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God, as we go into the Word this morning, I ask that you allow me to be a vessel and a channel for the things that You want to say and the things You want to do in our hearts in this time we share together.
Thank You for the privilege to come together to sing the truth today that if everything else in our lives is going wrong, the fact that our relationship with You has been made right through the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross is enough reason for us to give You thanks.
And now we want to press into what You have called us to be and what You have called us to do and I pray that there will be such a spirit of affirmation that will flow from the pages of scripture today that we will leave from this time we have together knowing that we have encountered You.
I pray that for those of us who came today feeling inadequate, that we will know that You are for us and You are greater, You are stronger and that You are living inside of each and every one of us. That You have given us everything we need for everything you have called us to do.
So speak to us now God, let Your Word come to us like it came to the people we read about in Scripture. Let Your Word come us that would set us on a path that would allow us to fulfil our calling, and Your mission in this world, so that You may be glorified in and through our lives. In the name of Jesus we pray, and everyone who believes that God has something to say to you today, clap your hands and give God praise.
Fantastic to be back in church today to minister the Word this morning. There’s no other better place I would rather be on a Sunday morning coz’ this is home truly, where I know I must be; where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows…
I just got back yesterday and I am getting very excited and am full of expectation of what is going to be happening up in Hong Kong in 4 days.
About fifty of us from FCC are travelling to Hong Kong to be a part of this year’s Amplify Conference. For those of you who are new to this church you may not know what Amplify Conference is. It is a gathering for Christians in Asia who believe in a God that loves everybody, regardless. Its purpose is to inspire and teaches us how to line up our lives and our churches with the mission of God, to equip ourselves for the journey and to connect with other people on that same journey who will encourage us and support us as they are on theirs.
You may not know this but this conference was started by FCC as a time for our worship team to get trained up and learn to play together eight years ago. And five years ago, we expanded its scope to equipping all of the church beyond the worship team and God started using the conference to bring churches in Asia together. Our affiliate church in HK, BMCF, is hosting the conference this year and this year the conference is already completely sold out, with more than 300 people from more than 20 ministries coming together this year.
So in preparation for this, I want to share a message very close to my heart on “the Mission of God” and how that relates to Amplify Conference and FCC so that you understand at the heart of why we do what we do and to prepare ourselves for the conference and where we are heading in the year ahead as a church.
You know I am tremendously blessed to be in a job that allows me the flexibility to be where I need to be in ministry, and to have the time I need to be able to minister while still contributing in my tent-making professional work, and it provides me the resources to be able to sow into the ministry.
The company that I work for is Nokia. And like many companies, they have a mission statement. Who can tell me what is Nokia’s mission statement? Nokia’s mission statement is very simple – “Connecting People.” It’s very important that we communicate this to consumers, because the mission statement is a promise we are making to people. But even more importantly, when a company is so big, we as employees need to know what is the mission of the company, so that in everything we do, it is the guiding light – our North Star – that determines the priorities and actions of every individual. Different people in the company have different functions, but that all contribute to the one same mission.
It just as important or even more important here in church – we need to understand what is God’s mission to understand how the church and us as individuals connect to that.
So let me ask you now, by show of hands, how many here know what God’s mission is and is living out your life in a way that is connected to God’s mission?
This is very important as the people of God to build an understanding of this. When we understand what is God’s mission is as revealed by scripture, then we will know what is the mission of the church as the body of Christ, and we can discover what is our mission individually as Christians inside that body.
I don’t know about you, but up and until recently, growing up in church, I had a wrong or very narrow understanding of what “missions” means. I always thought it was to a trip to go to a faraway country, limited to this small group of crazy, “super-on” people with a special calling – the missionaries and the missions pastor. They would go to this tribe in this developing country with an unpronounceable name to preach the gospel, build a school or orphanage and give out Bibles, and our job if we were not going is to pray for their safety that they will make it back! Sometimes, we would leave one or two people there and then send them money for them to be able to live off that. It was something someone else did, and maybe if I was spiritual enough, I might consider going on a mission trip someday.
Where did this understanding of “missions” come from? It begins with what you believe is the mission of the church and how that connects to the mission of God.
So here’s how I used to believe it. The church’s mission to for Jesus to come back. God’s mission is to allow everyone to hear the gospel a minimum of one time in their life. Everyone should have a chance to decide if they are going to heaven or hell. So we need to find who hasn’t had the chance to hear the gospel yet, and go, otherwise Jesus won’t come back.
Is that really the mission of God? To plunder hell and populate heaven and let’s do it fast so that we can get to the goal so that Jesus can come back?
Over the last 3 years specifically, God has been doing a work in my life around the understanding of missions. Today, I think that this is far too narrow or limited an understanding, and is certainly not the historical understanding which the Bible reveals.
Let’s first begin by considering what the Bible is. If you have been in church for a while, you will know that the Bible is short for “biblio” – a collection of 66 books by 40 authors with many stories in it of people and a nation interacting with God in different situations. There are stories of the nation of Israel, of how God walked with a people for over a thousand years from their formation, development, disobedience, destruction, redemption and restoration. Ultimately, the Bible is a love story of a God who not just loved one nation, but the world, then, and for each of us, today.
So the Bible is the story of God. There are many literary genres are found in the Bible, but a lot of the bible is based around stories. You know, God could have chosen to use different methods to reveal who God is, maybe full of description of who God is, or a scientific formula, or a legal constitution. But by and large, a lot of the pages of scripture are a collection of stories and that’s how God has chosen to reveal who God is to us. I am glad that the Bible is made up of stories, because we can find ourselves in the story.
And in every story, whether it is the Bible or the latest Dan Brown book or a blockbuster movie, you will always find in it a character (or characters) who is on a mission (who wants something), and has to overcome conflict in order to get it.
And if you look into scripture, you can discover God’s mission.
There is a passage of scripture that if you had to summarize the story arc of the whole Bible, the meta-narrative, the big picture, would be a great summary to understand God’s story. And please turn with me to Col 1:16-20 –
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
In every story, I shared that you will find a character who has a mission and has to overcome conflict to be able to get it. That’s the basic elements in all stories. So this in this story, we see here the main character is God.
And God’s mission here is what – God wants to have the supremacy (or glory) in everything and to reconcile to Himself all things.
God here has a mission – and it is that the Creator God wants to reveal God’s love to all, to reconcile, restore and redeem everything back to its original creation so that God will be glorified.
And in order to do this, God needs to overcome some conflict going against that objective – our sin, our brokenness, we running our lives out of alignment with God’s goal, our hearts that want to glorify ourselves instead of glorifying Him.
How about Jesus? What did Jesus say His mission was? Mark 1:15 summarizes the entire of Jesus’ ministry up.
“The Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news”
Let’s flesh this out a little. Jesus’ mission is to bring this Kingdom of God near to us, such that by demonstration of God’s love and sacrifice, by showing us a new way to live, we can know that God is alive and near to us, and find ourselves in God’s story.
Jesus’ mission is the fulfilment of God’s mission.
So what about our mission as the church, as disciples, as followers of Jesus?
This can be summed up in two familiar passages of scripture –
Mark 12:28-34 – The Great Commandment
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;
and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’ –this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
So here Jesus tells this teacher of the law that if you love God and love your neighbour as your love yourself, you are connected to fulfilling the mission of God.
The next passage of scripture gives us the mission of the church –
Matt 28:19-20 – Great Commission
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Jesus here teaches us that the mission of the church is to make disciples –Christ-followers and to teach and equip people everywhere about God’s mission and how to achieve it.
When we become a Christian, we are saying that we want to follow Christ. The word Christian literally means to be a “little Christ”.
I think the word “follow” is not really well understood today. Today on the Internet, we “follow” Twitter, tumblr accounts and facebook newsfeeds. We follow our favourite brands, celebrities, sports teams, interesting blogs and news sites.
I don’t think that the way we understand it today really is gets to the meaning of the word “follow”. We may be fans of these brands, celebrities or sports teams, but we don’t really follow them.
When we follow something, we are saying I am going to align and participate in the mission of that person. We look and see how that person acts and speaks, what is important to that person, and we do the same.
When we became a Christian, we made a decision to be a follower of Jesus, not just to be a fan of Jesus.
So what are we called as Christians to follow? Jesus tells us that there are 2 most important things that we follow – to love God and to love people. So following Christ is more than a system of beliefs, it’s the way we need to live our lives.
Today, are we following Christ and aligned to God’s mission or are we following the world?
When Jesus says that His mission is to break in the Kingdom of God into all aspects of life, He is telling us that His mission is usually opposite of the mission of most people in the world – the Kingdom of the World or the Kingdom of Me.
The gospel is inherently counter-cultural.
And when we choose to align ourselves and follow God’s mission, it will be very different from the World’s mission. Many will say that you will be left behind according to the world’s standards. But the Apostle Paul tells us that you will not – you have chosen the better thing – we will be transformed to be like Christ and we will be blessed in the process.
I love this passage from Paul in Romans 12:2-3 in the Message version of the Bible.
Rom 12:2-3 (The Message)
Paul: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike to culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings out the best of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Here Paul tells us not to get used the culture of the world.
What is this culture? The culture that says, do whatever it takes to make as much money as you can so that you can have a good life and buy all the things you want. A culture that says, you need to work hard and manage upwards to get ahead at your job so that you can get that promotion, even at the expense of your family, relationships and God during this time. A culture that says, you got to take care of yourself because no one is going to take care of you. A culture that says a person’s identity and worth is measured based on the size of one’s bank account, or how one looks like on the outside, or one’s social status. A culture that says it’s all about you and how others see you.
So we are not to get so used to the culture of the world. But Paul encourages us to follow the Kingdom of God, just as Jesus did. We are to fix our attention not on the values of the world, but on what God deems as important. And God leaves us in the world as witnesses, to be His ambassadors as His sons and daughters. In the way we treat and love others. Our character at work. In our priorities with the way we spend our time and finances.
And Paul says, that when we do that, we will be transformed – we will see and know God, we will see ourselves differently through God’s eyes and we will be blessed in the process in a way that the world cannot satisfy – because your identity is connected to God and not to the world.
So how does God see you and see me? As one who is now saved and waiting to go to heaven to be with God?
No! God has called each one us – you and I to step forward to participate in this mission of God. Not just participate, but to reign, and to lead. Well you say I am not that leader; that is not for me.
Why do we say that? Where did we get this understanding? So let’s first build an understanding of what leadership really is.
In many churches, the Senior Pastor or Executive Pastor is usually the most recognized leader in a church. Maybe the worship leaders are the most visible leaders in the church. They are a small group of people – they run the church and the service.
But is that how God really views what leadership is? I would like to suggest that we again got too comfortable with the world’s view of leadership. We have again let the culture of the world define the church and that is not on the heart of God.
1 Pet 2:9 is entitled the “Priesthood of all believers”. Say it with me. The priesthood of ALL believers.
1 Pet 2:9 – The Priesthood of all Believers
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
You see, the truth in the kingdom is that we are all chosen to be leaders. We are called to be a royal priesthood. Royal – the sons and daughters, ambassadors, witnesses of the God who created the heavens and the earth. Priesthood – working towards the mission of God. Everyone of us. Called to achieve the mission of God – to proclaim the mighty acts of God who gets the glory in all that we do.
Do you begin to see how radically different from what the culture of the world or even some part of the church is saying? If you want to follow Jesus, you got to get yourself right with God. No. It’s about God’s glory and what He has done through Christ Jesus, that although we are weak, that God will show Himself strong.
The world that says, if you follow Jesus, you will lose out in life. No. The world’s values are not your values, and as you align yourself with God’s mission, you will be transformed in a way that no money can buy, no title can ascribe, and no person you know on this Earth can do for you. You will have peace, you will be secure in your identity of who you are, you will know God’s love and presence with you, you will have a purpose that will have an eternal legacy, your relationships will be restored, and when all these things happen, people will see more and more of all of these things and see God in you and working through you and give glory to God in heaven.
I want to share with you a story from scripture from a couple more passages of scripture and with this I will close.
Most of the New Testament is written by the Apostle Paul and many of his letters to churches are written from prison, where he was thrown into on at least three different occasions in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles – what he believed was his role in fulfilling the mission of God.
You know you maybe hearing this message today and you are saying: Yes I really want to get on board this mission but Gary you don’t know my past and you don’t know my situation. I don’t even know where I am heading. I got to get a job. I don’t have seminary education. I can’t even manage my family matters. I got to wait till I find the right ministry or right church. I got to find a partner first. Or if you were Paul: “I got to get out of prision.”
But look at Paul’s response in his letter to the Philippians church, Paul writes
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
Don’t let the situation that you are in make you push pause in you aligning yourself in God’s story. To wait for circumstances to pass before doing the thing that God is calling you to do.
So why don’t we instead say what Paul says in Phil 1:12?
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
You see, Paul chose to see his circumstances not as a stopping point but as a turning point.
Paul found himself in circumstances that most of us would chalk up and say, “well, guess I better wait out my sentence”.
Not Paul. Paul tells us that it was in every season of life, God wants to use us for God’s mission in that circumstances – even if you may be locked up in prison.
So this repentance thing that Jesus calls us to is simply a “turning point” – a shift in the direction in the way we act, but also in the way we view things going on around us.
Paul got to see God’s perspective that God has allowed him to be there for a reason, and he is there and he is singing his hymns, not losing his peace, not getting his joy robbed, and the guards are getting to know of Jesus’ love in prison.
But guess what, with Paul being in prison, and giving him time to write all these letters to the churches that he had helped out with. He also got out of the way to allow others to come forward to live out the message of the Gospel in their lives, and even for the generations to come as we go back to these letters for wisdom and instruction today.
How do we know this? Turn with me to the last passage of scripture for today – Eph 4:1-6. I am going to be reading from the Message version and with this I will close.
Eph 4:1-16 (The Message)
In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all…
But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift… He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.
So here Paul is writing again from prison, Paul tells us that if we want to follow God’s mission, we need to act – to line ourselves up with what God is doing, get out there and walk down the path that God has for you to travel, not to sit on our hands.
And while we do this, we are also called not to do it with a bad attitude, but to always follow Jesus’ way of relating with others – with humility and discipline, steadily, pouring ourselves out in love to one another, mending relationships with each other.
And if you read on in the passage, that God will give us different gifts, and calls us to develop and operate in these gifts so that the entire church can work well together as different parts of the body operating together.
This is so different from how people see the church today. In a recent study, when asked why people aren’t part of a church, LifewayResearch found that 90% of respondents said that they don’t go to church because they perceive Christians to be hypocritical, judgemental, and arrogant Christians, and 79% responded that they felt that “Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people.”
I don’t know about you but Rev Miak wrote on his facebook recently that the fastest way to end a date is to tell your date that you work for the church. Non-Christians, especially LGBT people see the church as judgemental, irrelevant, impotent institutions. We have been choosing the church we belong to by what we get out of the church.
But Paul tells us the focus is to be planted in a church and to move ourselves from “what can the church do for me” to “what can I do for the church”?
You see for too long, the church has stopped being the church because we have lost sight of the mission of God, or we believe that the mission of God belongs to only a small group of people and when we get some disagreement in the church, when we hear one bad sermon, when we don’t engage the worship in the way we want to, we want to leave and move on.
So if FCC or any church is going to be effective, our mission as individuals must be collectively aligned, prioritized and resourced in line with the priorities of the God.
The church exists to fulfil God’s mission, and when we participate in God’s mission we become living signs of God’s intended future for the world, bringing glory to God.
So a church that is not participating in God’s mission or on some other mission ceases to be a church. And a church (the community of Christ-followers) that purposefully aligns its mission with God’s mission and sets itself up to enable that mission to its fullest potential is being the church.
And that’s why I am so looking forward to Amplify Conference.
Amplify Conference is not FCC’s conference; it is not BMCF’s conference; it exists for you and FCC; it exists for also each person coming and their church; it’s about learning to equip and align ourselves to participate God’s mission.
This year we are so blessed to have speakers coming like Dr. Patrick Cheng, Dr. Cindi Love, O Young who deeply care about God’s mission, about our churches and about you.
If you are involved this year, don’t look at it as time to work or to put up a show and get all stressed out in the process; look at it as an opportunity to welcome people home into God’s embrace; to catch up with long lost friends who will encourage you on your journey and who you will encourage you in yours. It’s not about our glory, it’s about God’s.
When I travel for work and I get the chance to catch up with the churches and ministries that were at last year’s Amplify, and you have no idea what a blessing and impact you guys have had on them. For so many people, it was their turning point.
Kay Kay in the Philippines told that at Amplify last year that it was there where she found the faith and clarity to step out to go to seminary full-time and become the pastor of MCC Quezon City when their pastor left. In GSKL, they found a renewed hope and commitment to form and be responsible for the leadership of their church and went on to have their first service as GSKL with 30 members and today have launched the HIV hotline and testing centre to be a blessing to the community. In BMCF, we have seen a whole new generation of leaders stepping up and everywhere you look, there are so many so many more stories. All in the last one year.
If you are involved this year in organizing an aspect of the conference or you are in ministry and you are feeling tired or burnt out, don’t keep quiet about it coz’ that’s how bitterness and resentment happens, ask for help. And come and participate and take time to drink deeply from the river of living water.
If you are not involved at the moment, we still have lots to do and you don’t think there’s anything for you to do, you can welcome those coming and help them get as much out of the time and experience as possible because of your presence. Give them a hug and a smile, hear their stories, pray with them – don’t just dash from one session to the next!
If you are not already registered, we are so thankful that the conference is sold out. But. The team will make sure that if you want to come, we will make space for you in the sessions. This conference costs us a lot to host each year, but we know that we sow into your lives, you will be blessed, so just come and be blessed by all the speakers, the worship, the presence of God, the fellowship, and watch how God will work in your heart.
So are you ready to align yourself to God’s mission? Are you ready for your turning point in your life?
Let us pray –
Dear God, we thank You for Your word and Your presence this afternoon. We thank You that have created each and every one of us so beautifully and uniquely. We thank You that You have not just created us, but You have brought us into relationship with You where we can find our true identity in You – as Your beloved child, as Your ambassadors, as Your hands and feet. We thank You for our church FCC, for all the leaders here and every member who has made this their home. We lift up this church, our lives and this year’s Amplify Conference to You and ask You today to have Your way. Help us make this year’s conference our turning point and a witness of who You are to the world. Help us to align our lives not to the culture of the world but to Your mission here in Singapore, in Hong Kong, in China, in Malaysia, in the Philippines and everywhere that You are using this ministry to reach. For Your glory alone. In Jesus’ mighty name we ask and pray. And all of God’s people say Amen.