Becoming a Missional Church

Rob Green February 25, 2018 John 4:1-26
Outline

3 marks of a missional people following their missional Savior

I. Being Most Concerned about Knowing People to Wisely Minister

A. Taking time to know people and approach them uniquely (Nicodemus John 3, v. Samaritan Woman John 4)

“John may intend a contrast between the woman of this narrative and Nicodemus of ch. 3. He was learned, powerful, respected, orthodox, theologically trained; she was unschooled, without influence, despised, capable only of folk religion. He was a man, a Jew, a ruler; she was a woman, a Samaritan, a moral outcast. And both needed Jesus.” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, p. 216)

“A missional church, if it is to reach people in a post-Christian culture, must recognize that most of our more recently formulated and popular gospel presentations will fall on deaf ears because hearers will be viscerally offended or simply unable to understand the basic concepts of God, sin, and redemption.” (Tim Keller, Center Church, 272)

B. Engaging with people to overcome gender, racial, economic, religious, and moral barriers

“A missional church must be, in a sense, ‘porus.’ That is, it should expect nonbelievers, inquirers, and seekers to be involved in most aspects of the church’s life and ministry—in worship, small and midsize groups, and service projects in the neighborhood. A missional church knows how to welcome doubters and graciously include them as much as possible in community so they can see the gospel fleshed out in life and process the gospel message through numerous personal interactions.” (Tim Keller, Center Church, 274)

C. Learning the individual’s thirst—the soul's idolatry

“Both in the Fourth Gospel and in the Synoptics, the sheer flexibility of Jesus leaps from the pages as he deals with a wide array of different people and their varied needs. No less startling (though more often ignored) is the manner in which Jesus commonly drives to the individual’s greatest sin, hopelessness, guilt, despair, need. This should not be surprising: if he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29, 34), inevitably he will deal with sin in those who express some interest in knowing and following him.” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, 221)

II. Personalizing the Gospel to the Individual (Contextualization)

A. Tying the Gospel to the soul's thirst

B. Answering distractions but not being distracted

1 Peter 3:15 - …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

C. Bringing to them the Person who is the answer for the soul's thirst—Jesus

III. Equipping Disciples to Joyfully Feast on Missional Work

A. Teaching disciples to be missional in every aspect of their lives

B. Practicing unity among disciples as much as possible

“A missional church should practice Christian unity on the local level as much as possible, in the heyday of Christendom, churches received definition by contrasting themselves with (and constantly criticizing) other denominations and traditions. Today we should define ourselves more by contrasting ourselves with the world and our surrounding culture. The world must see churches avoiding unnecessary divisions.” (Tim Keller, Center Church, 274)

C. Living as a counter-cultural community

“The church can no longer be an association or a club but is a ‘thick’ alternate human society in which relationships are strong and deep—and in which sex and family, wealth and possession, racial identity and power, are all used and practiced in godly and distinct ways, it must be set within, not separated from, its surroundings. Its neighbors must see it as a servant society, sacrificially pouring out its time and wealth for the common good of the city.” (Tim Keller, Center Church, 273)

Good morning friends. I want to begin with a question. Do you enjoy watching people accomplish a goal or mission?

I think it is in encouraging to watch missional people accomplish missional things. It is not too difficult to find people who are missional.

The winter Olympics wraps up today and there have been stories of individuals who have sacrificed greatly in order to win an Olympic medal.

  • Commercials with Lindsey Vonn after surgery training with one leg.
    • One is left to imagine the amount of pain and work it took to be back on the world stage as a ski racer.
  • Winning WWII was an effort that required every person
  • I enjoyed watching each element of the conference work together and each member of the team work to do their part. (teachers, I love trash people, worship team, food workers, etc, etc)

Or I saw recently that the original Rosie the Riveter died. The article took the reader to a time when many men went off to war in WWII, women worked in factories, and children were forced to live with constraints because many daily goods like food and gasoline were rationed.

A little closer to home was the BCTC. One of my special joys this year was watching all of you serve. Whatever fruit the Lord will bear out of the conference is something that we were a part of together.

Well … Not only is it amazing to watch people on a mission, as we think about the concept of mission we notice that it provides several benefits.

#1. A mission serves to provide focus. It inherently prioritizes items. It moves things out of the way in order to make room for other things – most consistent with the mission.

Whether we think of a young person on a mission to earn an academic or athletic scholarship, or a group of people on a mission to start a business, or whether we think of a nation rallied around a mission to win a global war then what we see consistently is that the mission

  • Gives priority
  • Eliminates possibilities that are outside the mission
  • The father’s will continually served as a constraint on his actions and obedience to his will was the measure of success.
  • We are not able to know the hearts of people automatically.
  • We have to ask questions, listen to their answers, and try to connect dots.
  • But it began a dialogue that was necessary to have.
  • If you read John 3 and 4 which the service pastors encouraged you to do, then you know that the starting point for the Samaritan woman was very different from the starting point with Nicodemas.
  • Believers often ask for evangelism training. How can we present the gospel? Today is part of that equipping.
  •  She is surprised at several levels. I would like to suggest that there are a host of possible barriers that could prevent a conversation like this from ever happening.
  • However, some believers get a little nervous around a person whose gender is questionable. The person wearing a dress with 14 inch carved biceps and an adam’s apple is very different than a person wearing a dress who is clearly a girl. God may have a divine appointment arranged anyway.
  • There were additional data points however. Once the Assyrians conquered Israel many of the men were killed and some Assyrians moved to the land. They married and had children and these were the Samaritans.
  • Racial tensions in the Bible are almost never over the color of a person’s skin, but they do exist along family genealogy.
  • For example, if a person worries that is not a very big deal because everyone does it. However, if you steal, then you are an outcast because no one wants to be around a thief.
  • The religious leaders would not have said that they were sinless. Such a claim would be equivalent to saying that you were God. But nor did they use the term “sinner” because that implied something more than just an occasional sin.
  • Sometimes all we want to do is give them a tract or invite them to an event. Those are good, but not always enough.
  • He knows that she travels from her home to this well on a regular basis. Water is life and indoor plumbing sounds great!
  • Better yet, what would happen if I just wasn’t thirsty anymore. Even better!
  • Because not everyone in the culture is impacted by the same thing.
  • Some get the drugs, destructive relationships, and prison theme.
  • Other will relate to death from a medical condition.
  • When the gospel is applied to all aspects in life then you become more equipped at sharing how the gospel fits their life.
  • In other words, what happens when others get too close to the truth about us? What do we do?  Distract, Dodge, Avoid, Question…
  • Ever want to talk to one of your children about something you are concerned about and they bring up something that they think you will like?
  • Ever talk to your spouse about one subject and then he/she asks an unrelated question and you never get back around to the primary point?
  • He points her to a moment that she believed was in the future to highlight the significance that he can deliver on his promise of living water.
  • Obey the will of the father
  • Win the lost and equip the followers
  • To know what motivates them and what they worship. It involves knowing their hopes and fears.
  • Then it involves tailoring our gospel presentation to those hopes and fears. Which means I am seeking to learn more about the gospel message.
  • It is learning each aspect of the mission.
  • We do not want to be lazy poor stewards of the mission
  • Nor do we want to be prideful that God needs our perfect union of relational wisdom of gospel depth to win someone to Jesus.
  • But rather than bring it up, they decide to give Jesus some food and tell him to enjoy this feast that they brought.
  • In vv. 39-42 shows the results of her witness … they came to Jesus and ultimately believed not because of her word, but because we heard the savior of the World. That is why the gospel always ends with Jesus. It might start with a discussion about being born again, about a meal, or about someone telling her about her immoral life, but it always ends with Christ.
  • That is why I said lets be balanced. Good stewards of knowledge … yes. Remember that God can use anyone … also yes.
  • Do not look at people only through the lens of physical issues
  • See that the fields are white … put on different lenses
  • Will our unity be contagious or off putting? Will our unity be a testimony to grace or evidence of strife?

#2. A mission also sets standards for success or failure. It provides a way to measure whether something is being accomplished.

For the Olympian, it is a medal. For the nation it was winning the war. For the student it is earning a scholarship. For the person starting a business it is earning a profit.

If watching a person live in a missional way is enjoyable, how much more enjoyable is living in a missional way ourselves.

This year our annual theme is Being Careful How We Build. That is taken from 1 Cor 3 where the metaphor is that Jesus is the foundation and my works serve as the structure of the building. The structure will one day be put to the test.

Scripture is clear regarding the mission we have been given. Our church has tried to capture that mission by saying, “The Mission of Faith Church is to glory God by winning people to Jesus Christ and teaching them to be more faithful disciples.” This mission is the mission Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19-20.

Matthew 28:19-20 “aGo therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The message this morning is entitled Becoming a Missional Church. With that in mind please turn in you Bibles to John 4. That is on page _____ of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

As you are turning there I would like to remind you that the gospels explain that Jesus, our savior, was on a mission. He was on the mission to do the will of his father.

I would like us to consider three marks of a missional people following a missional savior

Please follow along as I read John 4:1-26

The first mark or truth of being a missional person is

I. Being most concerned about knowing people in order to wisely minister

How many of you have ever “opened your mouth and inserted your foot”? Me too. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful, but I ended up getting there because I was careless.

One of the things that our savior did, as recorded in the gospels, was minister to each person in a way that was warranted by the specific situation. In other words, we see him

A.      Taking the time to know people and approach them uniquely

Of course Jesus has an advantage from you and me.

Yet, Jesus decides to open the discourse with this woman regarding the issue of water.

Jesus’ simple request seemed quite surprising to this woman.

Don Carson wrote, “John may intend a contrast between the woman of this narrative and Nicodemus of ch. 3. He was learned, powerful, respected, orthodox, theologically trained; she was unschooled, without influence, despised, capable only of folk religion. He was a man, a Jew, a rule; she was a woman, a Samaratan, a moral outcast.” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, PNTC, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1991, 216).

The starting point for Nicodemas was a discussion about being born again. For the Samaritan woman it was about a meal.

Friends, as we consider this mission of winning others and equipping them there is a personal element to the story. Ministry is often like that.

There is not one particular way of presenting the Gospel that works every time.

Why…because people are different and unique.

Over the course of time, helpful evangelism tools have been developed.

You may have heard of Evangelism Explosion and the Roman’s Road and illustrations such as the bridge to life.

All of these are very helpful tools

Tim Keller states, “A missional church, if it is to reach people in a post-Christian culture, must recognize that most of our more recently formulated and popular gospel presentations will fall on deaf ears because hearers will be viscerally offended or simply unable to understand the basic concepts of God, sin, and redemption. (Center Church, 272)

Think about this true Gospel Statement, “Jesus Christ loved you and gave himself a sacrifice for your sins.”

Think about the number of words that might need definition in a particular case … [Jesus Christ, love, sacrifice, sin]

Sometimes we get to share Christ in an outreach ministry like the Passion Play or Living Nativity. Other times the gospel is proclaimed one on one. It happens in counseling, it happens in small group Bible studies, and it happens in neighborhoods.

If you are going to be part of the missional work like your savior to evangelize the lost, then you must understand them as a person. What words do they need to define? What makes them tick?

We also see Jesus …

B.      Engaging with them to overcome gender, racial, economic, religious, and moral barriers

John 4:3-4 - He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.

God has a divine appointment arranged for Jesus. This journey was travelled by Jews many times, but let’s say there was not always a lot of interest in hanging out with the locals. But Jesus is on a mission to do the will of his father.

John 4:7-9 - There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her, “Give Me a drink.”8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman *said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

This text includes a few pieces of history that are important to see the significance of this interaction. The woman is surprised.

Gender: Men had a more prominent place in society. Men socialized with men and women socialized with women. In our world that is probably not our first concern.

Racial: The Samaritans have a bit of history. Originally it goes back to the divided kingdom when they set up their own nation. The 10 tribes of Israel and the 2 tribes associated with Judah.

Religious: When the nation divided the northern tribes set up their own religious system. The woman identifies it.

John 4:19-20 - The woman *said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Moral: I have been challenged by Jerry Bridges work Respectable Sins. He says that culture places a certain level of shame and embarrassment around certain sins and not around others.

Here is a woman who has been married 5 times and the person she currently lives with is not her husband. The Bible did not tell us all her story, but it is possible that she, like others, would have been classified by the culture as a sinner ---  a person to avoid.

Jesus was an expert at blowing through the moral barriers.

As we think about mission, learning to know people requires that we will have to set some possible barriers aside because we want to minister to them wisely.

“A missional church must be, in a sense, ‘porus.’ That is, it should expect nonbelievers, inquirers, and seekers to be involved in most aspects of the church’s life and ministry—in worship, small and midsize groups, and service projects in the neighborhood. A missional church knows how to welcome doubters and graciously include them as much as possible in community so they can see the gospel fleshed out in life and process the gospel message through numerous personal interactions.” (Center Church, 274)

At the Northend…

o  Imagine getting to know the single mom who uses Car Works and you get to sit down with her at Flour Mill Bakery and Café

o  Think about the elderly widower who comes to the Lafayette Senior Center and also needs to access meals on wheels….all of it right there at the North end

o  Maybe the Widower goes to Reclaimed Hope and learns about Vision of Hope and says, “That’s perfect for my granddaughter and her struggles”

         

This is not just true about the northend. It is necessary on the east side. It is necessary on the west side. This has to be part of our ministry philosophy.

Knowing a person individually also entails …

C.      Learning the individual’s thirst – the soul’s idolatry

Both in the Fourth Gospel and in the Synoptics, the sheer flexibility of Jesus leaps from the pages as he deals with a wide array of different people and their varied needs. No less startling (though more often ignored) is the manner in which Jesus commonly drives to the individual’s greatest sin, hopelessness, guilt, despair, need. This should not be surprising: if he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29, 34), inevitably he will deal with sin in those who express some interest in knowing and following him (D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, 221)

Please look carefully at John 4:10. Yes, Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water, but he knows the situation.

This one comment begins to open her heart and mind to larger issues. It is not just a drink that she is thirsty for. She is in need of something far greater and Jesus now has her attention.

Jesus asks her to call her husband. Such a question exposes some idolatry. What is she doing living with a man who is not her husband? What is happening in her heart and life that leads her to that decision?

Jesus knows, because he knows the heart of all people. We have to learn to ask. Those that you are ministering to…Can you answer questions like about them? Can you answer questions like this about you?

  • What is ____ living for?
  • What does _____ believe will satisfy him most in life?
  • What one thing if it were taken away from _____ would devastate him or her?

 If knowing a person is a mark of being missional then the second mark is

II. Personalizing the gospel message to the individual

With Nicodemus the issue is being born again. They engage in a conversation about how that could be possible.

However, the Samaritan woman gets a very different story.

Notice how he phrased the Gospel,

He did not say, “I am Jesus Christ and I will die for your sins as a sacrifice on the cross in the future.”

He said to the thirsty woman, “I have living water for you and you will never thirst again…you can be satisfied!”

That gets her interest. They have a conversation about her husbands which leads her to the conclusion that Jesus is a prophet (v. 19). Later in v. 25 she explains that she knows something about Messiah.

John 4:25- The woman *said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”

She knows that Messiah will come and declare all things. She is already on that page. Jesus simply makes the link between each of these data points.

He links her thirst, to the fact that he knows all (including all that she has done) to her understanding of Messiah and proves that he is all she needs. He can satisfy the longings of her heart.

Jesus Christ was

A.      Tying the Gospel to the Soul’s Thirst

Remember that we are using the concept of “thirst” as a metaphor for the longings of a person’s heart. It is what they live for or what they would be afraid to lose.

  • For those who are weary—Jesus says, come to me and I will give you rest
  • For those who are trying to be righteous –Jesus gives them his righteousness
  • For those looking for Peace—Jesus says, I leave you with Peace
  • For those who are hungry—Jesus says, I am the bread of Life
  • For those who are thirsty – Jesus says, I am the living water
  • For those who insecure—Jesus is the eternal security
  • For those who are depressed—Jesus is the Joy of Life
  • For those who are counting on their birth-right—Christ says you must be born again…

So evangelizing the lost is about knowing the person well enough to know their heart’s desires and knowing the gospel well enough to connect how the gospel satisfies those desires.

As a church, that is one of the reasons why the team decided to change the passion play vignette every year. Last year it was about the choices that led to destroyed relationships and prison, and this year the vignette looks death square in the eye through serious health conditions. Why change it?

I hope that encourages you to learn more about the gospel. I hope that encourage you to want to be more skilled as tying the gospel to any soul’s thirst.

As a starting place, I would recommend Milton Vincent’s the Gospel Primer. I know you get a lot of recommended reading material. The value of the book is that you see how you can apply the Gospel to all aspects of life …

Now, notice what happens when Jesus points out the Samaritan’s woman’s deepest need

  

Jesus’ identity raises a question. It might be an honest question, it might be an attempt to get the pressure off us. Either way … Jesus was  

B.      Answering Distractions but not being distracted

In the same way, there will be all kinds of questions that folks ask about and we need to grow in knowledge to be able to answer

1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

Evangelism training is not just associated with an ability to articulate the basic truths of the gospel. It is also associated with answering questions that a person might have without getting lost.

Answering questions without being distracted is a people ministry skill. It has a relationship to counseling. It has a relationship to marriage. It has a relationship to parenting. It has a relationship to friendships. It has a relationship to witnessing.

For example …

Jesus does not ignore her question

John 4:21-24 - Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus is not afraid to engage this woman’s questions. But as she listens, Jesus moves from vv. 21-22 (which is the primary answer) to vv. 23-24 which brings her back to the reason they are having this conversation in the first place.

He points her to something she knows about … Messiah.

How many of us in a gospel conversation get thrown off by the question of v. 20? How many of us lose our place? We head into the woods and we never come out.

What are you doing to learn your bible more so that you can answer the question without getting lost?

I hope you will look at the sign up for the host of FCI classes coming up for the spring semester and you will take steps to know your bible more.

Now, when Jesus’ answered her Jesus did something else. He brought her to Himself alone…. So we are …

C.      Bringing to them the Person who is the answer for the soul’s thirst—Jesus

At this point no more metaphors, no more analogies. Jesus is the one.

We connect with people where their issues are but we always bring them to the reality of the person and work of Jesus. As we will see in a few moments, that is exactly what this woman did as well.

I want to summarize where we are in the argument because I don’t want us lost in the midst of all this truth. We started by considering the mission … it is expressed in several different forms, but with the same central core.

We have to decide if we are willing to embrace that mission so that it constrains what we do and sets a measure for success and failure. Some of us struggle with that.

Once we decide we are willing to accept it … we see that it requires a desire to know people.

There is a danger right here. I believe that learning to know people and learning to know gospel and having the relational wisdom to link the two is a matter of missional stewardship.

HOWEVER, since we are always ending in the exact same place … that is with Jesus … let’s remember that God is not hindered by our clumsy attempts. God orchestrates divine appointments and he uses earthen vessels to communicate his truth.

Some of us came to Christ with very simple gospel messages given by a person who knew 4 verses in the Bible and shared everyone they knew.

--- Sound balanced? --- Good because the Samaritan woman is going to join the mission.

That brings us to the third mark of being a missional person and that is

III. Equipping disciples to joyfully feast on missional work

I read 1-26 earlier, let’s pick up in v. 27 and read to v. 42. Read John 4:27-42.

We learned back in v. 8 that the disciples went to the city to buy food. They missed the bulk of the conversation. They were amazed that Jesus had this conversation which shows their need for equipping.

Seriously?

Meanwhile, the woman is out witnessing with some very simple truths. She is not very relationally wise she is not very gospel robust, but she is saying … I know who the Messiah is and let’s go meet him.

Friends, sometimes being missional is also being passionate. She was so excited about Jesus that she left her water pot.

Meanwhile, the disciples did not even ask. So the task is not yet over …

A.      Teaching disciples to be missional in every aspect of their lives

In John 3 Nicodemus came to them. In John 4, while on a journey, was missional with a woman who came for water.

Being missional is not just about Sunday morning. It is 7 days a week. Sunday is the day to get recharged. Sunday is the day to worship with believers where there is a loving unity. But being missional is 7 days a week.

That is what Jesus is saying in vv. 35-38

John 4:35-38  “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36“Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’38             “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”

That is a different way of looking at our world.

Like guys … you need to train your eyes to see people through their greatest need.

There is a feast that is so much better and so much more joyful than the pleasure of a good meal. Then …

B.      Practicing Unity Among Disciples As Much As Possible

John 4 tells of a time when Jesus was in the flesh. Now he is in our hearts. Here is the idea … if unbelievers spend time with us, will they see anything attractive?

“A missional church should practice Christian unity on the local level as much as possible, in the heyday of Christendom, churches received definition by contrasting themselves with (and constantly criticizing) other denominations and traditions. Today we should define ourselves more by contrasting ourselves with the world and our surrounding culture. The world must see churches avoiding unnecessary divisions” (Center Church, 274).

Let’s do our very best to keep short accounts with one another. Finally …

C.      Living as a counter-cultural community

The church can no longer be an association or a club but is a “thick” alternate human society in which relationships are strong and deep—and in which sex and family, wealth and possession, racial identity and power, are all used and practiced in godly and distinct ways, it must be set within, not separated from, its surroundings. Its neighbors must see it as a servant society, sacrificially pouring out its time and wealth for the common good of the city. (Center Church, 273).

Friends, this will not be easy. Thankfully we have Jesus, the savior of the World, as the source of our unity. That is what it will take to build this community.

So let’s be missional. Let’s be about doing the father’s will. Let’s let that mission give us focus to give time and energy to missional activities. Let’s let the mission drive our evaluation of success and failure. After all we want to build with gold, silver, and precious stone.

I don’t have time to read them but chapter 21 of Keller’s book gives some great practical illustrations of what evangelism looks like in the day to day.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.