SERMON, MARCH 31, 2019 – REV. PAUL DAKIN

GOD’S MISSION STATEMENT

A sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

First Baptist Church of Lynchburg

March 31, 2019

By Paul Dakin

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

 

The phrase “mission statement” is one that has had a lot of currency over the last couple of decades. It is one of those phrases that come along every now and then that is adopted and used in a lot of different ways. The phrase “mission statement” itself is of relatively recent vintage. It seems to have originated in the latter half of the 20th Century. According to the Google search that I ran, it came into common use in the mid-1960’s. Its popularity took off in the 1980’s and, as far as I can tell, it is still considered to be a valuable part of any business endeavor.

 

So what is a “mission statement” exactly? One dictionary defines it as “an official document that sets out the goals, purpose and work of an organization”…or for an individual, it is defined as “a written statement that sets out one’s personal goals for the future.”[1] The thought seems to be that, by explicitly writing down what an organization’s true goals are, it becomes clear to everyone what the organization is about. It should also indicate what guides the company’s direction as it strives to achieve the success that it desires.

 

As many of you know, my oldest son Will is a business major at Randolph College. In preparing for the sermon for this week, I asked him about the importance of mission statements. He told me that current business philosophy still holds that a mission statement is an important part of any business culture. He also told me that, in addition to the dictionary definitions given earlier, a good mission statement should help to differentiate what a particular business does from its competitors—what it does that makes it stand out from the similar businesses.

 

Mission statements can be created for organizations, businesses, and even individuals. A number of popular motivational speakers advocate that everyone ought to write down their own personal mission statement. Such well-known speakers as Dave Ramsay, Andy Andrews, and Franklin Covey all recommend that their readers write and adopt their own personal mission statement in order to develop a set of core values that will guide them to success in whatever endeavors they are involved.

 

Inevitably, the practices of successful businesses tend to rub off on other organizations as well. For better or worse, it is my observation that the church is especially susceptible to such things. Ideas and practices that become popular in the business world often find their way into church circles with the idea that these practices can be successfully adapted for church use.

 

The fad for each church developing its own mission statement seemed to come to full flower in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Many churches went about writing their own mission statements back then—including some of the ones that I served. The process in the local church often went something like this:

 

Someone in the church (often the pastor, but not always) would suggest to the congregation that the church needed to have a mission statement in order to clarify its task and to see how each program of the church fit into accomplishing that task. So at a church business meeting, the church would vote to create a committee whose task it was to compose a mission statement for the church. (Creating another committee—that alone should be an ominous foreshadowing of where this work was ultimately headed in most churches. You all know the old joke: that “A camel is a horse designed by a committee”? It was often applicable here…) The mission statement needed to include everything that was deemed to be essential to the church’s core values.

 

Anyway, this committee would begin meeting on a regular basis to craft a mission statement suitable for the church. Such a statement needed to reflect all of what the members of the committee thought the church ought to be concerned with. Weeks and months—and sometimes even a year—of discussion and debate back and forth within the committee would pass before it finally completed its work.

 

Then the proposed mission statement would be presented to the entire church at a business meeting. It would first be read aloud, briefly discussed and then—with or without amendments added from the floor—it would be voted on and approved as the church’s brand new mission statement. The committee members would be thanked for their service and the mission statement would be shared in the church’s publications for the next several weeks. Afterward, the newly minted mission statement would usually be filed away and promptly forgotten. As far as the church was concerned, having now accomplished the important task of adopting its own unique mission statement, it was back to business as usual…

 

In an essay titled “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels,” the great 16th Century church reformer Martin Luther wrote these words about John 3:16. He wrote, “The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell.[2] Luther considered John 3:16 to be “the gospel in a nutshell.” If that is true, then it seems to me that this passage from 2 Corinthians 5 could very well be considered to be “God’s Mission Statement…”

 

Verse 19 forms the core idea for today’s sermon. It reads, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” That one sentence tells us what God is up to in Jesus. It gives us the reason why the Savior came to this earth in the first place. It tells us—in just a few words—the true meaning of the Christ event. It really is “God’s mission statement…”

 

The word “reconciliation” (and its various forms) is mentioned five times in these six verses read in your hearing just a few minutes ago. The work of reconciliation between God and humanity is the key idea of the passage.

 

The Greek word translated as “reconciliation” is the word katallassō. It has the idea of two parties changing mutually—that is, that each party changes in order to bridge the gap between them. It kind of means to meet the other party halfway. So if “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,” what does that mean? Does that mean that GOD CHANGED in order to bridge the gap between heaven and earth?

 

No, I do not think that is what it means at all. God did not change. But through the Christ event, our understanding of who God is underwent a dramatic change. Our idea of who God is was forever altered. Before Jesus came, God was known through the Old Testament as “the warrior God.” God was, more often than not, regarded as a stern presence in the midst of his people. God was infinitely holy and required perfection from his people. He was considered to be the scorekeeper of people’s sins. He was seen primarily as a god of justice and wrath. Consequently everybody had better mind their “P’s and Q’s.” Everybody had better obey the laws that God had laid down in the Old Testament—or else face the unpleasant consequences. And it was thought by the people that obeying all the laws in the Old Testament was the only way that anyone could become right with God.

 

One of the major themes of the Apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament is that obeying the law never could make one right with God. He explained that that was not the law’s intended purpose. The purpose of the laws and rules of the Old Testament was not to bring us to salvation. No one can come to God by obeying a list of rules, regardless of how stringent they might be and how hard one might work at it. No—the purpose of the law was to show us how far from God’s ideal for us we had strayed. It was meant to show how we were separated from God due to our selfishness and disobedience…Nothing more…

 

Instead, Jesus revealed to us a different side of who God is. He revealed that God was not so much interested in keeping up with our sins and punishing us for the times that we went astray. No—he was much more interested in establishing a loving relationship with all of his creation. That is why Jesus taught his disciples to call God “Father” instead of something else. That was our Lord’s point in telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan which was read earlier in the service. God seeks to establish an intimate relationship with everyone. That includes you and that includes the people sitting in the pew next to you. That includes people who are both inside of the church this morning and those who are outside of the church. That includes everyone—no one can be excluded from the love of God…

 

So in the process of reconciling us to God, that explanation briefly describes what happened on God’s side. But what about us? What movement do we need to make in order that we might be reconciled to God?

 

This is the movement needed to be reconciled to God. In Romans 12, Paul writes that we are to become “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Simply put, that means that we are allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to transform our lives—every aspect of who we are—in order to change our hearts and minds. And the point of that is so that we can become more of the people that God created us to be. The things that separate us from God are put in the past. As it says in verse 17 of today’s passage, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

 

The Greek word for “reconciliation” used here katalassō also has another shade of meaning. Katalassō was often used in connection with exchanging coins from one denomination to another…or from one kind of money to another. This meaning has come over into the English language as well, as we sometimes say when dealing with money, to “reconcile the books.”

 

Y’all know what that means. Every month you receive a statement from the bank detailing all of the transactions that have taken place since the last statement—all of the deposits and all of the debits. Your statement tells you how much money you have spent from the account and it tells you, according to the bank’s records, how much money that you still have left in it. When your records are at variance with what the bank statement says, then you need to “reconcile” the two statements—the bank’s and yours. That is, you work with them to make sure they say the same thing. We need to make sure that the bank says that we have the same amount in our checking account as we do. Otherwise we do not know how much we have, which could result in an overdraft…or worse…

 

That picture illustrates another facet of what it means to be reconciled to God. When we are reconciled to God, then we agree with God about our lives. We acknowledge that what God says about our lives is true. When we say the same things about our lives as God does, then we admit that we make a mess of things when left to our own resources. We confess that we are often selfish. We will say that we are prone to do the wrong thing instead of doing what we know is right. We own the fact that we have a bent to actions and thoughts that are less than what God wants us to be. And we agree with God that it is only when we are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit that we can truly live the abundant life that Jesus calls us to live.

 

Making those kinds of realizations is descriptive of an old-time church word that we do not hear much anymore. That word is “repentance.” We often characterize repentance as being sorry for something. It is that, to be sure. But it is also much more than that. It is a willingness to change our ways—to change the way that we thing—to change what we do in order to conform more to what God would have us to do. And it is repentance that is the first step to being reconciled to God. And by the way, repentance is also the first step in becoming reconciled to one another as well…

 

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” That is God’s mission statement. It is what you need to know to become right with him…

 

*******

The singing of today’s closing hymn may be something of a trip down “amnesia lane” for some of us. Years ago, “The King’s Business” was adopted as the official song of the “Royal Ambassadors”—y’all remember them? Royal Ambassadors (or “RAs” as they are known) is a missions education group for boys and young men that once was popular in many Baptist churches. And not just Southern Baptist churches—American Baptists and some National Baptists also had RA chapters in their churches too.

 

For those who may not be familiar with RAs, RAs is a program that is kind of a cross between Discipleship Training and the Boy Scouts with athletics, camping and related skills, Bible memorization and learning about missions all being a part of the mix. RAs was certainly an important part of my spiritual development as a kid. It appeared to me that RAs had pretty much gone by the wayside over the last couple of decades. But an internet search this week revealed, to my surprise, that RA programs still exist in some churches. I would have to confess, though, that I have not encountered any churches that have a really vibrant RA program in a long time…

 

“The King’s Business” was written before the establishment of the Royal Ambassadors. But it fits so well with their stated purpose, that one could have thought it was written specifically for that purpose. Both the hymn and the RAs find their inspiration from 2 Corinthians 5:20. That is the verse that reads, “We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

 

The stirring tune and the words remind us that all who name the name of Christ are his ambassadors—all believers are his representatives on earth. And as his representatives, we are to accomplish the task that he has given us. And what is that task? Namely, it is to deliver the good news message that, through Jesus, everyone can be reconciled to God—everyone may be brought into a relationship with him. I pray that we may all be counted as worthy ambassadors for Christ and be agents of reconciliation in this world—facilitating reconciliation between God and all of humanity, and facilitating reconciliation between one another—all to the glory of his name. So when we leave this place of worship in a few minutes, I encourage you to go from here as Christ’s ambassadors—speaking and acting in his name—representing him to others who do not yet know him. Be about your King’s business—the business of reconciliation. That is God’s mission statement—and as his children, it should be yours as well…

 

To God alone be the glory! Amen.

[1] www.dictionary.com/browse/mission-statement (Accessed March 28, 2019)

[2] Quoted in www.chedspellman.com/2014/07/the-gospel-in-a-nutshell.html (Accessed March 28, 2019)

GOD’S MISSION STATEMENT

A sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

First Baptist Church of Lynchburg

March 31, 2019

By Paul Dakin

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

 

The phrase “mission statement” is one that has had a lot of currency over the last couple of decades. It is one of those phrases that come along every now and then that is adopted and used in a lot of different ways. The phrase “mission statement” itself is of relatively recent vintage. It seems to have originated in the latter half of the 20th Century. According to the Google search that I ran, it came into common use in the mid-1960’s. Its popularity took off in the 1980’s and, as far as I can tell, it is still considered to be a valuable part of any business endeavor.

 

So what is a “mission statement” exactly? One dictionary defines it as “an official document that sets out the goals, purpose and work of an organization”…or for an individual, it is defined as “a written statement that sets out one’s personal goals for the future.”[1] The thought seems to be that, by explicitly writing down what an organization’s true goals are, it becomes clear to everyone what the organization is about. It should also indicate what guides the company’s direction as it strives to achieve the success that it desires.

 

As many of you know, my oldest son Will is a business major at Randolph College. In preparing for the sermon for this week, I asked him about the importance of mission statements. He told me that current business philosophy still holds that a mission statement is an important part of any business culture. He also told me that, in addition to the dictionary definitions given earlier, a good mission statement should help to differentiate what a particular business does from its competitors—what it does that makes it stand out from the similar businesses.

 

Mission statements can be created for organizations, businesses, and even individuals. A number of popular motivational speakers advocate that everyone ought to write down their own personal mission statement. Such well-known speakers as Dave Ramsay, Andy Andrews, and Franklin Covey all recommend that their readers write and adopt their own personal mission statement in order to develop a set of core values that will guide them to success in whatever endeavors they are involved.

 

Inevitably, the practices of successful businesses tend to rub off on other organizations as well. For better or worse, it is my observation that the church is especially susceptible to such things. Ideas and practices that become popular in the business world often find their way into church circles with the idea that these practices can be successfully adapted for church use.

 

The fad for each church developing its own mission statement seemed to come to full flower in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Many churches went about writing their own mission statements back then—including some of the ones that I served. The process in the local church often went something like this:

 

Someone in the church (often the pastor, but not always) would suggest to the congregation that the church needed to have a mission statement in order to clarify its task and to see how each program of the church fit into accomplishing that task. So at a church business meeting, the church would vote to create a committee whose task it was to compose a mission statement for the church. (Creating another committee—that alone should be an ominous foreshadowing of where this work was ultimately headed in most churches. You all know the old joke: that “A camel is a horse designed by a committee”? It was often applicable here…) The mission statement needed to include everything that was deemed to be essential to the church’s core values.

 

Anyway, this committee would begin meeting on a regular basis to craft a mission statement suitable for the church. Such a statement needed to reflect all of what the members of the committee thought the church ought to be concerned with. Weeks and months—and sometimes even a year—of discussion and debate back and forth within the committee would pass before it finally completed its work.

 

Then the proposed mission statement would be presented to the entire church at a business meeting. It would first be read aloud, briefly discussed and then—with or without amendments added from the floor—it would be voted on and approved as the church’s brand new mission statement. The committee members would be thanked for their service and the mission statement would be shared in the church’s publications for the next several weeks. Afterward, the newly minted mission statement would usually be filed away and promptly forgotten. As far as the church was concerned, having now accomplished the important task of adopting its own unique mission statement, it was back to business as usual…

 

In an essay titled “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels,” the great 16th Century church reformer Martin Luther wrote these words about John 3:16. He wrote, “The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell.[2] Luther considered John 3:16 to be “the gospel in a nutshell.” If that is true, then it seems to me that this passage from 2 Corinthians 5 could very well be considered to be “God’s Mission Statement…”

 

Verse 19 forms the core idea for today’s sermon. It reads, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” That one sentence tells us what God is up to in Jesus. It gives us the reason why the Savior came to this earth in the first place. It tells us—in just a few words—the true meaning of the Christ event. It really is “God’s mission statement…”

 

The word “reconciliation” (and its various forms) is mentioned five times in these six verses read in your hearing just a few minutes ago. The work of reconciliation between God and humanity is the key idea of the passage.

 

The Greek word translated as “reconciliation” is the word katallassō. It has the idea of two parties changing mutually—that is, that each party changes in order to bridge the gap between them. It kind of means to meet the other party halfway. So if “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,” what does that mean? Does that mean that GOD CHANGED in order to bridge the gap between heaven and earth?

 

No, I do not think that is what it means at all. God did not change. But through the Christ event, our understanding of who God is underwent a dramatic change. Our idea of who God is was forever altered. Before Jesus came, God was known through the Old Testament as “the warrior God.” God was, more often than not, regarded as a stern presence in the midst of his people. God was infinitely holy and required perfection from his people. He was considered to be the scorekeeper of people’s sins. He was seen primarily as a god of justice and wrath. Consequently everybody had better mind their “P’s and Q’s.” Everybody had better obey the laws that God had laid down in the Old Testament—or else face the unpleasant consequences. And it was thought by the people that obeying all the laws in the Old Testament was the only way that anyone could become right with God.

 

One of the major themes of the Apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament is that obeying the law never could make one right with God. He explained that that was not the law’s intended purpose. The purpose of the laws and rules of the Old Testament was not to bring us to salvation. No one can come to God by obeying a list of rules, regardless of how stringent they might be and how hard one might work at it. No—the purpose of the law was to show us how far from God’s ideal for us we had strayed. It was meant to show how we were separated from God due to our selfishness and disobedience…Nothing more…

 

Instead, Jesus revealed to us a different side of who God is. He revealed that God was not so much interested in keeping up with our sins and punishing us for the times that we went astray. No—he was much more interested in establishing a loving relationship with all of his creation. That is why Jesus taught his disciples to call God “Father” instead of something else. That was our Lord’s point in telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan which was read earlier in the service. God seeks to establish an intimate relationship with everyone. That includes you and that includes the people sitting in the pew next to you. That includes people who are both inside of the church this morning and those who are outside of the church. That includes everyone—no one can be excluded from the love of God…

 

So in the process of reconciling us to God, that explanation briefly describes what happened on God’s side. But what about us? What movement do we need to make in order that we might be reconciled to God?

 

This is the movement needed to be reconciled to God. In Romans 12, Paul writes that we are to become “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Simply put, that means that we are allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to transform our lives—every aspect of who we are—in order to change our hearts and minds. And the point of that is so that we can become more of the people that God created us to be. The things that separate us from God are put in the past. As it says in verse 17 of today’s passage, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

 

The Greek word for “reconciliation” used here katalassō also has another shade of meaning. Katalassō was often used in connection with exchanging coins from one denomination to another…or from one kind of money to another. This meaning has come over into the English language as well, as we sometimes say when dealing with money, to “reconcile the books.”

 

Y’all know what that means. Every month you receive a statement from the bank detailing all of the transactions that have taken place since the last statement—all of the deposits and all of the debits. Your statement tells you how much money you have spent from the account and it tells you, according to the bank’s records, how much money that you still have left in it. When your records are at variance with what the bank statement says, then you need to “reconcile” the two statements—the bank’s and yours. That is, you work with them to make sure they say the same thing. We need to make sure that the bank says that we have the same amount in our checking account as we do. Otherwise we do not know how much we have, which could result in an overdraft…or worse…

 

That picture illustrates another facet of what it means to be reconciled to God. When we are reconciled to God, then we agree with God about our lives. We acknowledge that what God says about our lives is true. When we say the same things about our lives as God does, then we admit that we make a mess of things when left to our own resources. We confess that we are often selfish. We will say that we are prone to do the wrong thing instead of doing what we know is right. We own the fact that we have a bent to actions and thoughts that are less than what God wants us to be. And we agree with God that it is only when we are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit that we can truly live the abundant life that Jesus calls us to live.

 

Making those kinds of realizations is descriptive of an old-time church word that we do not hear much anymore. That word is “repentance.” We often characterize repentance as being sorry for something. It is that, to be sure. But it is also much more than that. It is a willingness to change our ways—to change the way that we thing—to change what we do in order to conform more to what God would have us to do. And it is repentance that is the first step to being reconciled to God. And by the way, repentance is also the first step in becoming reconciled to one another as well…

 

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” That is God’s mission statement. It is what you need to know to become right with him…

 

*******

The singing of today’s closing hymn may be something of a trip down “amnesia lane” for some of us. Years ago, “The King’s Business” was adopted as the official song of the “Royal Ambassadors”—y’all remember them? Royal Ambassadors (or “RAs” as they are known) is a missions education group for boys and young men that once was popular in many Baptist churches. And not just Southern Baptist churches—American Baptists and some National Baptists also had RA chapters in their churches too.

 

For those who may not be familiar with RAs, RAs is a program that is kind of a cross between Discipleship Training and the Boy Scouts with athletics, camping and related skills, Bible memorization and learning about missions all being a part of the mix. RAs was certainly an important part of my spiritual development as a kid. It appeared to me that RAs had pretty much gone by the wayside over the last couple of decades. But an internet search this week revealed, to my surprise, that RA programs still exist in some churches. I would have to confess, though, that I have not encountered any churches that have a really vibrant RA program in a long time…

 

“The King’s Business” was written before the establishment of the Royal Ambassadors. But it fits so well with their stated purpose, that one could have thought it was written specifically for that purpose. Both the hymn and the RAs find their inspiration from 2 Corinthians 5:20. That is the verse that reads, “We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

 

The stirring tune and the words remind us that all who name the name of Christ are his ambassadors—all believers are his representatives on earth. And as his representatives, we are to accomplish the task that he has given us. And what is that task? Namely, it is to deliver the good news message that, through Jesus, everyone can be reconciled to God—everyone may be brought into a relationship with him. I pray that we may all be counted as worthy ambassadors for Christ and be agents of reconciliation in this world—facilitating reconciliation between God and all of humanity, and facilitating reconciliation between one another—all to the glory of his name. So when we leave this place of worship in a few minutes, I encourage you to go from here as Christ’s ambassadors—speaking and acting in his name—representing him to others who do not yet know him. Be about your King’s business—the business of reconciliation. That is God’s mission statement—and as his children, it should be yours as well…

 

To God alone be the glory! Amen.

[1] www.dictionary.com/browse/mission-statement (Accessed March 28, 2019)

[2] Quoted in www.chedspellman.com/2014/07/the-gospel-in-a-nutshell.html (Accessed March 28, 2019)

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