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Setting Sail With Jesus

By Aaron KauffmanAaron M. Kauffman

We live in an age when it’s popular to be spiritual but not religious. Many view the church with indifference or even suspicion, though they may still admire Jesus. So we at VMMissions know we are going against the grain when we say church is the primary instrument for God’s mission.

Why make that claim? It seems to be what Jesus himself is saying, when he announces things like these to his followers:

  • “You are the light of the world. …[L]et your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16)
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
  • “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21) (All quotes from NIV)

In other words, Jesus has a high view of the calling he bestows on his disciples. They participate in Jesus’ own mission of demonstrating life under the reign of God. Amazingly, Jesus didn’t leave an instruction manual or an institution to perpetuate this movement. He left a small band of women and men whose lives were indelibly marked by his words and deeds, which were eventually recorded in Scripture. And he left his Holy Spirit, the very Breath of God who brought back Jesus from the dead. A kingdom community of Scripture and Spirit—it’s a beautifully simple strategy. And incredibly risky.

And it hasn’t always worked out. Over the last two millennia, we as the church have often failed to represent the one we proclaim as Lord. We’ve fallen in love with the power of the State. We’ve turned worship into dead ritual, and discipleship into the vocation of professionals. And we’ve imposed religion on other people, sometimes violently, rather than inviting them to relationship with the Prince of Peace.

Yet Jesus has been faithful to his promise, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18). Time and again, the Holy Spirit has renewed authentic witness to the gospel: St. Patrick’s courageous, nonviolent outreach among the Celts in the 5th century; St. Francis and St. Clare’s peaceable communities of prayer and outreach in the 13th; the Anabaptist recovery of radical discipleship in the 16th; and William Seymour and the Pentecostal movement in the 20th.

More recently in our increasingly post-Christian culture, the church has been tempted either to conform to the world’s mold in order to be “relevant,” or to circle up the wagons in a posture of defense.

What would happen if instead we saw church as a ship, courageously headed into uncharted waters? Can we follow the compass of the Word of God, while hoisting our sails for the Wind of the Spirit? Can we stand shoulder to shoulder with crew-mates of all races and cultures who name Jesus as their Captain? Can we cast our nets far and wide to draw others to the kingdom life we’ve been given?

Spirit of Christ, help us sail with you!