The church has always been challenged in maintaining an effective and healthy witness of the faith beyond the walls of its buildings. Every revival throughout the history of the church was started because the fellowship of believers was awakened by the Spirit to witness to their faith in public settings. This movement from the private (or inward) faith behavior to an intentional engagement with the needs and well–being of the secular community is what has kept the church alive, bringing renewal and revival to the body of Christ. Without the public witness of the faith, the church has no purpose other than slowly dying.
This writing aims to start the conversation about what it means to be a missional church. It addresses the theological question of what it means to believe in Jesus and follow his teachings; the end purpose of the mission of the church; and the challenges that the church faces regarding the privatization of the faith. These topics will be presented in a series of six reflections.
Do As I Say
In Luke 6:46 we read, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” Jesus said this to a crowd that was following him, questioning how they were witnessing to their faith. This, indeed, is a hard question that lands with a punch. Jesus was challenging his audience not only to believe in him but also to do what he was teaching them and live in the way he was modeling because by doing what he said, we will find life and wellness for ourselves. Jesus uses an example: those who listen to what he says are like a strong and well-built house, and those who ignore him are like a weak house poorly built on the sand.
This statement reveals that acknowledging Jesus as Lord is not the whole of the gospel – hence the challenging question. These people were claiming to know Jesus but were failing in doing what he was telling them. Evidently, this bothered Jesus, for his mission was not just so we may be saved, believe rightly, or have the right religion, but to show us the way and truth towards the fullness of life through his teachings and doings (Acts 1:1). Jesus is not only concerned about what we believe about him but about what we do with what he has given us.
Do You Know Me?
To grasp the significance of this passage further, consider why Jesus repeated the word “Lord” two times. There is a reason for this within the context of the whole Bible. When the Bible repeats a person’s name it is to imply a sort of intimacy. This is both a cultural and Hebrew language dynamic. Examples of this are found in stories like God speaking to Abraham at Mount Moriah; as Abraham is about to plunge a knife into the breast of Isaac, God says, “Abraham, Abraham.” When God encourages Jacob to take the trip to Egypt in his old age, God says, “Jacob, Jacob.” When Moses was called to free his people: “Moses, Moses.” And when God calls Samuel in the middle of the night, “Samuel, Samuel.” We also have Jesus’ cry of desperation from the cross, “My God, my God.” In each case the names are repeated for intimacy’s sake, strongly implying: “I know you.”
So when Jesus asks the question, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and then do not do what I say?” it seems like maybe he was trying to say, “Why do you act like we are close, why do you pretend to have this deep relationship with me and then do not do what I say?” This was a question for those who claimed to follow Christ yet whose actions showed differently or at least did not go far enough.
From Salvation to Spiritual Formation
This is also reinforced by Jesus choosing the name “Lord” to refer to himself. It is theologically significant. The title “Lord” refers to someone who has dominion, control, and influence over others. For someone to call Jesus “Lord” implies that Jesus has dominion, control, and influence over his or her life; that one has surrendered wholly to him. In other words, the title of Jesus as “Lord” needs to be more than a word on our tongue because calling him “Lord” only and without doing what he says doesn’t make him so in our lives.
This is one of the most critical and consequential lessons for our faith: God is not only concerned about our salvation but also about our formation and wellbeing. Of course, one must confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, but then this confession must also be followed by doing what Jesus says. His lordship is not only for confessing what is right but for living rightly. Jesus is basically saying: “You got me right, I am ‘Lord, Lord.’ You believe and confess right. But, come on, now you have to live up to it!” The confessing is for our salvation, but the following is for our formation (sanctification) and accomplishing God’s mission.
One of the main struggles of the church is believing and doing. To talk about the impact of a theology of transformative mission in the life of the church – public and private – is to challenge our understanding of what it means to be in mission not just for the sake of salvation (believing/confessing right) but for the sake of transformation (living/doing right).
It is a critical concept. Many churches seem to be mostly concerned about the salvation of people, and because of this, they struggle to be relevant to the everyday needs of their secular community. One may argue, “but isn’t salvation the most important aspect of our mission?” It is, indeed, but by looking at Jesus, we learn that he was also fully engaged in meeting the needs of all people whether they care about his message or not. What he said and did were one and the same thing. His speech and deeds were congruent.
The question to ask is this: is the church called to be and do more than salvation? In the next post, we will explore the purpose of the church in relation to its mission.
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