Partnership and Networking of Churches for the Great Commission: A Call
Rev. L. Bizo
The origin of the Mission of the Church is in the Mission of Jesus Christ and the Church has no separate mission of its own. The mission does not change but methods can change. The mandate may not change but the focus and priority may differ from place to place. The challenge is still continuing.
Jesus Himself said in Matthew 13 that the field is the world, and the world is full of diversities: the world of men and things, the world geographical, the world social and political, the world moral and spiritual, the world of the rich and pf the poor, the world of the wise and of the ignorant, the world in all its diversities. The Commission is to go into all the world. That is the Great Commission to be fulfilled and that is the divine call for our sincere involvement, honest participation and networking together as the Church of Jesus Christ. How do we respond to it?
The world is the mission field and the condition of the field is not all the same. The soil condition is not all the same. Some places are rocky, some are thorny while some others are as dry and hard as footpath where the seed will not last. The field is people in their diversities of tradition, culture and history. The field is people in need of salvation from sin, deliverance from captivity of the body, mind and spirit; recovery of sight in their spiritual blindness and in need of spiritual light and hope.
1. Prophetic Mission
The prophet Amos revealed a society built on profound injustice, corruption and wickedness. Religion was popular but without justice; ritual worship was not only irreverent but an abomination, and he said, “‘I hate, I despise your feast,’ says the Lord, ‘and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever flowing stream’” (Amos 5:21). If not, the day of the Lord will be darkness rather than light. The mission focus is where the message of truth and righteousness is exalted. There should be no compromise in matters of truth and righteousness.
Hosea said that the sufferings of the people were intimately interwoven with injustice and faithlessness. There was defeat and distress, disintegration and loss. But the prophets were the distinctive conscience of Israel. Through their various voices, the power of God’s word touched the particular evil and anguish of the people. In the darkness of defeat and distress, they gave light and hope; the message of the redeeming love was reassured. Our mission is not anything easier or lighter. Our mission focus should be where the soil is rocky, the going rough, the world is unfriendly and darkness is real. The redeeming love, the defence of faith and the mysterious power of God’s word should be proclaimed loud and clear. Our mission focus is where light and hope are needed.
The apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will wrote to Timothy and warned that there will be difficult times in the last days. It is going to be difficult to be a Christian. For people will love only themselves and their money, they will be proud and boastful, disobedient to parents and ungrateful, betray their friends and love pleasure rather than God. They go to church but they won’t really believe anything they hear, holding an outward form of religion but denying, rejecting the power of the same. Keep away from such people (2 Timothy 3: 1-5). Keep up purity of life and let your light so shine. Inspire hope.
The prophet Isaiah saw the people needing consolation and comfort. Rebukes and denunciation are gone. Now he says, “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God” (Isaiah 40: 1). All conflicts and sufferings should be eliminated. Consolation is the need of the hour. The mission for him was a field where people are in need of consolation, comfort and peace. How about our mission? How is our involvement and participation in peace and reconciliation? All conflicts, threats and intimidation should go. All fear and fights, killings and bloodshed should cease. Perhaps the Lord is still saying, “Comfort my people.”
2. Jesus and People
Jesus saw the people were like sheep without shepherd. They need a shepherd. They need a leader, a comforter and a Savior. He came that they may have life and have it in its fullness, abundantly (John 10: 10). The mission of Jesus was where people were in need of Him for fullness of life and the glory of His Father. That is why Jesus said, “The field is white unto harvest,” “the harvest truly is plentiful but laborers are few” (John 4: 35; Matthew 9: 37). Laborers are needed. He is waiting for you and me to respond to the call.
As we go to his field, it needs to be remembered that the harvest is not for our storehouses but it is for His storehouse. It is not for our statistics but it is for His treasure in the Kingdom. We do not seek to establish our kingdom but His Kingdom. Our prayer is “Your kingdom come.” The forces against the Kingdom are many. The enemy and its forces are formidable. The enemy and its armies do not regard denominational differences. The enemies of the Cross are no respecter of persons. The armies of Christ should stand together and fight together. The soldiers of Christ should march together and struggle together. The ambassadors of Christ should be above man-made rules to be in tune with the divine call and march ahead. There should, therefore, be increased inter-church understanding and cooperation. The armies of Christ and its forces should not be weakened by denominational barriers and differences. For the Bible declares that “though many, we are members of the same body” (1 Corinthians 12: 12). That is our unity and that is our strength.
3. No Distinction
The mission field is one for all – the world in all its diversities, societies, communities, tribes, nations, and people with diverse culture and tradition. The farmers and laborers need not create unnecessary boundary problems, conflicts and confrontations. With the death of Christ, ritualistic religion has died. What God Himself has torn “from top to bottom,” we need not stitch together again. When Christ has broken down “the
middle wall of partition,” why should we rebuild it again? We need to guard against carnalism and materialism. We need to guard against legalism and factionalism. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, slave, nor free,” because Christ has become “all and in all” (Colossians 3: 11). We therefore need to be more pragmatic than dogmatic. Because He is supreme and sovereign in His Church, there is no place for social, racial, tribal or national distinction before His majesty. Unity in Christ does not mean uniformity nor organic unity, but it unity in our purpose, in our mission, and in our partnership. Our call is to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” “For there is only one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith and one God who is the Father of all, above all, through all and in all” (Ephesians 4: 3-6). That is why there needs to be increased inter-church inter-denominational understanding and cooperation, all for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. The Naga churches should pioneer in promoting greater understanding, cooperation and participation, partnership and networking together – all for the love of Christ and His Kingdom.
4. Prepare the Way
The prophet Isaiah declared and John the Baptist reaffirmed for himself that he is “the voice of the one crying in the wilderness” – ‘prepare the way for the Lord.’” The fact of “crying in the wilderness” should not be taken as a surprise. Our serious purpose is to prepare the way of the Lord in all that we think or do. The Lord is willing to come. He is waiting to come. He can come triumphantly and victoriously as He did in Jerusalem. “Make straight paths for Him, a highway for our God.” What a challenge! “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth” (Isaiah 40: 3-4). How we wish those are happening every day!
Our mission focus with all its rich resources of men, materials or money, should be to prepare the way of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah is saying that the proud shall be resisted, rebuked and made low, the humble shall be exalted, the crooked and wicked people shall learn their lesson and become straight, and the rough, unfriendly environment become congenial. Prepare the way of the Lord. The stones in the field may be gathered and removed, the thorns and thistles may be cut and burned, the hard soil may be ploughed and made fertile so that the seed may take root and grow to bear fruits. Prepare the way for Lord in and through every conceivable idea, manner or method. If we don’t like the current harvest, we must examine the seed and the soil to create a different harvest.
5. A Fisherman
The Baptist World, a magazine of the BWA, once carried the statement of the former BWA President, Nilson A. Finini, who said, “The Lord said that He would make us fishers of men. When a man goes for fishing, he is seeking to catch fish. The fish do not seek the fisherman. He must take the first step. He must go to places where fish can be found. In the same way, we must seek others for God’s kingdom. We must go to the nations. Sometimes we find church members who think that our task is to build bigger and attractive buildings and then “the fish” will come to us. But lost people, like fishes escaping the fisherman, are not seeking God’s face. They run from His light because their works are of darkness.” We need to go to places where fish can be found.
Before the foundation of the earth, God has a purpose for the Nagas. The church of Christ in the Naga society shall be a jewel in the crown of God and God has a great deposit in Naga churches. But the deposit needs to be released. Salvation is a free gift, freely received and freely to be given. While we were yet in darkness, God has called us out into His marvelous light. The light should go to where darkness is.
6. In an Unfriendly World
Our light should go to where darkness is. The task is not easy. The road is lonely, the journey is long. Day in and day out one has to walk. The place may be isolated, the people unfriendly, no electricity, no potable water, no postal facility to communicate. Life is hard and insecure. What attraction is there that one may devote the prime of life in a most trying situation? What Lord? Crying in the wilderness? Who will go for us? Whom shall we send? Here lies the beauty of our challenge to partnership and networking together, participation and involvement. How do we respond to the call of the Great Commission? Can it be fulfilled by staying in a comfort zone having all facilities of modern equipments such as the telephone, fax, e-mail, websites, vehicle conveyance, etc? Do we ever feel the sense of fulfillment? Perhaps there is no easy road.
As soldiers of Christ, the mission strategy may be to identify enemies and fight. As athletics of Christ, concentrate on the game, no time to waste. As hard-working farmers of God, we need to be conscious of the soil and the seed to have the desired harvest. As stewards of God, be trustworthy, be faithful to God, to others and to self. As ambassadors for Christ, let our life and living truly represent Christ and His kingdom. Our concern is God’s rule now and always. Our deep concern is how does the kingdom come, and what are the results of the kingdom. May we prepare the way of the Lord in and through all that we think, say or do. And may the Lord help us to go into all the world.