With the New Year here, we can’t help but take stock of our lives. We look at our habits, our marriages, and our ministries and ask, “Why are we doing the things we are doing?”
At the inaugural Missio Alliance Gathering last spring, speakers like Cherith Fee-Nordling and Tory Baucum helped us rethink our mission with “creational” theology. Fee-Nordling described the church as a “movie preview” of God’s New Creation to come. Baccum suggested that the questions western culture are asking are “creational” questions, that is, “What has God created humans to be?”
Scripture teaches that time will end with Jesus return. This will usher in the era of “new creation.” The Revelation of John describes it this way:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
As followers of Jesus, we are anticipating his return, and the new creation of heaven and earth that comes with that. But what does that mean, really? How does the hope of New Creation shape our ministry in this New Year?
If you are wrestling with a sense of purpose in your ministry, use these three questions to help turn your focus on the world to come.
Question #1—Does my ministry celebrate the image of God in each individual?
Scripture teaches that human beings are unique because they are made in the image of God. Scripture also teaches that our God-likeness has been tarnished by sin. Finally, the New Testament promises that in the New Creation, we will be re-made like Jesus.
Often, ministries focus on how sinful people are. What is lost in this important discussion is how great people can be! Sometime carrots can be more useful than sticks. What if, instead of pointing out people’s flaws, we focused on building on the Jesus-like behaviors that are already at work in all people.
Question #2—Does your ministry encourage people to act like their “future selves?”
Some ministries are focused on helping people make a decision for to follow Jesus. Others are focused on solving particular cultural problems. Still others seem to be committed to helping propagate a certain tradition.
Jesus instructions seem more simple: Teach people to do what I said to do.
A ministry focused on New Creation is focused on helping people act like their “future selves.” Today is a chance to practice being the people we will be when sin is no longer a problem.
Question #3—Does my ministry invest in the community or try to draw people away from it?
The image of New Creation helps us look forward to a perfected world, where we will live and serve. This stands in sharp contrast to the “it’s all going to burn anyway” theology that often sneaks into churches and ministries. Such a teaching helps foster an “escape” mindset, where churches try to avoid the surrounding community and culture.
When you are looking forward to something new, you can’t help but invest and prepare for it. If you were moving into a new house, you’d have your eyes peeled for the perfect countertops or bookshelf. Likewise a ministry that is anticipating New Creation should be investing in its community, culture, and surrounding world rather than trying to get away from it.
With 2014 is here, and it provides the perfect opportunity to rethink our ministry. Imagine where we’d be in 2015 if we spent a year anticipating New Creation.
What questions are you asking in 2014?