Thursday 3 April 2014

God's mission - 2013 annual review


Most within the Chinese Church know us as the English Ministry. Some refer to our gatherings - quite rightly - as the youth ministry, with all their potential and zeal. But a friend recently asked me, “How is the international ministry at the Chinese Church?”

That really encouraged me - for us to be known as an international ministry of the Chinese Church - not because we’ve had hoards of people come to our gatherings (our average attendance is twenty!) but because (1) we’ve tried to be as welcoming as possible to newcomers (remembering Jesus’ words in Matt 25:38) and (2) we are part of God’s bigger plan to reach not simply the Chinese but all the nations of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The biblical word for this is, of course, mission. As I reflect on the happenings of 2013, I present them under three missional headings: (1) God’s mission in his word, (2) God’s mission in his world, and (3) God’s mission for his church.

1. God’s mission in his word

At the centre of all our gatherings has been the preaching of the bible as the Word of God. We began the year finishing the book of Galatians in a series entitled, “Unnatural”; looking at how unnatural our lives appear to an unbelieving world, how supernatural God’s work is in sustaining the believer’s faith and how spiritual fruit results in people living not for themselves but for Jesus Christ.

We spent most of the year covering Acts 1 to 14, beginning with the ascension of Christ, moving on to Pentecost and the birth of the church, quickly leading to intense persecution of believers, scattering the Christians across the Gentile world. We saw how God’s way is not necessarily our way when it comes to accomplishing his mission. God is able to use difficult circumstances, like persecution; even difficult people, like Saul, to bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Finally, we saw the birth of international missions: Paul and Barnabas sent out from a church they had planted in Antioch, which was incidentally, the first internationally-led church.

Our year-end series, “One-to-one”, was based on personal conversations with Jesus Christ as recorded in the first five chapters of John’s gospel. Each week, we heard Jesus speaking directly to individuals - to his friends, to his mum, to a theology professor, to a woman with a shameful past - different people with different circumstances; each time dealing with their presumptions and prejudices, each time revealing who he really is and what he came to do on the cross. In listening to Jesus speaking to them, my prayer was for God to enable us to hear Jesus speaking to us today.

2. God’s mission in his world

The Cambridge International Outreach (CIO) is a mission held each summer to reach language students. For two weeks, Winnie, Judy, Howai and Calvin joined a team of thirty Christians (who had also come from other parts of the world) to run language cafes and build friendships with internationals. It was a wonderful opportunity to work alongside brothers and sisters from other parts of the world in mission, to engage in meaningful conversations about Jesus with people who have genuine questions about the Christian faith and to be deeply encouraged hearing the gospel again and again for ourselves.

3. God’s mission for his church

Rock Fellowship had not just one, nor two, but THREE major retreats this year! Beginning with Word Alive in April, we took three cars up to Wales where we spent five days soaking in clear and inspiring teaching from the bible.

A couple of months later, we had our very first SOLID//ROCK Summer Weekend Away at Letton Hall, a majestic manor located in the beautiful English countryside of Norfolk. Bartow Wylie walked us through the entire book of Philippians to help us see what God sees when he looks at our lives in Christ.

We were back again in December for our Winter Weekend Away. This time, James Poole reminded us the reasons “Why we need the gospel” from the book of Romans - because of our sin, because of God’s anger over our sin and because of God’s solution to our sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

With regards to mission, the purpose of these retreats was never to get us to do something but to rejoice in what God has already done. God’s mission is fulfilled in the church; and these gatherings - not least the meetings we have each Sunday, and each Wednesday night at Rock Fellowship - are reminders of that endpoint to his mission: that the world might look at the church and marvel at God’s handiwork in bringing sinful men and women together into his kingdom through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:10).

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the work
That you finished
Through Jesus’ death on the cross

Forgive us when we forget that
It is your mission
and not ours;
Your glory that matters,
and not ours

Please give us the strength and courage
The faithfulness and the joy
To speak about Jesus
and to carry out his mission
To our friends, to our family,
And to the ends of the earth

In Jesus name we pray,

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