Living Missionally Amidst Adversity
In many ways it seems as though our country and world are as divided as ever; adversity surrounds us. These days, a quick scroll through social media or stroll through your neighborhood reveal heated debates and intense interactions over things like masks, vaccines, restrictions, insurrections, donkeys and elephants. Tragically, these debates have not remained outside the walls of the church. They have crashed through the doors of each church like a shore rattling wave at high tide off the coast of Hawaii. This shift in the hearts and minds of church goers have taken what previously might have been crevice-sized differences of opinion frequently covered by grace and created chasm-sized gaps. These gaps threaten to cause the church to drift away from Godly character, distract the church from God’s mission and destroy the church’s Gospel witness amidst a world that is always watching.
Crisis reveals character. Pressure first reveals what lies beneath, and then either bonds us together or breaks us apart.
Crisis reveals character. Pressure first reveals what lies beneath, and then either bonds us together or breaks us apart. This holds true whether you’re talking about a sports team, a marriage, or a church. The Great Commission doesn’t come with any pandemic or insurrection nullification clauses. It is not an elective to opt in or opt out of for the believer. It is a command and a loving directive from our Commander in Chief, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords that we have the privilege and responsibility of obeying every day and everywhere.
The early church in Antioch in Acts 11 and 13 teaches us exactly how to do this. They are a model for us today in how to live with perseverance amidst persecution, maintain unity amidst diversity, and to continually live missionally amidst great adversity.
Here are two ways to live missionally amidst adversity from the Antioch church in Acts.
Maintain Gospel Centrality
The forming of the church at Antioch was the direct result of incredible persecution and adversity (Acts 11:19) encountered by early believers. Praise God that His Word can’t be silenced and His work can’t be stopped. Jesus builds His church yesterday, today, and forever. Whatever difficult situation you or your church find yourself walking through today, may you find hope in the reality that God is sovereign over it and will use it to accomplish His purposes in it and through it.
Gospel centrality is the soil in which Great Commission commitment is cultivated. Gospel centrality means the heart of God is the heart of the church thus resulting in the manifest presence and favor of God. We see this evidenced in Acts 11:20-21 as scattered believers from Jerusalem would only share the Gospel with other Jews, but believers from Cyprus and Cyrene embodied the heart of God as they shared the Gospel of God with the Gentiles. Their preaching of Jesus saw a great number of Gentiles put their faith in the Lord as the hand of God was upon them. These believers from Cyprus and Cyrene did not get bogged down in the church politics or societal pressures of the day. Their courageous conviction to love Christ more than existing church culture empowered and emboldened them to keep the main thing the main thing. They proclaimed Jesus boldly through their lips, their love, and their life, and we must do the same thing today. Gospel centrality means seeing others as God sees them, loving others as God loves them, and sharing with them the hope of the Gospel as God shared with you and me. Let’s not deny the adversity, but let’s declare Christ’s victory with authority and watch in awe as Christ works powerfully for God’s glory.
Protect Mission Priority
For all of us, there are way more things to do in a day than there is time, and way more things our church could do than it can do so protecting mission priority is a necessity. For the church at Antioch, this meant utilizing the giftedness of Barnabas and Saul to focus on disciple-making within the church for a year-long period (Acts 11:26). There was a dynamic and devoted focus on disciple-making for one year resulting in the fruit of the installation of three additional church leaders from a very diverse background (Acts 13:1), and a missional culture prepared to send out two of their best in Saul and Barnabas to plant more churches in other countries in Acts 13. The church in Antioch didn’t settle for converts, seeker sensitive services, or good livestream analytics because that is not the ultimate mission. The mission is disciple-multiplying through church planting locally, regionally, and globally for the glory of God. It was a group effort and team investment and produced a church that would change the world.
They went deep in the Word and then went wide with the Word. They didn’t stop at theological information accumulation, but experienced authentic life transformation to the point that a watching world took notice and called them Christians (Acts 11:26) because they literally saw the character, heart, and priorities of Christ in them. Would the world say the same about you or your church today? Would you say that about you or our church today?
God wants to work in us before He works through us and continue to work on us as He sends us. Worship fuels mission, and obedience to the Great Commission of God flows out of reverence to God.
Worship fuels mission, and obedience to the Great Commission of God flows out of reverence to God.
What’s amazing is that no longer were the folks in Antioch known as either Jew or a Gentile, but they were known as a Christian. Mission priority means that our primary identity is not Republican or Democrat, pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination, but Christian in its purest original form, not in its diluted modern form. How powerful it is that it was the church founded in the land of the Gentiles that was known first as truly embracing the character of Christ. Embracing Jesus’ identity means embracing Jesus’ mission priority. Jesus declared His priority shortly before going to the cross as He prayed to God the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). May our churches be able to say the same thing as we have been given the same mission. Gospel centrality generates missional clarity, priority, and urgency amidst adversity.
The God who saves us is the God who sends us, and the God who will strengthen us. God will never lead us to a place where He will not provide for us or empower us. We are able to persevere amidst the pressures of this world as we focus on the character of God and faithfully obey the Great Commission of God. Today, may we stop focusing on what we think we can’t do and start focusing on what we know God can and will do! God is worthy and the lost are worth it.