years with his slide show and some items made by the people he worked with. At some point we began having what they called “mission dinners” following worship once a month where some of the church members would cook and you could purchase lunch. The profits went to the missionaries we supported. I am not criticizing the importance of the church supporting full-time missionaries. But there’s more to missions than just sending money.
The problem today is that we have “professionalized” missions. We say, “Mission work is for professional missionaries” and so we give a little money to help support them and we feel like we’ve done our part. Missiologist David Bosch says, “Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God.” He goes on, “Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.”
The word mission comes from the Latin word that means “to send.” When we talk about the mission of the church we’re talking about God sending us to participate in His mission. What is God’s mission? We just heard it in 2 Corinthians 5. Beginning in verse 17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” God the Father sent the Son so that you and I would be reconciled to God. But not only did Jesus come to save us, he gave us a job to do. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Paul then says, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”
That points us to the mission God has for you and for me in the world. In our reading from Genesis 3 we learn the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin of disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit. But this is where we also learn of our work in the world as followers of Jesus and as his church. The mission of God is to restore what was lost in the Fall and that’s where we are to work as well.
Let’s look closely at the effects of that sin. The first and most significant consequence was that our relationship with God was broken. Verse 8 says that they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.” You and I do the same thing. We distance ourselves from God. We try to hide. We pretend God can’t see us when we sin. When you recognize that tendency in yourself then you will be better able to help other people. When you understand that there is more going on inside a person than what you see on the outside, you realize that all of us are trying to hide from God, you will be able to love people enough to truly help.
Genesis 3 ends with Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden. They no longer have direct access to God. In fact, God placed the cherubim and the flaming sword to keep them from getting back in. There’s no going back. You and I can’t get back in, either. The only way to repair the relationship is for God to act. And that’s what He did by coming in the person of Jesus. God sent His Son to restore the broken relationship. We participate in that mission by pointing people to Christ. All Christian missions will help people know Jesus.