Congregational Missions Sermon, "God's Mission Has a Church," Matthew 28:16-20
“God’s Mission Has a Church?” Matthew 28:16-20
Life on Mission
God’s mission has a Church and only God’s Church bound together in covenant can accomplish the mission. Missions has always been central to the Church. It is more accurate to say that the mission of the Church has always been missions. Jesus walked the earth for 40 days after the Resurrection. He ascended then on the 7th Sunday or 50 days after the resurrection, during the Feast of First Fruits, Shavuot, when the Disciples were gathered together in the Upper Room, the Church was set on fire!
The Disciples of Jesus now became the Apostles of the Church. Peter preached Christ and the forgiveness of sins, beginning in Acts 2:14. In Acts 2:40 we see that 3,000 souls were added to the Church that day. They began in Jerusalem, and then went to Judea, and then the whole world! The Church took root. The Gospel spread. The Gospel is seed that always produces fruit that bears more seed. What we do with it is what is in question.
In every era, the Church sent out missionaries. From the Apostles in the Roman Empire to the Early Church in Russia and the Far East. From Middles Age Christianization of Norway and Iceland, to Franciscans in China and the Dominicans in West Africa in the 1400’s. Through the Reformation and eventual colonization and evangelization of Native Tribes in the Americas, the Church, though fraught with persecution and packed with examples of failure, has been missional. For the purpose of these five sermons and the book that will grow out of them, I am going to pick up that missional history at a time when Congregational Christians were at the forefront. My aim will be to highlight not only where Congregational Churches fit into this story, but more to the point, where each one of us and how each one of us does.
CIS: The Mission of the Church is Missions. We all have a major role.
In 1806, a Williams College student named Samuel Mills began to pray for the cause of foreign missions. Until then, the missionary organizations in the United States were dedicated to domestic missions among Native Americans. Mills prayed that the Lord would raise up men to take the gospel to other nations. One August day, Mills assembled a small group of spiritually minded friends who prayed together outside of campus for foreign missions. A storm arose and the five young men took refuge under a haystack and prayed. They continued to gather weekly for what became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting. In answer to the prayers from among the haystacks, God used them to petition the Congregational Churches to establish the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions. The American Bible Society, and the United Foreign Missionary Society also grew from their prayerful efforts.
One writer notes that this highlights at least 4 valuable lessons:
(1) God uses people in the middle of nowhere to plead for the souls of people who are everywhere. God can uses who He uses! [Me in Haiti]
(2) God uses people who are young to stir up people of all ages. The men of the Haystack Prayer Meeting were young—not yet enrolled in seminary, not even graduated from college. They had no worldly power or resources. They held no official position in the church. Yet, they were so moved by the desire to “effect . . . a mission or missions to the heathen” that they began to organize missionary societies on several college campuses, encouraging other students to pray for the cause of missions. After this, they repeatedly visited the influential ministers of their day, eventually prevailing on those men to form a missionary board (The American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions) for sending gospel laborers into the world.
In 1816, Haystack organizer Samuel Mills died at sea on a return voyage from Africa. His legacy included people of all ages collaborating in missions throughout the world. At the time of his death, he was 35.
(3) God uses people who are few in number to gather a countless harvest.
Most church prayer meetings are poorly attended. Most churches today only pack the house on Easter. The harvest is indeed plentiful but the laborers are few. The Haystack Prayer Meeting is an example that, no matter how small our numbers, the Lord of the harvest hears and answers our prayers. Jesus promises that when two or three are gathered to pray, he will attend every time. Brothers and sisters, take heart. The five haystack men—not even enough for a college baseball team—prayed in the name of Christ and received in reply an exponential harvest of souls.
(4) God uses invisible and seemingly insignificant events to accomplish his great purposes. In 1806 the world did not notice what was happening at the edge of campus. But the Lord did. Because of the prayers, the laborers were sent. Because of the laborers, the gospel was preached. Because of the gospel, people were saved by faith in Christ for eternity.
What does mean for us? The haystack meeting sparked the modern mission movement. This is when the American Church exploded in mission activity around the world. It has been to the benefit of the world and it has become very much to the benefit to the American Church in return. [African Church]
Missions is living in, participating in, and sharing the love of God in Christ wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus name, in our backyards and families, in our cities and areas, and around the world. Missions isn’t:
1. Cutting a check. It is financial investment into the Kingdom.
2. Something for someone else. It is central to the Christian life.
3. A burden. There is joy unspeakable in leading others to Christ.
4. A competing interest. There are plenty of resources when we want it.
Missions is life on life. Divine encounter leads us to become more human. [Bearing the Burdens of the world – persecution, suffering, no hope…]
Every person has a role: [The Huggard family keeping the kids]
Pray. Invite. Attend. Be a part of this community and covenant with the mission activities of the Church, even down to simple attendance.
Every place has a purpose:
In Acts 1:7-8, concerning His return, Jesus said, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NLT)
[Mary Anne Good Friday. We accomplish the mission together] Amen.
 Megan Hill, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-lessons-the-haystack-prayer-meetings-teach-us/.