A Missional Table
Twenty points on how God’s Mission is being accomplished despite all opposition.
How should we respond to fears about the world, political corruption, economic injustice, human trafficking, etc.? We hear of Christians being persecuted in various places but feel powerless. Should Christians huddle into churches to wait for Jesus to come to rescue us? The first-century church experienced severe persecution, but it survived and thrived. And eventually, the Roman Empire collapsed under its own corruption. After the victory of the Chinese Communist armies in 1949 and the suppression of Christian missionary efforts, the members of all missionary societies departed or were expelled from China. Many thought that was an insurmountable setback for the Christian church in China. But the Church exploded. What can we learn from the Chinese?
I have ministered in over 40 countries, and I’ve made several trips to China, mainly to lead missional internship teams. We had a Journalism internship team in ‘89, a Physical Therapy internship in ‘90, and Cultural Studies and Occupational Therapy internships in ‘97 & ‘98. In ‘99, my wife and I returned to China to meet our adoptive daughter and bring her home. In 2009 and ‘10, I taught a leadership school and staff development sessions in Hong Kong. But my most significant visit to China was teaching about fifty Chinese Christians who planted churches in university communities. That group represented tens of thousands of new believers in university communities in six cities in China. I won’t mention the place or the year that this teaching took place, but God taught me some essential things about Jesus’ Mission during that time. That is what I am sharing in this post.
I hope you will learn and understand that God uses small things; He seems to love the small things. He uses the weak, the despised, and the forgotten to surprise those who might otherwise suppress the spread of His kingdom.
God uses those of no reputation, no significance in the eyes of the world, to confound the proud and the powerful. God is a missionary. I pray you will allow Jesus to show you the way to live a missional life.
Here are 20 points on how God’s Mission is being accomplished despite all opposition.
God placed humanity on earth to fulfill his mission, to be his imagers. He told Adam and Eve to spread His kingdom rule everywhere on the Earth.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).
There was already an enemy on Earth. Therefore, living missionally requires knowing how to engage in spiritual warfare.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).
God has not changed his mind about his mission. Despite a devastating setback, God knows everything and works all things together for good. God has always been a Redeemer.
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25).
Though God is all-powerful, He is humble and patient. Jesus instructs us to understand this.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:29-30).
He came in humility and showed us how to live and serve in humility.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:1217).
At the same time, Jesus showed us how to yield to His Father’s power.
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).
God shows us that power is made perfect in weakness.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
How do acts of service relate to Christ’s mission and our battle against spiritual forces?
“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8).
God’s nature, His infinite power and knowledge, are rooted in his character. God is love. His character is His power.
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
What is the glory of the Father?
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exo 33:1819).
Jesus showed us that he chooses to reveal his character through the small, the neglected, the poor, the despised.
The little boy’s lunch is a great example. That boy who gave his “five barley loaves and two small fish” was not even counted among the “five thousand men” (Matt 14:21) who ate. God seems to choose to accomplish his mission through small things. Yeast (Matt 13:3), mustard seed (Matt 17:20), “stone, cut without hands” (Dan. 2:34).
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor 1:27).
Jesus did not build an organization. He gave us the power to restore people and build them up.
“As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying)” (Luke 9:33).
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chron. 16:9).
Jesus modeled a sojourner’s life. He lived on the periphery of worldly power. He had no place to lay his head.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
He did not sit on a throne. He sat at tables.
“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him” (Mark 2:15).
He modeled missional living through a mobile band of students who learned while serving. He was not in the center of power. Therefore he commands us to go.
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23).
Rather than build a seeker-friendly church, the Father seeks us.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23).
What practical things can we do to live missionally? How, then, can we lead our lives, families, businesses, and churches like Jesus? We must ruthlessly examine our ways, our worship of self, and our traditions to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:1-2).
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:42-43).
We are instructed not to conform to the worldly temptation to control others. We are commanded not to conform to the “weapons” or ways of the world. Therefore, each of us can simply offer our spiritual gifts.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Rom 12:3-8).
Not all are pastors or leaders of a local church, but all are called to live missionally. Practice small dinner meetings, inviting acquaintances, and worshipping at the table.
“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (I Cor 14: 26).
Host a Missional Table: An Evangelism & Missions Home Group
Table Setting: A shared weekly meal in a home following the progress of the gospel through 2000 years. (Jewish, Greek, Roman/Italian, North Atlantic, Spanish/Latin American, Asian, South & East African, Middle-Eastern & North African)
Shared Values: Fellowship, Thanksgiving, Participation, Storytelling, Praying, Listening, and the Spirit’s Ministry flows out of Being.
Missional Discussion Topics: Mission of God, Calling, Character of God, Sharing our Stories, Hearing God, Intercession, Advancing the Kingdom, God’s Sovereignty, Crossing Thresholds to Cross Cultures
Outcomes: Listening & speaking; celebrating the Gospel of the Kingdom; knowing our story and God's story; knowing God's ways of calling; and eating our way through the advance of the gospel worldwide.