If the nature of the church is defined by the movement of the Holy Spirit, then we should certainly tarry in prayer. But what does it look like when the Holy Spirit starts to move? What, then, is the mission of the church?
In short, the mission is twofold.
- We are called to worship God
- We are to bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Throughout scripture these two points are consistent. God reveals himself to various people and groups they are moved with profound awe they in turn give God praise which turns into a mission to reveal God's nature to the world.
It is interesting that after God reveals himself to Moses and the freed Hebrew slaves, he tells them they will be a priesthood to the nations. The word priest finds its root in the word bridge. The call was to bridge the gap between broken humanity and God. Why? Our life is designed to be in relationship with God. Every seperation is a violent tear in our very being. Living in praise of God is an act of healing and bridging that gap.
One of my favorite examples of this is in Isaiah 6. It is a great picture of the mission of the church. Isaiah lament is that Israel has fallen so far away from God. They were supposed to be a bridge and now need a bridge themselves. Isaiah is praying and find himself in an encounter with God. He prays and says that he is ruined, wrecked by the revelation of the holiness of God before him. God touches his lips and makes Isaiah holy. In this moment of awe Isaiah is quiet. He listens.
Generally when people listen they are simply waiting for their turn to talk. We aren't really trying to understand or even learn from one another. We hear the words the other says, but only on the grounds that their words help me with my next thought. Holy Listening requires a surrender to agenda and will. It requires us to listen with a heart that says, "Jesus, it is your will not mine". That can only happen when we are in awe of God. Why would you surrender your will to anything less?
The mission of the church is to be in a place of holy listening. Paying attention to God is so important for in the listening we discover that, as Jürgen Moltmann writes,
"It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church, creating a church as it goes on its way." (Vickers, pg 51)*
Once we have found ourselves listening, humbled, and recognizing that we don't have a mission, rather we participate in the mission of Jesus, we can then not only hear God's call to us but be able to answer that call.
Isaiah heard the call of "who will go, who shall I send". Isaiah said, "Here I am, send me." Before Isaiah says send me, his worship is summed up in his phrase, "Here I am".
Where are you?
Next week I will address the second part of the mission of the church. We are called to Tarry in Prayer, but how then do we move in mission? What does it mean to bear witness to the death, life, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
*Jason Vickers, "Minding the Good Ground"