At the Awakening, our mission statement is, “A commitment to maturity by growing in Jesus, ministry by giving like Jesus, and missions by going for Jesus.” Everything we do and believe in at the Awakening can be summed up by what we call the three big m’s – maturity (growing in Jesus), ministry (giving like Jesus), and missions (going for Jesus). We fulfill what we call the “big M” of ministry, as we give like Jesus. Ephesians 4:11-12 states, “And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (NKJV). God has selected some gifted men and women to have, what we call, “the five-fold ministry” gifts of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and/or teacher for the purpose of “the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” The gifts of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are for the purpose of equipping or preparing the saints. Who are the saints? Often when we think of the term saint, we picture a person with a red devil on one of his shoulders and an angel on the other shoulder. And if that person chooses to listen to the voice of the good angel and do what he tells him, than he is a saint. Therefore, often people associate a saint with a person who has his or her life all together and is completely holy and blameless in all his behavior. Although as Christians the ideal, and what we are called to try our very best to be, is to be holy and blameless in everything (see Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:14-16), but the reality is we often fall short and sin due to our struggle with our sin nature on this side of heaven (see 1 John 1:8-10). Therefore, if we equate sinlessness or perfection with being a saint, then no one would qualify on this earth – except for one person – and that person was Jesus Christ! Jesus was 100% sinlessly perfect! And the good news is that when a person places his faith in Jesus Christ and as a result becomes saved from his sins, Jesus comes to live in that person. And as a result of living in that person, He makes that person sinlessly perfect before God, the great and only judge of the earth! In theological and biblical terms, this is called justification which means “just as though we have never sinned” (see Romans 5). Therefore, on judgment day, God won’t see you and me as Christians, but rather Jesus Christ living in us and thus sinless perfection (i.e. a saint) and will grant us entrance into heaven for all of eternity (what a great deal)! Therefore, the word saint is just another word for a Christian who has been justified before God. So the gifts are given to certain people within the church to build up or equip the rest of the church for ministry. The word ministry comes from the word minister which simply mean to serve. So although the pastor is often titled a minister because it is his responsibility to serve the church through his gifts, in reality all saints or Christians are called to be ministers or servants. We all have been gifted with some gift from the Lord! It might not be one of the five ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11, but it could be another gift described in the Bible such as the gift of generosity, service, administration, mercy, helps, miracles, distinguishing of spirits, work of knoweldge, word of wisdom, leadership, prophecy, etc. (see Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; and 1 Peter 4:10-11). But whatever the gift God has graciously and sovereignly given to us, we are responsible to use those gifts to equip and build up others (both toward believers in the local church but also outside of the local church to unbelievers too) and not for our own glory and selfish desires!
At the Awakening Church, the elders of the church are to use their gifts as coaches, and not as owners (for it is Jesus’ church and He is the owner), to prepare the church to minister or serve one another in and outside of the four walls of the church building! We want to reach out as ministers under the New Covenant and fulfill by God’s grace what we call “the Great Compassion” as we reach out to the poor, needy, orphans, widows, those in prison, the sick, the homeless, the outcast, those oppressed by Satan, etc. with the anointing of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus did so that we can see the captives set free, the recovery of sight to the blind, and to see the oppressed set free (Matthew 25:31-40; Luke 4:18-19)! It is only when we truly minister and serve one another in and with our churches, families, friends, neighbors, enemies, at work, etc., that we will be edified, or built up in our faith, and God will be truly glorified! Therefore we offer several ministries at the Awakening such as the Heart for the Lost Ministry, Nursery, Connect Groups, Excellent Women’s Ministry, Pure Heart Men’s Ministry, Food Ministry, Greeter Ministry, etc., so that all of us can find a ministry we can serve with our gifts, energy, and time.
The other “big M” is maturity as we grow in Jesus and this is explained further in Ephesians 4:13-16, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning of craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working of by which every part does its share, causes the growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (NKJV). Not only are we passionate about ministry at the Awakening, but also maturity, for we must aim for the goal of becoming a “perfect man” (or woman). Now the word “perfect” used here does not mean sinless perfection, for we have already discussed that realistically we are never going to be sinlessly perfect until we enter heaven due to the sinful nature within us (see 1 John 1:8-10). This word “perfection” refers to the nature of one who is mature, whole, and complete. And this is attainable on this earth as we continue to grow in the Lord and as we fulfill by God’s grace “The Great Commandment” as we first love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and second as we love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). But even when we grow up spiritually speaking, none of us ever reach a point where we are beyond growth and room for improvement, for all of us have room for growth and improvement until we die and meet our savior face to face in heaven! None of us know it all nor do any of us have it all together and therefore we are in daily need of God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to continue to mature, grow, and walk with purity in our hearts, with our behavior, thoughts, speech and our motives! As a result of becoming mature in the Lord, we will attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. A byproduct of maturity is unity and love and this is what the church must continually strive for on all occasions! In fact this is what Jesus’ last prayer was before He died on the cross. He prayed in John 17:22-23, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” This was Jesus’ heart and passion for His bride the church and this is our passion at the Awakening too! As Romans 12:18 states, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” At the Awakening, we seek to resolve conflicts biblically and to kill all gossip even before it starts (see Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15-18)! This must be our prayer and this will happen as a result of being mature in Jesus Christ!
But not only will we attain unity, but also the knowledge of the Son of God. This knowledge is not only head knowledge of factual information gleaned and understood through the study of the Word of God, but also a heart knowledge that comes through knowing Christ intimately in a personal heart to heart relationship with Him. Everything we do must be for the sole focus and passion of knowing Christ Jesus intimately with a first love relationship with Him! We must always worship the Creator in our hearts and not the creation! As a result of becoming a mature Christian, we will reach the stature of the fullness of Christ! We will reach maturity by growing in Jesus! We must walk as Jesus walked and be like Jesus in everything we think, do, desire, and speak! At the Awakening, our goal is to reach the stature of the fullness of Christ, and we will try our very best not to let anything get in the way of us achieving that goal by God’s grace! Verses 14-16 give us other results of becoming mature in Jesus Christ. First, we will no longer fall into the trap of false doctrine, heresy, deceit, and the trickery of men. Thank God for the Bible which instructs us in the truth, and the Holy Spirit and anointed teachers that help us interpret it properly! As we mature, we grow in both biblical knowledge and heart knowledge and therefore, we are no longer susceptible to false teaching and heresy. Now that does not mean we know it all, for we must always be learning and admitting to wrong thinking when corrected with the truth (for sin deceives, see Hebrews 3:13). But it does mean that we have a good foundation in the Word of God and we are not swayed by the latest false teaching circulating in and outside of the church! Instead of falling prey to false doctrine, we actually do the opposite by speaking the truth in love to one another and thus helping one another grow in Jesus Christ! And how are we built up? We are built up in love according to verse 16. As mentioned earlier, the primary mark of a healthy mature church and Christian is love. Love is what promotes peace and unity! In fact the world will know we are Christians not by all our programs, fancy buildings, our Christian t-shirts and bumper stickers, our cute catch phrases, our Sunday church attendance, etc., but by our love! May this be the mark that separates us from everyone else in this world. May the world want what we have because they see our enormous love for our Lord and for one another! This will be seen practically as we care about social justice issues, as we embrace the culture and not run from it, as we help and serve people, as we demonstrate kindness, as we are agents of healing, and as we fulfill “the great compassion” of Matthew 24:35-46. We must be the “hands and feet” of Jesus to a hurting, confused, lonely, dark, and lost world! So everything we do at the Awakening will be centered around helping every believer to mature and grow in Jesus and we will accomplish this goal through a variety of means. One of the primary means will be by discipling or training every Christian in the Word of God through the preaching and teaching on Sunday morning services, Sunday school classes, connect groups, and various ministries. We will also encourage one on one mentoring and discipleship by encouraging a mature believer to mentor a new believer. We will also grow in the Lord through participating in a variety of ministries, through fellowship, worship, evangelism, prayer, fasting, faith, being healed and delivered, social justice, ministering in our gifts, etc. Whatever it takes to foster an environment at the Awakening for growth in Jesus, we will do by God’s grace, so that we will truly reflect our Lord and Savior in everything!
The last “big M” we seek to fulfill by God’s grace at the Awakening is missions as we go for Jesus. When I say the word missions, often people think of a select group of people who have a special calling of God to go to some distant foreign land with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although these Christians are missionaries, the truth is that all Christians are missionaries according to the New Testament. All that the word “missions” means is that we are on a mission. All of us have a clear mission and mandate as Christians and it is the same one as the disciples (i.e. followers of Jesus Christ) and the early church were given in the Bible. Jesus spoke the mission to the disciples when He left the earth in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” Just as the disciples had a clear mission from Jesus and thus were missionaries, so we have the same mission today as they did and thus we are all missionaries! All of us are to make disciples of all the nations and thus fulfill by God’s grace “the Great Commission.” The word nation here comes from the Greek word ethnos which is where we derive our English word ethnicity from, and refers to people groups all over the world. There are still thousands of people groups who have never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And according to Matthew 24:14, the end will not come until the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations (or people groups). Therefore, the church both locally and universally, have some serious work cut out for them! Part of the process and journey of making disciples requires that we baptize new believers in water, which was something normally practiced in the early church right when a person initially got saved or shortly thereafter. Baptism was a sign to the world that a person had made the commitment to follow Jesus Christ from that point on. But not only were they to be baptized as a sign of authentic faith in Jesus, but also as disciples, we are to teach the new believer to obey all of Jesus’ commands in the New Covenant as revealed in the New Testament of the Bible. This is our great mission as Christians and thus all of us are technically missionaries!
Notice that our calling is not just to make converts, but rather to “make disciples.” At the Awakening, our purpose and mission is to help Christians become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ by God’s grace! We are not content with just a person becoming saved, but we do all that we can to help everyone grow up in Jesus Christ and only then is the kingdom of God fully advanced and God glorified on this earth! We also see this mission given to the early church by Jesus in Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holoy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Here Jesus is once again declaring one of the main purposes of the church, which is to bring the Gospel all over the world. Notice how Jesus first mentioned Jerusalem because this was the community in which the disciples and early church lived. Jesus then spread it out further and further geographically, so that they would understand that the Gospel must first be proclaimed where they lived and then taken to every people group in the world! This is a major mission, but one that we at the Awakening will strive, by God’s grace, to fulfill! We must first be missionaries in our community of Rochester, NH and wherever we live, at work, with our family, friends, neighbors, etc., and then be missionaries further and further from where we live as the Lord leads. We must all witness and not keep our faith to ourself! As 1 Peter 3:15 states, “…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” The very reason Jesus came to this earth was to seek and to save the lost (see Luke 19:10 and Matthew 18:12-13). Jesus was called a friend of sinners and we must be called the same by cultivating friendships with the lost, without of course compromising our purity and holiness (see Matthew 11:19 and Hebrews 12:14). As Jesus also stated, we must be the light and salt of the earth (see Matthew 5:13-14). We must be bold and be empowered by the baptism and fullness of the Holy Spirit, however, to achieve this mission most successfully. It is imperative that the Holy Spirit fully leads and controls us in everything as we tell others the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Only then will we be bold, respectful, gentle, wise, relevant, and loving in our approach and attitude toward the lost. At the Awakening, we never want to stay in the “Christian bubble” and be labeled as sheltered and counter cultural. We want to get outside of the four walls of the church building and tell others the good news of Jesus Christ! We do this with our “Heart for the Lost” evangelism ministry, but also by proclaiming the Gospel on Sunday morning services and in all of our ministries. We are also continually stressing that we must not be exclusive, but rather inclusive as a church and that we must develop friendships with the lost. Our energy, time, and resources must go toward the goal of seeing the lost get saved! We should never come to a point where we think we have arrived and that our church no longer needs to grow. We want to forever grow because the lost are continually getting saved! Forever, this will be the third purpose of the Awakening Church as we await the return of Jesus Christ!