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Ten Characteristics of a Church on Mission - Part 5

Blog; Ten 5

By Pastor Scott Thomas, President Acts 29 Network

    We are examining the characteristics of a missional church.

    • Part 1 is found here where characteristics 1 and 2 are discussed.
    • Part Two is found here and examines the third characteristic.
    • Part Three is here and examines the fourth and fifth characteristics.
    • Part Four is here and explores the sixth characteristic.
    1. Understands the centrality of the gospel expressed in all aspects of a person’s life (1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2:2; Gal. 6:14).
    2. The missional church is committed to the authoritative, infallible, inerrant, inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-17; Acts 2:42).
    3. Gatherings are characterized by God-centered worship, preaching of the gospel, prayer, Lord’s Supper by penitent souls and baptism as a response to the gospel (John 4:23-24). 
    4. A missional church understands it has been sent by God as missionaries in their own culture (Mt. 4:19; John 20:21; Acts 16:20; 17:6) to make disciples of all peoples (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). 
    5. Boldly & intentionally promotes the gospel through making disciples and church planting globally through collaborative expressions of mercy and generosity.
    6. A missional church is dependent upon the Holy Spirit to empower and lead believers as agents for evangelizing and making disciples (Acts 1:8; Luke 4:1, 14, 18).
    7. Missional churches utilize relationships and sacrificial love as the expressions of love to others in their journey toward faith (Matt. 5:13-16, John 15:12-17, 1 John 4:19-21).

    “Christ wants to create ‘a people’ not merely isolated individuals who believe in Him.”[1] A disciple is a Spirit-empowered follower of Jesus who is united with a gospel community on mission for all peoples for the glory of God. A recent book by Dan Kimball entitled, “They Like Jesus But Not the Church” is illustrative of our culture’s skepticism with churches and Christians. The culture is not seeing Jesus in the church and frankly Christians are not seeing Jesus in the church and are not motivated to engage in authentic gospel community because they have little reference for it outside of the Bible's descriptions (Acts 2:42-45; 4:31-35).

    God is a missionary God and God’s primary missionary method is his covenant people. Mankind was made in the image of the triune God. God created us in that image as persons-in-community to be the means by which He would reveal His glory. As a result of sin, we grasp for isolation from God and His church.  When the local church allows this proclivity for seclusion, these image bearers of God fall short of His glory.

    The missional church moves out across the nations as a movement of people empowered and sent by Jesus while drawing people through its common life as a God-glorifying movement of believers and unbelievers alike back to Jesus. Steve Timmis writes, “Our identity as human beings is found in community. Our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community. And our mission takes place through communities of light.”[2]

    What community looks like is unique in every setting, just as every family is unique because there are a lot of variables and moving parts. But the family/community works out the details of their common mission because they are equally committed to each other and to their mission as Christ followers. Those in community do not act in isolation, but rather sacrifice their schedules, time, money, conveniences and individuality to serve the need. It is foreign to us that the believers in the first church sold their possessions and with singleness of heart gave to those in need. This deep unity and collaboration among the first church ignited the gospel proclamation that turned the world upside down. 

    The Book of Acts describes the Christian community in multiple ways that may lead to even greater deeds than are described in this canonical record.

    1. Self-sacrifice
    2. Commitment to relationships
    3. Pursuit of unity among the community of believers
    4. Goal of a common mission 
    5. Deep love 

    8. The goal of a missional church is to walk in community with others as Jesus pursues them in His own way and timing (1 Cor. 9:20-23).

    This gospel community includes believers and unbelievers. Jesus was criticized for including non-believers in community.

    “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matt. 11:19)

    Judas was a part of the disciples even as Jesus spoke about letting the tares grow up with the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30; cf. 1 Cor. 2:19). He spoke to the woman at the well when no one else would dare (John 4). Our interaction with unbelievers is not for the saving of mankind or for the building up of our church, but rather for the glory of God.

    The witness of Jesus to the lost woman of Samaria can be summarized in following way and provides for us a basis for our friendship with sinners.[3]

    1. Intentional – He was compelled to go through Samaria when others walked miles out of the way to avoid it (John 4:4).
    2. Conversational – He addressed a common need, water (4:7).
    3. Respectful – Contrary to culture, this male Jew spoke kindly to this disgraceful woman (4:7).
    4. Directional – He directed the conversation away from her perceived issue back to the gospel (4:10-15; 19-24).
    5. Convictional – He adequately addressed her sin without rubbing her nose in it (4:16-18).
    6. Confrontational – He confronted her with the truth of who He was (4:26).
    7. Missional – He met her on her turf and brought the gospel to bear in her life and she became the missional evangelist in Samaria (4:28-30).
    8. Attitudinal – To the broken people He showed compassion. To the religious people He demonstrated unacceptance of their self-righteousness. To those who followed Him, He expected nothing less than absolute surrender.

    Look over the list of eight ways Jesus approached this woman and examine your heart to see if you interact with lost people in a similar manner.

    [1] Sinclair Ferguson, Grow in Grace (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989), p. 67.
    [2] Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2008), p. 50.
    [3] Alvin Reid, Evangelism Handbook (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2009), p. 63.