The Mission-driven Church
Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for His church? In Welfare Ministry, Ellen G. White wrote “I have been instructed to refer our people to the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah… When you meet suffering souls who need help, give it to them. When you find those who are hungry, feed them. In doing this you will be working in lines of Christ’s ministry.”
Here’s a quick background of Isaiah 58. The nation of Judah had been giving God “lip service,” while their hearts were far from Him. Their religion was one of performance, formalism and observing rituals. In essence, they were outwardly showy and very legalistic. God sent a message of reconciliation and reproof through Isaiah the prophet saying, “They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves” (Isaiah 58: 2-3, NLT).
I cannot forget a guest speaker who shared from her heart what it’s like to minister to the needs of Syrian refugees. As an American Christian living in a certain country, she was given an amazing opportunity during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset. She carefully studied Isaiah 58 about fasting with some Muslim women. What I gleaned from her talk radically changed my daily view.
The message was this: The “true fast” that God was calling the Jews and calling us to partake of is fasting from ourselves. This is the kind of fast God desires in our church and communities: free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you; let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people; share your food with the hungry; give shelter to the homeless; give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help; remove the heavy yoke of oppression; feed the hungry and help those in trouble (Isaiah 58:7-9).
This is fasting from ourselves! I believe with all my heart that Isaiah 58 is the antidote for selfishness and this practical ministry will infuse life into our churches.
We’re told by White that Isaiah 58 is crystal clear about our mission. It “is explicit, and is enough to enlighten anyone who wishes to do the will of God. There is plenty of opportunity for everyone to be a blessing to humanity.”
A mission-driven church will be a revelation of Christ. White wrote in The Ministry of Healing, that “the world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago—a revelation of Christ… Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”
By Michael Smith, Ministerial Director