The Love Avenue of a Healthy Church is going and participating with God.
By Heber Ticas, Superintendent of Latin America
The Love Avenue of a healthy church is perhaps the most challenging of the three ministry avenues. In the Love Avenue, a healthy congregation will create spaces for missional participation as a corporate body. Significant holistic health as a body cannot be attained without the proper understanding and calling of the church to participate in the mission of God in the world. It is often said, and rightly so, that missional participation apart from Jesus is not possible. It is by the Spirit that the church joins Jesus in his missional activity in our neighborhoods and communities. The participation part of the equation is what the Love Avenue is seeking to address. As we undertake the task of pursuing greater health and build out our Love Avenue expressions, I urge you to consider the following.
The Mission of God Informs the Mission of The Church
God has always been on mission in the world, expressed through the calling and sending of men and women. His activity is evidenced through the sending of the patriarchs, prophets, kings, and eventually his Son, Jesus. The incarnation of Christ is key to understanding the nature of mission in the Christian church. Jesus not only commanded the church to partake in his mission, but also modeled what missional participation can look like. The sending nature of the church cannot be denied. Through the Great Commission, Jesus himself commands and empowers the church to go and informs us on how we are to go. The Johannine account of the commission sheds greater light for the church. We see it when he first appears to his disciples after his resurrection.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)
I see three important elements in this account.
- Missional Sentness: The church is a sent body. This is evidenced by the ministry of the apostles and by the ministry of the early church. The incarnate Jesus intimates the sending nature of the mission of God by pointing out his mission from the Father. In Matthew’s account he says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The focus is on “make disciples,” but in my estimation, the challenge for us in the Love Avenue is on “go.”
- Missional Embodiment: The second element that I see present in John’s account of the commission is this incarnational element of the mission. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me.” He not only proclaimed the good news from the Father, but he also embodied this good news in his everyday rhythms of life. If missional sentness is focused on going, then missional embodiment speaks to how we go and what we do as we go.
- By the Holy Spirit: The third element of the commission is that neither the apostles nor the church were to go apart from the Spirit. In Matthew’s account, Jesus says, “I will be with you until the end of time.” Both our sentness and the embodiment of the message can be effective only as we are empowered by the Spirit.
I strongly believe that in these passages we have a clear revelation of the identity of the church. Unfortunately, the church does not always recognize her calling as the sent people of God that she is. Engaging in the Love Avenue as a church body is going and participating with Jesus and allowing the mission of God to inform us on how and where we are to go.
Missional Participation in the Church
With a clear understanding of our missional identity and our missional dispositions, a healthy church body strategizes their approach and engagement in their neighborhoods and communities. Because mission flows from the heart of the Father, Son and Spirit, and the Son was sent because the Father loves, a healthy congregation steps into the Love Avenue with the same approach. I believe that it is key for us as a church to reflect on our approach to mission. The Love Avenue affords us the opportunity to discern the call of God for our local body, and to activate the body to participate missionally with Jesus. As we engage in establishing a more robust Love Avenue in our churches, I encourage you to consider the following:
- We are compelled by love, so all that we do in the Love Avenue is birthed out of a loving heart.
- The Great Commission cannot be separated from the Great Commandment. We participate in the Great Commission as we are driven by a Great Commandment heart.
- Pastors, Love Avenue champions and ministry leaders at large have the responsibility to activate the mind, heart, and hands of the body for missional participation in our neighborhoods and communities.
- Let us make sure that we value the mission of God as a corporate body and that we value the people in our communities.
- Let’s brainstorm for ways that we can create missional spaces for corporate missional participation.
- As we build a Love Avenue team, let’s move out into the neighborhood and discern Jesus movements to join in.
- Let us open our eyes and hearts and ask the Lord to give us a heartache for those who don’t yet know Christ and his love for them.
It is my prayer that as we focus on the Love Avenue this year, the Lord would show us what he is already doing in our communities. I pray that our people have the sensitivity to hear the voice of the Spirit leading us into missional participation with Jesus.