Reaching WIDE… Clear the temple

 Text John 2:13-22

We set out this year on our theme “Exponential” Growing Deeper, Moving Forward and Reaching WIDE. Taken from the example of the early church as we see in Acts: 2:42-44, Exponential is a radical way of doing church where every believer seeks to multiply themselves through the power of God’s LIFE working through them.

Last week we introduced this terms focus on Reaching WIDE. From a growing church institution into multiplying mission communities. We looked at the statistics against the demand for the gospel and came to the conclusion that we must Dream BIG. We must expand our horizons for the Gospel of Jesus. We must reach WIDE, where WIDE means- the Whole world, Everyone using their influence and position, Being Disciples in the market place and Evangelizing by telling the good news of Jesus.

We said movements are born from BIG Dreams and unless we have big dreams for the Kingdom we will not match the demand for the Gospel in our African continent and the world at large. Big Dreams force us to ask different sets of questions not just good but best questions, Big Dreams will force us to change our prayers – from simple prayers to bold kingdom size prayers that force us to depend on God. Lastly Big Dreams will attract and change others around us. The question that behooves us is “How big is your dream?”

Today we go back to the basics of the mission of God and seek to understand how you and I as believers can actively engage with God’s mission without much baggage. We will seek to understand simply what is our core as the body of Christ and how do we interpret that in our local context and in our personal lives.

Turn to our main text in John 2: 13-22, where this part of the movie is taken from…. (We encourage that you make time to read God’s word as part of your own discipline and journey of faith)

It was time for the Jewish Passover, this perhaps is the hall mark festival for being a Jew. Every Jewish male was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during this time. The temple was not just the center of this gathering, but a key pillar in Jewish identity, worship and the custodian of Jewish tradition and laws. To destroy the Jerusalem temple was to destroy the nation of Israel. The temple in Jerusalem was both the religious and political seat of its time.

First built by King Solomon almost 1000 years before this time, destroyed by the Babylonians then reconstructed in 515 BC, the temple played a great role in the history and practice of the Jews. During the Passover week, it was unusually busy with thousands of Jews coming to offer their annual sacrifices. The religious leaders crowded it further by allowing money changers, merchants and a thriving market had risen especially in the gentile court.

While it was also a convenient place for networking, they rationalized this temple practice as a convenience for the worshippers to buy their sacrifices and a way to earn for the temple upkeep. Because of the long journey, many could not bring their own animals for worship, and those with defects had to find quick replacement to proceed for worship. So animal merchants conducted a flourishing business in the temple court yard. The temple tax had to be paid in local currency, so foreigners had to change their money here and often the exchange rate was unusually higher than all other places. It is clear that the temple was busy for all the wrong reasons but very inconveniencing for the one reason it was made to do.

Today I draw our attention to this parallel. While not necessarily trading money, Could it be that the church today is a busy place for every other well intended program other than the one mission it was intended for? What Kind of tables would Jesus turn if he walked among us today?

While we may not be visibly doing business, there is another kind of busy-ness that crowds the church. Like in any other place of gathering, with good intentions the church can be full of many programs to ‘manage’ our personal needs and agendas without really understanding what is the mission for the church.

Let’s face it, in Africa, the church plays a key role in meeting our social needs. The church is seen as the place to pour my problems, express my talents, get affirmation for my success, my new dress and for some a free market for my business networks, a place even for getting a wife, a place to send my kids when they are on holiday, a place to catch up with some genuine friends e.t.c So a chunk of the programs can be about preserving and maintaining these desires and needs. So church workers we are consistently bogged and running around planning and budgeting, vacation programs, marriage seminars, youth camps, men and women meetings, visitation and providing for the needy programs, tea for meetings, schedules and rotas for who is doing this and who is doing that? We start having our favorite songs, our favorite preachers, and our favorite spots e.t.c.

Now please do not get me wrong, (I am not talking about us…..), these things are not wrong or bad, and they are good and well-intended.  Subconsciously, we believe there is a greater mission why we do them. However we can easily miss the mission or be distracted from the mission as these things keep us very busy and come to the center stage.  

This may be a little different from the West, Because of weak social connections, they are honest with themselves to allow churches to die or become obsolete. Because they don’t feel as socially connected as we are, the church quickly shuts down after Sunday and the doors creek open on the next Sunday, for another hour of listening to a convenient, quick fix sermon.

It is possible the Church can be too cluttered for mission. While we mean well and are getting busier. Jesus is preparing a whip. With a lot of anger and zeal he chases them out feeling insulted at the way his father’s house had become now a den of thieves. Too cluttered for its mission- A place of Prayer for All Nations, to a Market place for Mans clutter.

Those who came to steal God’s place in the community, with their selfish needs. The church in Africa also stands this judgement- A den of thieves, we have come to steal God’s place of worship, God’s attention, God’s resources, and God’s people- for mission to advance our own missions instead of his. And we do it so well in an organized manner.  We are too cluttered for Mission.

Today as we seek to Reach WIDE, we must clean up the temple and unclutter the mission. This kind of ‘busy’ ness is the reason why we seem to rotate on the same place and not making significant IMPACT in the society. What causes Jesus this Holy Anger when he looks at us? The story of the Church in Africa-

Is that it started with one Man at the center (Jesus Christ) – Many men (pastors, bishops, elders, leaders, Man of God) at the center?

It moved from the Kingdom Mission- (The Gospel everywhere to everyone) – to ‘church’ Mission our ‘branch’ everywhere.

It moved from the Home of the family  to Monuments in the cities

It moved from Simplicity to Complexity.

The result is that the church has dwindled to a Museum (Good memories, heroes of the past, good things they did, missions we went for, the way we used to) from the Movement it was created to be. Jesus is preparing a whip?

God remains excited about the Church. Scripture is still true that ‘Passion for God’s house will consume me’. Perhaps one of our prayers is Lord Come and clean your temple at Lifespring Chapel. It may be messy and painful, but we cannot go on like this if we have to go Exponential, if we have to Reach W.I.D.E.

Allow me to suggest a template of cleaning up by asking these fundamental questions and how they apply to us as Lifespring Chapel. These questions must be answered in simple and repeatable ways that shape the ideology of who we are and what we are about as Lifespring Chapel.

What makes a ‘church’ a CHURCH? What constitutes a Church

From Acts 2:42-44 – A church is two or more people unified by God’s LIFE, having a defined leader, meeting regularly and are on mission with God. Allow me to emphasize People, Defined Leader, and Meeting Regularly, on Mission for God. Please note what it’s not.

This is what we are calling a LIFE Community– A small group of Christ Centered People 5-12 people or 5 families, simple to require little investment to meet and administer. Meeting regularly, immersed in their context and culture to provide solutions for their world and most importantly they are reproducing/fruitful.

If we saw this as the Church- You can imagine how easy it is to multiply, not merely to add in number but reproduce. As someone said- There are small group churches or churches with small groups. Which one are we? The larger we grow the more we must multiply in our small groups grow.

What is the Mission of God?

It is vital to think rightly about the Mission of God. Usually we hear of “Church Missions” which are ACTIVITIES that the church does like mission trips, orphan care, food programs, benevolence e.t.c Or we might have heard of the “Mission Department”. That’s now the group of staff workers WITHIN a LOCAL CHURCH that OVERSEE the running of those MISSIONS PROGRAMS. People who discuss and decide what MISSION PROGRAMS to do and HOW to do them.

‘Church missions’ and mission activities lead to a common misconception that the Local church has a mission. In other words Ecclesiology informs Missiology. E.g Design the church and then figure out what missions we can do? Meaning, that we SETUP the church and THEN DECIDE what the mission of the church will be.

We have this in reverse:

What we believe about Christ (Christology) informs what we believe about Mission (Missiology)

Christology- God’s LIFE fully lived out in human life through Jesus Christ.  God and Man in perfect fellowship.

Missiology – God’s LIFE fully lived out in every human life- God and Man in Perfect fellowship through Christ. This line of thinking is VERY DANGEROUS. It’s DANGEROUS because then it’s man deciding what the mission should look like. We’ve essentially said, “Let’s SETUP a local church and then run it how we think is best.”

When we think that “the Church has a Mission” what we’re REALLY SAYING is that our ECCLESIOLOGY informs our MISSIOLOGY. We’re saying that what we believe about the LOCAL CHURCH informs what we believe about the MISSION OF GOD.

DOING IT RIGHT: Christology to Missiology to Ecclesiology Our starting point ALWAYS needs to be FROM Christ moving OUTWARD. Everything we DO and SAY and THINK needs to come from what Jesus DID and SAID and THOUGHT.

It’s actually our CHRISTOLOGY that leads to our MISSIOLOGY, which leads to our ECCLESIOLOGY.

In other words, what we believe ABOUT CHRIST: Informs what we believe ABOUT MISSION. And what we believe ABOUT MISSION informs what we believe ABOUT THE LOCAL CHURCH. In other words, our belief ABOUT MISSION tells us about THE CHURCH: WHAT is the church? WHY is there a church? HOW should the church operate?

We are NOT a part of a local church so we can DO MISSION – we are a part of a local church BECAUSE we’re ALREADY ON MISSION. Do you see the difference?

One line of thinking INCORRECTLY states that, “We CAN’T do anything for the mission WITHOUT a local church.”

The other way of thinking CORRECTLY states that, “A local church CAN HELP US do even more for the mission.”

The MISSION has a CHURCH and the LOCAL CHURCH is the VEHICLE God created to achieve the MISSION.

Everything we do must be guided by this mission. What we believe about the Mission informs the Church. Missiology Informs Ecclesiology.

How we have summarized it at Lifespring Syokimau-

Reach the Lost with the Gospel of LIFE, – Evangelism

Restore the World through His LIFE and – Loving and Serving Others

Reproduce this LIFE and Mission in others.- Discipleship and leadership development

This is how you know you are in mission- are you Reaching the lost, Are you loving and serving others are you reproducing yourself in others.

How do we know we are winning? If the MISSION is the GAME and the GAME is the 3 R’s for an INDIVIDUAL THEN how do we know if we’re winning as a CHURCH? What’s our organizational SCORECARD? Is what we’re measuring REALLY important?

Did you know that there are ONLY THREE THINGS that church can do that NO ONE ELSE will do?

EvangelismThere is NOT A SINGLE government or non-Christian organization on Earth that will EVER tell people about Jesus. NOT ONE! If we don’t share the GOSPEL then no one will. As the BODY OF CHRIST that is our responsibility and ours alone.

DISCIPLESHIP & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT- There is NOT A SINGLE government or non-Christian organization on Earth that will EVER teach people how to FOLLOW JESUS and LEAD FOR JESUS. NOT ONE! If we don’t help believers MATURE and BECOME LEADERS then no one will. As the BODY OF CHRIST that is our responsibility and ours alone.

CHURCH PLANTING and Multiplication- There is NOT A SINGLE government or non-Christian organization on Earth that will EVER plant new churches. NOT ONE! If we don’t START NEW CHURCHES then no one will. As the BODY OF CHRIST that is our responsibility and ours alone.

If we’re not doing these 3 things we ARE NOT fulfilling the Great Commission.

DO GOOD BUT NOT AT EXPENSE OF THE 3 There are some AMAZING Social Justices ministries like: eradication of poverty, social justice, women and men ministries Non-Christian organizations will ALWAYS do these, EVEN IF the Church doesn’t.

They will NEVER do EVANGELISM, DISCIPLESHIP, and CHURCH PLANTING.

If we do these things well, we will be solving the major problems of our society, spiritually, physically and relationally.

If we NEGLECT ANY of the MAIN THREE, if OUR CHURCH ENGINGE is BROKEN, then the Church will NOT REACH the next generation.

If we’re not evangelizing then there’s NO NEW BELIEVERS. If we’re not making disciples then there’s NO NEW LEADERS. If we’re not church planting then there’s NO NEW CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES to SHAPE CULTURE! If this is OUR REALITY then the Church will DIE in OUR GENERATION.

What is our New Parameter- What should bring Spontaneous applause? What are the moments we celebrate at LIFEspring Chapel.

New Contacts– Number of People reached for Jesus through our various networks.

New Converts– Number of people getting saved, Number of people being baptized, Number of those being discipled.

New Communities– Number of new leaders developed, Number of New small groups started, Number of Churches being planted.

Notice what is NOT on that list:

# of people attending Sunday service, or how much was given

How do I know I am in Mission at Lifespring / What does it mean to follow Jesus at Lifespring Chapel

We use a simple way to remember

Connect- Start your day with time with God in prayer and God’s word. Pray for and Be aware of those God would want to bring your way for mission.

Relate- Get in touch with what’s happening around you, by Listening to people and the community noting needs that God may be calling you to meet. Eat with people, share a meal with someone.

Grow- Find ways to serve by extending your treasure, talent and time to solve a problem.

Go- Share the Gospel. Pray, plan and Set up an appointment to Go and Share the gospel of Jesus.

In Conclusion-

I finish by coming back to the story- When they questioned Jesus what authority he had to scatter people from the temple, they asked for a sign and he told them He will destroy the temple and build it in 3 days, referring to a new order of worship that he was going to institute that is not hindered by systems, traditions and laws of man.

This is the warning to our churches today, we will be left in our museums and monuments because the Church cannot be stopped. The next generation will hear the gospel in spite of the systems and DNAs we have. A revival is coming among the youth of churches freed from human traditions and systems. Churches beyond the 4 walls.

I suggest to us, that

The future is the young- We cannot stick to old methods and old wine skins. We must invest in the youth very seriously. Buildings are good but people are better. As they say make them good and they will make it bigger. We must embrace technology and package the Gospel for the time.

The future is multiplication- We have no other way to stay relevant and impactful than to multiply. It is not merely growing large congregations but growing multiple communities everywhere. There is no family planning when it comes to church planting.

The future is Homes not locations- Rabbits not Rhinos. Land is escalating, services are getting nearer to people. It is said malls and other public spaces will fade as fear and anxiety takes the best of the society. Businesses like Jumia have figured this trend- Let’s not think we will always have the money for land and buildings or roads will open up to get to church. Traffic will build up and yes even those who are close will find it difficult to walk to church. We must be proactive to go…..not invite

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