You Know You Have a Mission

Rhys Thomas

Colorado Family Camp 2018


What is your mission in life?  People have all sorts of goals and aspirations, but generally those change throughout their lives.  Does God have a mission specifically for you?  If you believe that you have free will, that your choices are real and not a great deception put upon us by God, then, no, God has not plotted out a specific mission for you, which is a great relief.  You can stop trying to figure out which specific path is supposed to be yours and only yours.  Instead, every decision you make (good, bad, or indifferent) puts you in a place.  Plot your path from there, accounting for the fact that God has made specific promises about the help that is available to you.  You can’t change the past or any of your decisions that got you to where you are, but you can set your course for the future.  Of course, your future rarely goes the way you planned.  But, that’s OK, too.  Plan from the next place where you are.  God can work with that.

But that does not mean that God is indifferent about which way you should go.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to play out the natural characteristics of Biblical faith.

Some years ago, I looked up all the passages that contained the word faith (the noun) or believe (the verb) and sorted them according to what they told me about the characteristics of what God calls faith.

  • The first was evidence; Biblical faith must be based on physical evidence: verifiable history, predictions, the resurrection, and such like. This implies that you know the evidence.  Without evidence, our faith is worthless.
  • Second, we must know what a Biblical sacrifice is and that we need one. Sacrifice is not giving up something you would rather keep; that’s pagan sacrifice.  Biblical sacrifice is a celebration of redemption with family and friends in the presence of God.  I need that redemption because, until Jesus came along, we all were, to one degree or another, on the wrong side of justice.
  • Third, based on physical evidence, we must accept that the Scriptures are true. Again, this implies that I know the evidence and what is in the book.
  • Fourth, we must have a realistic and confident hope of heaven.
  • Fifth, we must make decisions based on what God has promised without knowing how He is going to pull off the impossible parts, which implies that we know what those promises are.
  • Sixth, we must be in the process of taking on the divine nature. Again, this implies that we know what the divine nature is.
  • And finally, getting back to the question about your mission, we must be evangelistic. For our claim to faith to be real, we must spread the message.

Everyone who makes a claim to faith has this mission.  But what are the details of my mission?  This is where the Christian world tends to start guessing.  The best way to answer the question would be to read through the New Testament with that question written on a 3 x 5 card sticking out of the top of your Bible.  Every time you find a passage about ordinary, generic Christians and evangelism, write it down.  When you are done, look them all up and make your list.  Leave out the ones aimed at special people.  The apostles had several very specific things to get done.  We are not apostles.  In my opinion, the best passage (meaning the longest with the most details) is 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5.  We can be certain that this is addressed to the ordinary, doesn’t-have-it-all-together Christian because 4:1 starts with “Therefore.”  The end of chapter 3 say, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.”  “We all,” not just apostles.  In fact, not just those of great faith.  The congregations of Corinth were composed of a bunch of misfits and weaklings.  If it could go wrong, it went wrong in Corinth.  Yet, they were charged with evangelism as a natural outgrowth of faith.  They had a mission, and their mission is the same as our mission.

How do I know that evangelism is a natural outgrowth of faith?  Look at 4:13, “We have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke.’  We also believe and therefore speak.”  It does not say, “Drop money in the plate on Missions Sunday.”  It does not say, “Be a good person.”  Psalm 116 and 2 Corinthians 4, Old Testament and New, faith results in speaking about it.

But many object, “I’m no good at speeches.”  He didn’t say speeches, he said speak.  My experience has been that far more people come to faith through one-on-one conversation than through sermons.  You don’t need to know the exact right response to every question – you can ask your favorite resource person later and get back to them.  Chapters 4 and 5 give the message for our mission, the subject matter that works.

The first guaranteed method for our mission, in 4:1, we do not lose heart.  Did Paul have a few bad days?  Every Christian will suffer.  Peter guaranteed it (1 Peter 4:12 – 19).  Here, in 4:8 – 12, Paul lists areas in which most people are destroyed by life, but we not only endure but also triumph.  We do not lose heart.  How is that evangelism?  Because people will ask how you do it.  You tell them. “We have received mercy.”

That word, mercy, has been badly abused in Christianity for the past 1000 years.  If you look it up in something a bit more scholarly than Vine’s dictionary, you will find that mercy is one step beyond compassion, that extra step being a compelling desire to fix the problem that caused the pain.  For example, you can have compassion for someone with a chronic disease by providing comfort and assistance until the episode passes.  Or, you can have mercy and obtain the treatment or medicine to fix the problem at its source.  God had mercy on us by giving us the Spirit who transforms, fixing that which has been our chronic disease – our damaged characters.

When people want to know how you can handle life while they are falling apart, you have the perfect opportunity to talk about the work of the Spirit who dwells in every faithful person.  We all have this mission.  And, if no one is asking, you might want to check the image you are projecting about your adversity.  Your ability to handle the chaos and injustice of life should be compelling, not just slightly better.

A second method for our mission, (4:2) we renounce the hidden things of shame, which are, in this case, manipulating people with deceitful renditions of Scripture for power and wealth.  Of course, every religious teacher sounds good.  Many of them honestly believe what they teach because they have never questioned what they were taught.  Many insist, “But that is what the Scriptures say,” when, in reality, everyone suffers from flaws in reading comprehension due to the cloudiness imposed by strongly held beliefs.  Instead, we question ourselves constantly, and thereby grow.  We look up every passage related to the topic at hand, not just the one passage that seems to make me right.  We even have the courage to say, “I’ve never found an answer for that in the Scriptures.”  How is this evangelism?  Your reputation for simple, complete, logical answers will cause people to come to you.  If they are not, you might want to review your recent answers from the vantage point of unbelievers.  That your explanation makes sense to you is unimportant.  Your message must be simple, concise, and reasonable to them.

A third method for our mission (4:7), “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”  How does this work and how is it evangelism?  Remember the promises of God, those promises upon which we base our decisions even though we have no idea how God will ever pull it off?  If we know and act upon those promises, we will routinely have unbelievable things happening around us.  I’m not talking about the ones you can’t prove.  Certainly, we should pray for small stuff as well as big stuff.  We need to be comfortable with not knowing whether God changed history just for me, or if it would have worked out that way even if I were an atheist.  For example, last month we drove to southwest Virginia to attend our #2 grandson’s high school graduation and to watch several of his high school baseball games.  Spring rains are common in those hills and were exacerbated by Tropical Storm Alberto.  So, I put in a few requests that the games would not be cancelled.  Well, Alberto did not amount to much and pop-up afternoon thunderstorms 20 miles away failed to come our direction.  Can I prove God did it just for me?  No.  But I did learn that I need to be more specific, because three of the games were played in the rain.

But, I do have a long list of events for which the power of God is the only logical response: transformed lives ranging from anger management to addiction, medical miracles complete with MRIs 24-hours apart that show unexplainable changes, money appearing from seemingly nowhere at the right time to pave the way for an evangelistic opportunity, and the list goes on.  God makes the humanly impossible happen for evangelism.  People need to look at us and skip right over thinking that you and I are marvelously talented or in some special relationship with God and go straight to concluding that God does stuff for ordinary, untalented, fragile people.  They will want to know how to be a part of that.  Again, if they aren’t asking, then either you aren’t speaking or your claims aren’t sufficiently well documented.

A fourth method for our mission (4:15), “grace, having spread through many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”  Grace is the collection of God’s positive character traits.  Glory is a parade of whatever makes you noteworthy.  For example, remember when the sons of Laban complained that Jacob was stealing their glory because Jacob was eclipsing them in the livestock market?  In God’s case, His glory is a parade of His character traits, which is exactly what happened in Exodus 33 and 34 when Moses was given one wish.  Moses requested “Show me Your glory.”  God showed Moses His goodness, quality, graciousness, compassion, mercy, longsuffering, truthfulness, and justice.

One of the major tasks of the Spirit who dwells in the faithful is character development.  The gracious natures of the faithful should cause observers, outsiders, to thank God, effectively causing a parade of those godly characteristics.  The obvious transformation of the faithful should be an attraction.  Outsiders should be asking how this works.  And if it is not happening, if the congregation is characterized by turmoil, divisiveness, and selfishness, it is time to work on being filled with the Spirit.

The fifth method for our mission (4:17 – 18 and 5:16), we are focused on the unseen and we regard no one according to the flesh.

What does it mean to be focused on the unseen?  Of course, that is not a normal point of view.  All the information from which we have learned, all our lives, has been through our physical senses.  Trying to focus on that which is outside of those normal physical senses is, to say the least, disconcerting.  Getting a handle on the connection between our intellects and our characters, between our minds and our spirits, let alone the connection between spirits, is not normal dinnertime conversation.  But, the fact that we are willing to discuss such things as readily as the in-season sport should cause people to ask about it.  If we are groaning to be clothed with our eternal self (5:2), people who know nothing more than the disappointments of life on earth will be interested.  Those who are afraid of death will want something better than fear of the unknown.

In addition, because we are to evaluate people by their spirits, not their earthly qualities, we will be attractive to a great number of people at the margins of society.  As an example, we have a prison in Fulton, and a half-way house next door, outside the wire.  Most people getting out of prison are penniless: no job, no car, no place to live, maybe a change of clothes.  The half-way house gives them a cheap place to live as they accumulate a few dollars to get started again.  And, the half-way house will transport them to church services.  One Sunday a few months ago, a young man showed up.  We treated him like a human being, fed him at our weekly potluck, and took an interest in him and how things were going.  The next week, there were two.  Then five.  Then ten.  Certainly, a home-cooked meal was a big attraction.  But more than that, they really liked being accepted as they were.  Some have fallen back and are behind bars again.  But they tell those just getting out to give us a shot.

It’s not about teaching them the right Scriptures and the right practices.  It’s about seeing dead people and bringing them back to life.  Like 5:11, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.  As in 5:14, the love of Christ compels us.

Even in the few weeks that Paul was in Thessalonica the first time, Paul instilled in those new converts an attitude that caused the gospel to spill out of them constantly.  As Paul wrote back to them not long after that first, abbreviated stay (1 Thessalonians 1:8), “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.  Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.”  Speaking about faith was normal for them, as it should be for all faithful people.

Peter (1 Peter 3:15) wrote to the Jewish Christians of central Turkey, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”  Therefore, people were asking.  Of course, a large percentage of the population cares nothing about God and never will.  This technique outlined by God in 2 Corinthians is about doing what normal humans can’t do, and then fielding questions about how to get in on it.  Many people want to overcome themselves; they just don’t know how.  Many people want to be able to handle life in an obviously broken world; they just don’t know how.  We do.

And one last point about our task before moving on to the nuts and bolts, Ephesians 3:10 says that we have an even larger audience, “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies.”  We also teach angels how this faith stuff works.  Even when the outsider humans aren’t being responsive to the supernatural, the angels are learning.  Sometimes, admittedly, we teach by negative example, “OK, guys, I know you saw that.  But that wasn’t quite right.  I was trusting myself and flopped.  Try harder, fail bigger.  What I should have done was trust the boss.”

If it is my mission to connect with outsiders, when it finally happens, what am I supposed to talk about?  This second of the three parts of this lesson is the shortest, because the subject matter is pretty simple.  It has to be.  It’s for people.

Sticking with 2 Corinthians (5:18 – 21), “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us, ‘We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.’”  All faithful people are ambassadors from Christ’s kingdom to all outside its borders.  God is pleading, not threatening.  The faithful are imploring, not condemning.  The objective is reconciliation, implying that a relationship existed in the past.  God wants that fellowship, that connection between spirits, restored.

This is our subject matter.  Outsiders who care about the unseen will recognize the opportunity.  Outsiders who think only in terms of personal comfort or position will not.

1 Corinthians 2:12 – 14  “We, moreover, have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is out of God, that we might know the things that have been granted to us by God, which also we speak, not in words of human wisdom but in those the Spirit teaches, communicating spiritual things by spiritual means.  Further, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for indeed they are foolishness to him; nor can he understand, because they are spiritually discerned.”  Talk about spirits; those who can still rise above will listen.  In fact, spirits is our only subject matter: faithful spirits, dead spirits, connected spirits, God is a spirit, the character of spirits, and so on.  Have you noticed that the subject matter is all about the unseen?  The New Testament does not focus on physical responses like obedience and practices, but on character development.

1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  We don’t talk about failure, we talk about what a wonderful guy God is.  He is patient; He is kind; He is gentle; He actually wants you back, warts and all.  He calls us out of confusion and pointlessness and frustration into a life that matters, that is described by peace and joy and purpose.

In this mission of ours, we have methods, we have subject matter, but what is our message?  God is pleading for reconciliation; God is interested in the part of you that lasts forever, your character.  He can fix the broken parts.

But what was that part about “calling”?  1 Peter 2:9, “That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  I’m sure you have heard people speak confidently about being called by God to this or that, which is a concept not found in the New Testament.  Other than people like the apostles and prophets who got special powers to prove their calling, no one was called to a specific task.  Everyone who makes such a claim is just blowing smoke.  So, the third part of this lesson is about the calling of God.  What is it, really?

Why do people start coming to church?  Why did you?  I suppose there are as many reasons as there are people.  Some start associating with whatever church they picked because they decided that something in their lives needed to change.  Others have always been there – that’s how they grew up.  Others are looking for social interaction.  Some really don’t know why they started – it just seemed like the right thing to do.  Some heard about this God stuff and decided to check it out.  I cannot say that one reason is better than another in terms of starting out.  But I can say that some reasons may not work as well as others in the long run.

For example, if you started checking out this God stuff because you thought it would make your life run smoothly, you are likely to be disappointed.  Certainly, church may help you stay away from some behaviors that would land you in prison, but you are just as likely as anyone else to be hit by a drunk driver, lose everything in a fire, or get cancer.  Some people give up on church because their major motive for going was to have a comfortable life.  If that’s why they came, we need to fix that perception quickly and substitute something that works over time.

Many come to church because they admire this or that church leader.  Then the leader messes up, big time – makes headline news, and not in a good way.  So they quit.  If that’s why they came, we need to fix that perception quickly and substitute something that works over time.

So, again, I’m not saying that any reason to latch onto the gospel is bad.  If it got you here, I’m happy.  But, there are some motivations you might consider that are in the New Testament as guaranteed reasons that won’t fall apart later.

What are the guaranteed attractions that will work over the long haul?  In this mission of ours as ambassadors, how do we flesh out that simple message of being reconciled to God, and of thinking in terms of your eternal part, not your temporary part.  Here’s my top five mission statements.

The first part of the message with which we call is the goodness or, depending on the translation, the kindness of God.  Romans 2:4, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

God is a really good guy, to the extent that you are inclined to make Him a role model because He has it together and has demonstrated that He knows how to live a joyous and meaningful life on this earth.  Unfortunately, many have been introduced to God on an authority basis, so they follow out of fear or obedience or self-interest.  That is not the point.  Rather, we turn around because His character attracts us

Unfortunately, through most of its history, the church has focused on the wrath of God, punishment, heaven-and-hell, so people didn’t see much goodness.  Most people came to church because they didn’t want to go to hell.  That is not how the Bible presents it.  Every place where fear is used in connection with a faithful person, that fear is for the fate of the outsiders, never for themselves.  Of course, many people became regular church-goers because of the message of the wrath of God.  But, it doesn’t work over the long haul.  People get tired of being afraid all the time.  Constant negativity is just depressing.  It is the goodness of God, not the wrath of God, that has the greater and longer-lasting impact.

Of course, goodness among people doesn’t always work out so well.  Manipulative people, opportunistic people, self-centered people tend to try to take advantage of good people.  Do those con artists really think that they are clever enough to take advantage of God?  As Paul put it, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and patience?”

God can afford to be just plain good – the nicest guy around: patient and gentle and understanding – somebody you would like to hang out with because it is peaceful and interesting and safe.  He even went to the trouble of coming to earth – like John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  Jesus, God in the flesh.  So, He understands life on earth, and how disappointing it can be.  On top of that, He paid off our debt to justice, to the right-and-wrong system.  And, on top of that, He pushes aside our well-deserved reputations as colossal flops and trusts us anyway.  The goodness of God leads us to turning around, to waking up to the possibilities of a satisfying life.

And how can I get a good look at this goodness?  If you are into reading – even just short things – I suggest the psalms.  In a lot of them, the author starts out with a complaint, but by considering the goodness of God, the poem turns around.  Or, if you just want to think on the idea rather than read it, ponder what it would be like if you were God and you were taking a look at someone who has your history.  Would you want to hang out with you?  Would you trust you?  God does.  It takes a lot of patience, gentleness, understanding, and kindness to do that.

The second part of the message with which we call is His virtue and character, from 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”

The way that God played out His life on earth, the life of Jesus, gives us a realistic, down-to-earth picture of what God’s character looks like when put into practice in this messed up world.  Jesus was a real person who lived in a country under military occupation with no hope of advancement or justice or freedom.  He wasn’t some air-head who floated through life on philosophical nonsense.  Jesus was kind and patient and understanding with those who needed that.  He was pointed and harsh with the self-righteous.  He even turned to violence twice, that we know about, when He drove the animal sellers and money-changers out of the Temple with a whip.  And, by the way, He was using that whip in full view of the local police – and they decided it was time for a donut, or perhaps a bagel, because they weren’t going to mess with someone who was that obviously right.

And how do I gain that mental image of this guy, Jesus?  Of course, there are the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And, if you are into reading short stories, you can picture how it all happened.  It’s an easy read, made for the common man.  The speeches Jesus made are entertaining.  Look for the humor.  Jesus was by no means stiff or boring.  I picture Him using lots of body language and arm motions and gestures to sort of act out the parables in a dramatic, even sometimes hilarious way.  If reading isn’t your thing, there are CDs.  Several quality movies have been made.  Whatever works for you is fine.  Put yourself in the scenes, first as the observer, then as Jesus.  What would you think about what Peter just said?  Or the Pharisees.  Or questions from the crowd.  When you get the picture in your head, you can relate to God a whole lot better – because you know Him.

The third part of the message with which we call is through His promises.  And these are not just theoretical, complicated doctrines about things I can’t see.  These promises are concrete.

I’ll use Acts 2 as my example, although there are hundreds of such examples in the New Testament.  Peter and the apostles were displaying some fantastic stuff, so the holiday crowd knew that these guys spoke for God.  Peter started off reminding them of current events – about the execution of Jesus which everyone knew.  Then he attested to Jesus’ resurrection, which was also local big news.  It had happened seven weeks prior, and two governments were expending every resource to find that body.  Everyone knew that something big had happened, not to mention the three hours of darkness at mid-day witnessed by millions, the earthquake, and many formerly dead people seen walking through town.  Peter reminded them of what the prophets had predicted and pretty much sealed the deal, proving that Jesus had been that long-awaited Messiah around which the whole Jewish religion had been built.

The people in the crowd were in a panic.  They knew the history of their country, how God had reacted negatively to previous national embarrassments.  Now they had messed up the biggest event in history.  Any sensible person would think, “We’re toast.”  So they holler out to Peter, “What should we do?”

Peter answered, “Repent.”  That meant, “Wake up,” or “Turn around,” or “Pick another path before you run off a cliff.”  Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized.”  He was saying, “Demonstrate that you agree with what I’m saying, that Jesus really was God in the flesh, on earth, that you buy into the promises that He made.”  Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized upon the name of Jesus, the Christ.”  The name of someone was not what you called him, it was his nature, his essential quality.  They were to commit to these promises because of Jesus’ virtue and character, not because of authority.  Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized upon the name of Jesus, the Christ, into the remission of sins.”  Jesus had already paid off everyone’s debt to justice some weeks previously when He offered His own blood in the tabernacle in heaven, described toward the end of Hebrews 9.  Being baptized said that you buy into that purchase, that you will let go of your own past and leave it behind.  Most people hang on to their guilt and their mistakes as though those things defined them.  Letting go of them is difficult.  But, that’s what Peter said.  Finally, Peter added, “And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

That’s the promise part.  How are we going to fix ourselves after spending years messing ourselves up?  Jesus promised that we would get help – called the Holy Spirit – whose major function was to fix what ails you, to repair the holes you have torn in your character, to give you purpose and importance in a world where you likely have neither.  And, as the New Testament records, there are about 500 more such promises that end up with growing the character that God is looking for.  If God is going to let people live with Him in heaven forever, they had better be the right sort, or they will shortly make heaven just like earth, only longer.  That’s what those promises are for – promises that we can be reformatted into the right kind of folks

The fourth part of the message with which we call – liberty.  You might be justifiably skeptical about this new creation stuff.  Maybe I don’t want to be the kind of person the Spirit is going to massage me into.  Certainly, we want to let go of the parts that hold us back, that wreck our relationships, that make us misfits.  But there are parts of me I sort of like and I’d like to keep them.

The New Testament repeats over and over, like in Galatians 5:13, “You have been called to liberty.”  Or, 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  We can all be different.  It is not that God just puts up with our quirks.  He genuinely values and encourages them.  He wants us to be different from each other – even to an extreme degree.  He just wants everyone to agree on two fundamental axioms of divine geometry: trust God, love people.

Trust God – when God says that He will remake the damaged parts of your personality, accept it as a sure thing and go with it.  Love people – do what is best for others without regard to yourself.  Beyond that, being a little weird is a good thing.  It keeps us all on our toes.  Can I love people who are different than I am?  Very different?  Can I trust God when He has not given me a clue how He is going to pull this off?

The founders of our country saw liberty as a really big deal.  But what if you lived in some run-down, backwater little junkyard of a country in the Third World that was run by some petty, ruthless, truly evil dictator?  Could I depend on God to get political liberty?  Free speech?  Free press?  The right to have and bear arms?  Not likely.  But, no matter what, you have the right to be you.  Even if the government kills you for it, God’s got your back.  Really, are you so in love with this place that you would not rather get rid of this hunk of flesh and hang out with those who really appreciate you for who you are?  Of course, this liberty does not include doing bad stuff.  Don’t abuse the liberty of someone else; you don’t get to do that.  But, personal liberty is what the Good News is all about.  That is a draw, a calling, you can hang your hat on.

And, finally, my fifth part of the message with which we call is peace.  Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, into which also you were called in one body, and be thankful.”  But what is this peace?  Nearly all of the letters in the New Testament begin and end with the hope that the recipients will experience peace – and those people lived in some rough times.

In those letters, peace is the opposite of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and the desired normal state.  Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, contrasted peace with darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79).  The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6).

Peace is a gift from God (Romans 15:13) and mysteriously guards our hearts (Philippians 4:7).  Yet it is something we pursue (2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Peter 3:11, 2 Peter 3:14).  It is the peace of being reconciled to God.

Lastly, this peace extends to the relationship between Christians, overcoming discord caused by issues which might seem important at the time, but, by comparison to brotherly love, are not (Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 7:15, Ephesians 4:3, James 3:18).

Unfortunately, peace does not characterize all congregations; people actually are driven away because they don’t want to live in confusion, darkness, upset, and self-doubt.  But the gospel promises peace, something highly to be prized.  If the congregation is a place to relax, lower your defenses, and discard your stress, it’s a pretty nice place compared to the craziness of life on this earth.  So, if we will just follow the prescriptions of trust and selfless concern in the New Testament, is a never-ending refuge that continuously draws us to God.

The kindness of God, the virtue and character of Jesus on earth, the promises, especially those about the Spirit that transforms us, liberty to be yourself, and peace are God’s draw, God’s carrot, that which keeps us in the family.  The last two require that the congregation buy into the plan and allow personal liberty and foster peace.  If we don’t, as John put it in Revelation 2, Jesus will take away the lampstand that represents us in heaven – we will just be a group of stressed-out people who come together in the same room and gain nothing.  God’s goodness defines who He is.  Jesus’ virtue and character are well recorded.  The promises of help from the Spirit are well documented.  All we need to do is let people be themselves and be peaceful.  With those five things pulling us in, nothing on the outside will be able to pull us away.

That’s our mission, our methods, our subject matter, and our message.