As we saw when we considered God’s eternal mission, God’s purpose is His own glory in His creation through the exaltation of Christ and in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We will always have the mandate to multiply in creation and steward creation according to the first and second chapters in Genesis. God is doing the same work in modern evangelism that He was in giving the female body the ability to produce offspring. God is filling His own creation with His own image. Nothing about the nature of that work elevates people, yet we have assumed that we are the center of God’s redemptive work. The great commission explicitly is our participating in the building of God’s kingdom, which is higher and bigger than the local church. The local church is not the end. In our current age, it is the means of God’s multiplying work. This means that a necessary part of God’s work is the planting of churches. In the local church context, we are reaching people with the Gospel, seeing them grow in maturity concerning the faith that Christ so graciously provides, and then releasing them to also participate in the building of God’s kingdom. Some will stay in our local church. Some will leave (as did Paul and Barnabas) to church plant or to pastor. Our downfall is that we feel as though we need to retain as many attendees as possible. When we do this, we neglect outright the work of God. The local church is not about building the kingdom of the local church or the pastor. People must cling first and only to Christ Jesus. This is a great exercise in self-denial and it bears even more fruit for the kingdom than we can possibly bear by elevating the organization of the local church. Through this continuing self-denial, we are being sanctified and prepared even more so for the resurrection. We cannot fear losing people. They don’t belong to us in the first place. We are God’s image, here to multiply His image- not the image of ourselves or our organizations.
Our mandate is not to build large organizations on this earth. We are to make disciples who make disciples. Sadly, most strategies for church-planting cripple our ability to do the very thing we want to do in church-planting. That, and we think so highly of ourselves that we would rather try and win people to our building than glorify God by honoring His plan that He has taken the time to reveal in His written word.
The resolution is that the people of God are saved, sanctified, and glorified. In the resurrection, we will continue to be God’s image in God’s creation for God’s glory alone. We will participate more fully with God for His pleasure and according to His own purpose. Only, when we cross into glory, there will be no more evangelism or church planting. Our time is limited to participate in this way. We don’t have time to get caught up on ourselves or to try and live as if we have already fully attained the resurrection. We don’t have the time to waste on anything other than pursuing God’s explicit plan, and He is the one working all things together. We make disciples who make disciples. Our churches are planting churches who are planting churches. All glory to God alone.
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