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Driving Convictions

Introduction

World missions has always been a part of Oakridge Community Church. However, historically the interest in missions has been most actively exhibited by a small portion of the congregation: the Missions Committee. Missions has been a line item in the budget but not a major focus of the church. This is probably not uncommon in most evangelical churches.

Over the past 2-3 years the Missions Committee and Elders have spent many hours prayerfully considering just what the vision of Oakridge Community Church should be relative to missions. What is our role and how can we accomplish that role in fulfilling the Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20)? The desire to move from being a church that has missionaries (basically amounting to supporting them financially and a few people praying for them) to being a sending and a home church is strong.

The decision has been made that the focus of missions for Oakridge needs to be on reaching the unreached people groups of the world. There still remain thousands of people groups with no access to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is our hope and prayer that Oakridge will send missionaries from our own ranks to the unreached people groups of the world. Until that happens, strong consideration will be given to support those whom God has called to minister to the unreached, while still recognizing that God also calls people to serve in established, cross-cultural missions.

As the Missions Committee worked to develop a mission and focus, it did so through prayer, study, discussion with other churches and attending several missions conferences. It has become very clear that what should drive and be the focus of missions is already stated within The Vision and Mission Statement of Oakridge:

The vision of Oakridge Community Church is to spread a joyful passion for the absolute, eternal supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things, to all peoples.

It is also OCC’s desire to “boldly disciple the peoples of the world through missions." The Missions Committee found that other missions-minded churches have developed a number of conviction statements that drove missions within their congregations. We have reviewed these statements for the purpose of developing a similar document for Oakridge.

The following is the result of that effort; fourteen convictions that the Elders and Missions Committee strongly believe should drive missions at Oakridge. May the Lord cause them to capture our hearts and fill us with fresh zeal for the greatest cause in the world.

Conviction #1

God’s goal in creation and redemption is a missionary goal because our God is a missionary God.

God created man and woman to fill the earth as His image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-28). He created us for His glory (Isa. 43:7), not to gain more glory for Himself but to invite people from every tribe and tongue and nation into the enjoyment of His glory. God is perfectly glorious and self-sufficient in the fellowship of the Trinity. So He had no need for people to praise Him, but He had a profound desire to make known His glory and share His joy in it with a redeemed people. God’s desire to bless all the nations to the praise of His glory is the golden thread weaving its way through the Scriptures and the history of redemption. Jesus Christ Himself, in His self-emptying and in His identification with sinful humanity to the point of His substitutionary death on the cross, is the perfect manifestation of the missionary heart of God.

Conviction #2

God is passionately committed to His fame. God’s ultimate goal is that His name be known and praised by all the peoples of the earth.

In Romans 9:17, God says that His goal in redeeming Israel is “that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” In Isaiah 66:19, God promised that He would send messengers “to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations.” We believe that the central command of world missions is Isaiah 12:4, “Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted.”

The apostle Paul said that his ministry as a missionary was “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake” (Rom. 1:5). The apostle John said that missionaries are those who have set out “for the sake of the Name” (3 John 7). James, the Lord’s brother, described missions as God’s visiting the nations “to take from them a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). Jesus described missionaries as those who leave “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake” (Mat. 19:29).

Conviction #3

Worship is the fuel, goal and the result of missions.

If you really love the glory of God you will want to see that glory spread to all the peoples of the world (Mal. 1:11, Hab. 2:14). “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church” (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!, p. 11). The ultimate goal is the worship of God. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t” (Ibid.). God’s passion is to be known and honored and worshipped among all the peoples of the world. To worship Him is to share that passion for His supremacy among the nations. Jesus commanded the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Mat. 28:16-20a). As His disciples, we are called to declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9-10). In heaven there will be no missions—only worship. Gathered around the throne will be worshipers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev. 7:9). Thus the goal of missions will have been accomplished. But until that is the case, true worshipers who have tasted the goodness of the Lord will not be content until they have invited the nations to join them in the feast (Mat. 24:14; Mark 13:10; Luke 24:45-47).

Worship is an expansive and contagious joy (Mark 7:36-37), and therefore it becomes the fuel for missions. A shared joy is a doubled joy. Gladness in God will produce in us the same yearnings felt by the psalmist: “Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psa. 67:3-4a). Our heartfelt desire is to join Jesus and the Father in their pursuit of true worshipers (John 4:23).

Conviction #4

God’s passion to be known and praised by all peoples of the earth is not selfish, but loving.

God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the ultimately loving act. The reason is easy to see. The one and only Reality in the universe that can fully and eternally satisfy the human heart is the glory of God—the beauty of all God is for us in Jesus. Therefore God would not be loving unless He displays and magnifies that glory for our everlasting enjoyment. If God were to forsake or dishonor or disregard the infinite worth of His own glory, He would be unloving in the same way that a husband is unloving who commits suicide.

Perhaps the best way to see that God’s passion for His fame is an expression of His love is to notice that God’s mercy is closely tied to His glory. You can see this in Romans 15:9, where Paul says that the reason Christ came into the world was so that the nations might glorify God for His mercy.

Do you see how the convictions already mentioned come together in that little phrase: “glorify God for His mercy”? God gets the glory, we get the mercy. God is praised, we are saved. God gets the honor, we get the joy. God is glorified for His fullness, we are satisfied with His mercy.

So to sum up our convictions so far: there are two basic problems in the universe: God is profaned and people are perishing. God will not allow His name to be dishonored indefinitely, but will act mightily to vindicate His name and glorify Himself among the nations. God has planned a way to do this by saving the perishing through the death of his Son, Jesus, and making them a worshiping people who enjoy His glory. In the sacrifice of His own Son for the sake of the nations, God reveals His glory in His mercy. So the salvation of the nations and the glorification of God happen together in missions. They are not at odds. It is a loving thing for God to pursue His glory like this.

Conviction #5

God’s purpose to be praised among all the nations cannot fail. It is an absolutely certain promise. It is going to happen.

When Jesus gave the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, He gave it a massive foundation of certainty. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore….” In other words, nothing can stop Him. “I will build My church, and the gates of hades will not overpower it” (Mat. 16:18). “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Mat. 24:14).

There are four reasons we can be absolutely sure that the mission of God will triumph in the world. First, the word of Jesus is more sure than the heavens and the earth (Mat. 24:35). Second, the ransom has already been paid for all God’s elect, and God did not spill the blood of His Son in vain (Rev. 5:9). Third, the glory of God is at stake, and in the end He will not share His glory with another (Isa. 48:9-11). Fourth, God is sovereign and can do all things, and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2; Prov. 21:30).

In the September 16, 1996, issue of Christianity Today (p.25) Steve Saint, whose dad, Nate Saint, was martyred in Ecuador in 1956 by the Auca Indians, wrote an article about new discoveries made about the tribal intrigue behind the slayings of Nate Saint, Jim Eliot, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming. He wrote one of the most amazing sentences on the sovereignty of God we have ever read—especially when you hear it coming from the son of a slain missionary.

As (the killers) described their recollections it occurred to me how incredibly unlikely it was that the Palm Beach killing took place at all, it is an anomaly that I cannot explain outside of divine intervention (italics and bold added).

There is only one explanation for why these five young men died and left a legacy that has inspired thousands: God intervened. This is the kind of sovereignty we mean when we say no one, absolutely no one, can frustrate the designs of God to fulfill His missionary plans for the nations. In the darkest moments of our pain God is hiding His explosives behind enemy lines.

Everything that happens in history will serve this purpose, as expressed in Psalm 86:9

All the nations whom You have made
shall come and worship before You, O Lord;
and they shall glorify Your name.

Conviction #6

Only in God will our souls be at rest.

The one trans-cultural reality that unites every person of every culture is that God has set eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). Every person has been created in the image of God and has the stamp of God on his/her innermost being. In our alienation from God there is a void that the nations try to fill in a multitude of God-less ways, but they always come up empty. Only God can satisfy the soul with the depth and endurance of joy for which we crave. Thus the loving pursuit of missions is the glory of God in the eternal joy of the redeemed.

Conviction #7

Proclaiming the Gospel includes Christ-centered ministries of mercy and justice.

At home or in a foreign country we cannot separate the Gospel from involvement in ministries of mercy and justice. This conviction acknowledges that in a missions-driven church, there are those called to minister in our own needy culture, and others called to take the gospel where they don’t even have access to the Source of any ministry at all.

If we are passionate about missions, should we not also delight in being merciful? Micah 6:8 says “And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” We are commanded to love kindness; that means we should enjoy doing acts of kindness, not just do them out of duty or ritual. An example of Christ connecting compassion and missions is shown in Matthew 9:36-38.

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Ministries of mercy and justice should be supported, whether in our culture or in other cultures. Some examples are dealing with poverty, hunger, abortion, crisis pregnancy, pornography, child abuse, divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, prison reform, etc. Those ministries that we support, however, must be Christ-centered in their focus and vision.

Ministries of evangelism must include ministries of mercy and justice, and vice versa. If we lack zeal for the glory of God in our ministries of mercy, they become man-centered human-improvement projects with no thought of eternal consequences. Conversely, if our zeal for the glory of God does not reflect itself in acts of mercy, we are out of touch with God and are being hypocritical (Mat. 9:13). The Gospel lived out, whether here at home or in a foreign country, is demonstrated by ministries of mercy and justice.

Conviction #8

The missionary task is focused on peoples, not just individual people, and is therefore finishable.

Many of us used to have the vague notion that missions was simply winning to Christ as many individuals as possible in other places. But now we have come to see that the unique task of missions, in distinction from evangelism, is to plant the church among people groups where it doesn’t currently exist.

Revelation 5:9 is a picture of how Christ’s death relates to missions: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God, with Your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” When the church has been planted among all the people groups of the earth and the elect have been gathered in from all the “tribes and tongues and nations,” then the great commission will be complete. Missions will be over. The task of missions is planting the church among all the peoples, not necessarily winning all the people.

Conviction #9

The current need is that many thousands of new Paul-type missionaries be raised up from our ranks, going to the thousands of people groups with no access to the saving knowledge of Christ.

Paul’s passion was to make God’s name known among all the unreached peoples of the world. He said that he made it his ambition “to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named” (Rom. 15:20). One of the most stunning things Paul ever said is in Romans 15:19, 23: “from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ…. But now there is no more place for me to work in these regions.” This is stunning when you think about the implications of this statement.

No room for work between Jerusalem and northern Greece! His work there is done in spite of all the unbelievers that remain! He is now moving on to Spain. How could he say this? The answer is that he was a frontier missionary, not just a cross-cultural missionary. He was called to reach the unreached peoples where there is no church to evangelize its own people.

What most Christians don’t realize is that there are many times more missionaries serving in cross-cultural ministries than there are frontier missionaries going out to the unreached. Yet there are still thousands of people groups who have no access to a gospel-preaching church in their own culture. The Unreached Peoples (Seattle, YWAM Publishing, 1996) lists the 2000 least-reached people groups in the world. This significant list gives us an idea of the remaining urgent need for missionaries who are willing to cross language and culture for the fame of Christ and the salvation of the perishing.

Therefore our prayer for Oakridge is that we put a very high priority on raising up and sending frontier missionaries—Paul-type missionaries. We do not diminish the sacrifice and preciousness of those God has called to minister in established areas of the world, but we realize that the utterly critical, uniquely missionary need is that there are thousands of people groups with no access to saving knowledge of Christ. Only frontier missionaries can reach them. That must be a huge priority for us. Without the gospel everything is in vain. A crucial role that the cross-cultural missionary plays is to raise up frontier missionaries among the people in the established churches with whom they are working.

Conviction #10

It is the joyful duty and the awesome privilege of every local church to send out missionaries “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6).

But before we can send them we must grow them or identify the ones who have been “grown” elsewhere but whom God is calling us to send. According to 3 John 7-8 there is a Biblical mandate that we ought to support missionaries—a certain kind of missionary: one who has gone out for the sake of the Name. “For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.”

There is a big difference between a church that has missionaries (on the back of their bulletin or as a line item in their budget) and a church that sends missionaries. Better yet is to be a home sending church, one that has grown a person who has been chosen by God to go and then sends that person “in a manner worthy of God.”

To send in a manner worthy of God is so to recognize the supreme importance of proclaiming the Name of God in word and deed among the nations that we will do whatever we can to support those who go out for the sake of the Name—spiritually, practically, emotionally and financially.

Conviction #11

We are called to a wartime lifestyle for the sake of going and sending.

To send in a manner worthy of God and to go for the sake of the Name, we must constantly fight the deception that we are living in peace time where we think that the luxury of self indulgence is the only power that can break the boredom. Oh, may God open our eyes to what is at stake in the war raging between heaven and hell.

The spirit of the great missionary Paul must grip us more and more. “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” ( Phil. 3:8). In wartime everything changes. The luxury liner Queen Mary became a troop carrier, and instead of bunks three high they were stacked seven high. Resources are allocated differently in wartime. And we are in a war far more devastating than World War II.

A wartime lifestyle presents itself, not as a legalistic burden, but as a joyful acknowledgment that our resources aren’t entrusted to us for our own private pleasure but for the greater pleasure of stewarding them for the advancement of the Kingdom of God (Acts 20:35; Matthew 6:33).

Conviction #12

Prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom.

In wartime prayer takes on a different significance. It becomes a wartime walkie-talkie and no longer a domestic intercom. Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you, that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16). Notice the amazing logic of this verse. He gave them a mission “so that” the Father would have prayers to answer. This means that prayer is for missions. It is designed to advance the kingdom. That’s why the Lord’s Prayer begins by asking God to see to it that His name be hallowed and that His kingdom come.

James warned about the misuse of prayer as a domestic intercom to call the butler for another pillow. He said, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). Prayer is always kingdom-oriented. Even when we pray for healing and for help it is that the kingdom purposes of God in the world may advance. Otherwise we have turned a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Let us pray with the Apostle Paul, “that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

Conviction #13

Our aim is not to persuade everyone to become a missionary, but to help everyone become a World Christian.

There are only three kinds of Christians: goers, senders and the disobedient. It’s not God’s will for everyone to be a goer to some foreign field. Only some are called to go out for the sake of the Name to a foreign culture (e.g., Mark 5:18-19). Those who are not called to go out for the sake of the Name are called to stay for the sake of the Name, to be salt and light right where God has placed them and to join with others in sending those who are called to be cross-cultural missionaries.

In God’s eyes both the goers and the senders are crucial. There are no first or second-class Christians in God’s hierarchy of values. Together the goers and the senders are “fellow-workers with the truth” (3 John 8). So whether we are a goer or a sender in relation to foreign missions is not the issue. That our hearts beat with God’s in His pursuit of worshipers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation is the issue. This is what it means to be a World Christian.

Conviction #14

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him; and our satisfaction in Him is greatest when it expands to embrace others, even when this involves suffering.

It is amazing how those who have suffered most in the missionary cause speak in the most lavish terms of the blessing and the joy of it all. Start with Jesus: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35). We save our lives by giving them away in the cause of the gospel. This is what Paul meant when he said, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

According to Paul, suffering fills up “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col. 1:24). This is the way that the Great Commission will be completed. To suffer in this way means that our labors for the love of His name will include a personal presentation of His sufferings through our sufferings to those for whom He died.

Samuel Zwemer, after fifty years of missions labor (including the loss of two young children in North Africa), said, “The sheer joy of it all comes back. Gladly I would do it all over again.” Both Hudson Taylor and David Livingston, after lives of extraordinary hardship and loss said, “I never made a sacrifice.”

When people who have suffered much speak like this, their God is magnified. If God can so satisfy their souls that even their sufferings are experienced as steps into deeper joy with Him, then He must be far more wonderful than all that the earth has to offer. Psalm 63:3 must really be true: The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.

J. Oswald Sanders left a promising legal practice in New Zealand to teach in a Bible College and later become director of China Inland Missions. He was instrumental in beginning many new missions projects throughout Eastern Asia. He wrote more than 40 books on Christian living. He is mentioned only to exult in the utter dedication of a life poured out for the gospel without thought of coasting in self-indulgence from age sixty-five to the grave.

Sanders once told the story of an indigenous missionary who walked barefoot from village to village preaching the gospel in India. His hardships were many. After a long day of many miles and much discouragement he came to a certain village and tried to speak the gospel, but was driven out of the village and rejected. So he went to the edge of the village, laid down under a tree and slept from exhaustion.

When he awoke people were hovering over him, and the whole town was gathered around to hear him speak. The head man of the village explained that they came to look him over while he was sleeping. When they saw his blistered feet they concluded that he must be a holy man and that they had been evil to reject him. They were sorry and wanted to hear the message that he was willing to suffer so much to bring them.

So the evangelist filled up the afflictions of Jesus with his beautiful, blistered feet.

_______________________

These are the driving missions convictions at Oakridge Community Church. If God opens your heart, you will see that there is no better way to live than in the wartime lifestyle that maximizes all you are and all you have for the sake of finishing the great commission. In this way God is magnified, we are satisfied and the nations are loved.

When it comes to world missions, there are only three kinds of Christians: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient. Which will you be? Please join us in “spreading a passion for the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things, to all peoples, for all eternity.”

The Missions Committee of Oakridge Community Church acknowledges with appreciation the efforts of John Piper and Tom Stellar of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, in developing the Driving Convictions behind World Missions at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Much of the content of this booklet is derived from that material.