Jesus. Mission. Church.
We all know these are the priorities. What we don’t understand is this isn’t just a random list of priorities. It’s our priorities in their order of importance.
Jesus- Jesus is Lord. He is God’s final word to mankind about what He is like. He holds everything together by the word of His power. And while the worship of Jesus is central to Christianity, He often can quickly become a lesser priority. The goal is to keep encountering and obeying Him, day after day until days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years. He is the priority.
Mission- The mission described here is the one that Jesus Himself came with–to bring the whole world under His leadership and repair the broken relationship between God and man. Jesus was a man on the move. He constantly was moving from one place to another, declaring the Kingdom of God, casting out demons, healing the sick, and performing signs that invited lost humanity into the newly near Kingdom. But He didn’t turn the crowds into mega-churches. He kept moving. And after the resurrection, His command was still to go and declare the same Gospel He had preached. Acts and the New Testament are the echos of Jesus’ command to continue on in His mission.
Church- Church is the gathering of believers under the leadership of Jesus and in relationship to each other. Jesus said He would build His church and that even the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against it. Nothing could stop it. And so each church that is built by Jesus becomes another weapon in His war against the darkness oppressing humanity.
But great damage happens when we confuse these three priorities:
A church where Jesus isn’t first is quickly in danger of losing it’s place of ministry (Revelation 2:4-5). No one says that Jesus is less important than mission or church. We just continue to show more concern for mission or church than we do for connecting with Christ. The result is usually burnout that ends in moral failure.
Mission comes before church. That’s a controversial statement, but it’s true. Church is the fruit of mission. Emil Brunner said “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He did not leave a church. He left a mission and that mission was accomplished through the establishment of churches. Every time the church began to get comfortable, Jesus would scatter the church so mission could continue (see Acts 8:4, for example). Mission was the next priority.
And church. Church is incredibly important. Necessary. But when it becomes the object of our affection it becomes an idol. So many of us are quick to put church before mission and because of that mission never gets accomplished. Church must happen. But it happens best as a form of communitas that is forged in response to the mission of Jesus.
The story of Jesus teaches us the same thing. Jesus first was manifested in the flesh. He came to Earth and encountered humanity. His mission motivated Him to move about announcing and demonstrating the Kingdom while he set captives free. And after (and only after) the mission was finished with His death and resurrection, did He form a church that supported the mission.
Over and over again we see it: Jesus, Mission, Church. But often our lives and what makes us comfortable cause us to live differently than what we see. My challenge to you today is to make sure these aren’t just your priorities, but to make sure they are lived outin the right order.