OK, if you like the blues – as I do – and some oldish classic films, then you will know what I am talking about here. Jake and Elwood got it right: “We’re on a mission from God”. But too many believers today think they are on a vacation from God. They are living the good life and serving self. They just want their ‘best life now’.
But this has nothing to do with genuine Christian discipleship and obedience of course. This has once again become so clear to me as I reread the gospel accounts and the call of the disciples by Jesus. There we find nothing at all similar to the majority of book titles we find in any Christian bookstore today.
There was nothing about being successful, being fulfilled, being happy, being wealthy, being popular or being well-received. The call to the disciples, like the call to all men and women by Jesus, was no-nonsense stuff. He spelled out clearly the costs of discipleship, the fact that they would be hated and persecuted, and that they had a huge job to do.
As such, none of the disciples were under any illusions about this. They knew that the cost of discipleship was a lifelong commitment which would require everything of them, and that the task ahead of them was enormous. It was no less than making disciples of all nations.
This was – and is – a mammoth undertaking. And after 2000 years the job is still incomplete. There are still millions of people who have never heard the name of Christ. And former Christian strongholds like Europe and other parts of the West are now becoming paganised at an alarming rate, and in need of fresh evangelism and Christian witness.
As I just read in Luke 10:1-3 today:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
A tremendous task lay ahead of them, with great costs and many hardships. The early church went out and did great things for Christ and the Kingdom, but it seems that in so much of the West today the church is stagnant, if not going backwards.
We hear little about foreign missions today. We hear little about reaching the lost, even amongst our own neighbours. We hear little about the need to train and prepare and be ready to do valiant work for Christ. Attendance at Bible colleges seems to be dipping, and the sense of the urgency of the hour has all but disappeared in much of today’s church.
The workers are still very few. Not only are millions in the valley of decision, but so many major issues face us. We have around 45 million babies a year slaughtered in their own mothers’ wombs. We have the threat of Islam, the war on marriage and family, the crisis of truth. On and on the list goes.
Part of the problem is that much of the church has lost its sense of mission. It has lost its love of the lost, and it has shifted focus. The emphasis today is on self. It is all about me. The only thing that seems to matter is that we have our ‘best life now’.
A completely selfish gospel has replaced the true gospel, which is always an other-serving gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about denying self, crucifying the flesh, taking up our cross and following our Lord as we reach out to others.
But today’s gospel is about one thing only: pampering self, comforting self, satisfying self, sating self, pleasing self, and promoting self. Is it any wonder if we spend all our time nurturing and cajoling ourselves in a life of hedonism, materialism, selfishness and self-centredness that Christian mission is drying up?
Is it any wonder if hearing week after week that we can be rich, happy and even lose weight for Jesus, that the church has become in so many ways unlike any other social club? Social clubs exist solely for their members. They do not exist for the wider community.
So much of the church today exists solely for itself. Of course it has no vision for the lost, the poor, and needy. Of course it has no sense of mission. When your mission is to look after number one, then everyone else gets shafted. Selfishness always drowns out concern for others.
So today we may have the most lazy, the most carnal, the most contented, the most self-satisfied and the most compromised church of all time. A church that has lost sight of why it exists, that has lost sight of its mission, is a church which has lost its way.
Thankfully Jesus never lost sight of the mission he was on. He went all the way, to the bitter end. Even at his most needy hour, he could not even get his disciples to stay awake and pray. But he never lost sight of why he came to earth. Would that the church of Jesus Christ regain its vision as to why it is here.
Leonard Ravenhill put it this way: “Paul never glamorized the gospel! It is not success, but sacrifice! It’s not a glamorous gospel, but a bloody gospel, a gory gospel, and a sacrificial gospel! Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more, wept more, bled more, grieved more, loved more, prayed more, given more!”
If the Blues Brothers could get it right – well, sort of – then it is time that we get it right. We are indeed on a mission from God. We were not put here to please ourselves, to serve ourselves, or to have a good time. We have a job to do. We have a mission.
Are we on a mission from God? Or are we simply serving ourselves?