Yesterday I had the privilege of worshipping at First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. FBCOKC is an older downtown church (started in 1889) that is doing some marvelous in-city international outreach with five different nationalities having worship services at their facilities. Each Sunday they will have worship services in English, Burmese, Chin (Myanmar), Spanish as well as two African groups from Sudan and Ethiopia. The first Sunday each month all the groups worship together in a shared sense of overall community and fellowship. Yesterday, some of the prayers and readings were done in Burmese. I did not understand the language but I certainly appreciated the passion and dedication of those that delivered the words. The church is truly an international conglomerate of languages and people.
I was fortunate to be on hand to hear the sermon delivered by my friend, Dr. Tom Ogburn, the pastor of FBCOKC. The sermon was based on verses from I John 4:7-12.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Since I am involved in international missions, and embrace a great love for the international Church, Tom’s sermon was personally relative to me. Here is a short synopsis (as I was able to take notes) of his thoughts.
It all begins with God’s love
The redemptive love story between God and humanity was born in the heart and nature of God. With the same love that moved God to breathe life in Genesis, moved God the send His one and only Son to the world. The Mission of God is a reflection of the very heart and nature of God – it is the love of God that initiates the Gospel story. God loves us and wants us to live in that love. This is not a polite religious philosophical statement. God has demonstrated the depth of His graced and love with God’s remarkable choice to come incarnate to walk among us, to teach us, and to show us the way. God has demonstrated the depth of His love with God’s incredible choice to claim a path of sacrifice that we might know redemption and grace. His authentic love begins in the heart and nature of God and is initiated in action of God.
What is His expectation of us?
The redemptive Mission of God expressed through the love of Christ is to become the Mission of the Church. The Mission of the Church is not designed for the select few; it is to be a reflection of the way of the life of every believer. We who are made children of God through the love of God expressed through Christ, each one of us, are to be the reflection of God’s love for the world. This means that the missionary and the minister, the lawyer and the bricklayer, accountants and acrobats – all who are part of the Church because of their relationship with God through Jesus Christ – all who have known God’s love – are to find their place in the living out of the Mission of God reflected in the Mission of the Church. When the Mission of the Church is the living out of the Mission of the Church there are no spare parts. Everyone matters and every disciple is called to engage – who they are and where they are – and wherever God might send them. Each will have a different place, but each has a place.
For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son – and now He sends the church.
Our embrace of our place in the Mission of the Church is no small short term task. Even after extended labor for the kingdom, it would be easy to sit down and pat ourselves on the back and pronounce, “well done!” for all that we have done. But when the church understands its place as a reflection of the Redemptive Sending Mission of God, it will continue to be called out of its comfort zone into the difficult highways and byways of its community and the world. The Mission of the Church will continue to draw us from the safety of our sanctuary to rub shoulder to shoulder with the poor, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, and with those who live their lives separate from a relationship with God. The Mission of the Church will compel us to learn to speak to a world that is not our own, even when rejection and suffering are a part of the package. The Mission of the Church summons us to act as agents of reconciliation, responding cross-culturally to the hurt and the hopelessness that captures the souls of those living in a world of darkness. The cross-cultural response will be to those living in our community and to those across the globe. Let us not grow weary in doing good – let us not grow weary in claiming our part in the Mission of God. For God so loved the world He sent His one and only Son…for God so loved the world that He sends His people – the Church into the world.
Being in a ministry of world missions, I really related to Tom’s pertinent and challenging message. The Church, as well as every believer, is called to be Christ’s ambassadors either by physical participation, if you are able, or if you are not able, the support of those that are able to participate in the mission.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15
There are many that preach to the hearers, the hearers believe and the believers call on the One. But it all begins with being sent. You have much to do with the sending through your gifts to the church and other ministries that proclaim the Gospel and enable others to preach the Good News. Of course, I have to toot my own horn and suggest Overseas Council as a possible place to make such a kingdom undertaking by investing in indigenous church leadership training and equipping.
“… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17