Knowing God’s Big Story Leads Us Into His Mission
My wife, Marlene, and I have had the privilege of being involved in various nations and cultures for the sake of the Gospel. We are often asked, “How can churches maintain a strong focus on reaching across cultural and racial boundaries in mission?” There is a lot that could be said on this subject, but I am convinced that a primary factor is that every person added to the church must see themselves as a functioning member of the family that God has chosen to bless all the nations. In order for this vision to live in our hearts we must know ‘God’s Big Salvation Story’ found in the Bible.
From the first chapter of the story we hear how God created mankind in his own image. He called them, male and female, to fill the whole earth with people who would walk with him, joyfully participate with him in his kingdom and live for his glory. Next comes the story of mankind’s fall into sin while in the Garden of Eden. God announces that his plan for them will continue. Generations later God chooses a man named Abraham and makes a covenant with him, promising that he and his offspring would be the people through whom God’s salvation blessing would flow out to all the nations upon the earth. As the biblical story unfolds we see the amazing plan of God for his chosen people. We begin to realize that the biblical teaching of God’s election of people is inseparably connected to his plan to bless people from every tribe, language group and race around the world through them.
As we come to the stories of Jesus in the New Testament it becomes radically clear that only in and through him God’s chosen people will be enabled to carry out their missional purpose. The Apostle Paul states this reality in a few words in his letter to the church in Ephesus: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both (Jews and Gentiles) one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
By going to the cross Christ Jesus has broken down all hostility between Man and God, and Man and Man, regardless of the nation or race from which they come. Everyone who comes to faith in Jesus then becomes a part of this family which God has called to bless all the nations; this family is the church.
Before knowing Jesus, Paul lived his life to promote division between his people, the Jews, and all other non-Jewish peoples. After meeting Jesus he devoted himself to demolishing racial, cultural and religious barriers by intentionally going to people of other nations and races in order to bring them the Good News of what Jesus has done. He declared that everyone who comes to Jesus, no matter which racial, cultural or religious background, is made a full-fledged part of God’s family. Paul understood that when churches are made up of people from various races and cultural backgrounds they are particularly glorifying to Jesus.
The Apostle John received visions of the consummation of God’s Big Story. Read his words; “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”’ (Revelation 7:9-10)
We want our churches to be a reflection of what we will experience in heaven: people from all nations, tribes and language groups delighting in God together forever. This was God’s plan from the beginning.