Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

People in Mission – Introduction

Posted on 03 Nov 2014 in Church, Discipleship | 1 comment

Today we are starting our blog journey through the book of Acts, looking in particular at issues of discipleship, mission, and spiritual formation.

The Reading

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” lightstock_167786_medium_justin_

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:1-11

It was this big.

The popular conclusion of any good fishing story is to exaggerate the size of the catch. We often end by saying, “It was this big!” The fisherman can get away with it, because there is very little proof of the fish’s size, because as all those stories go, the fish gets away in the end. If we had the proof, we wouldn’t need the story. Acts tells us at the very beginning that Jesus provided convincing proof of his resurrection. Interestingly, Luke (the author) doesn’t dive into these here, but rather serves it as a platform for the story. The proof that the early church, new converts, and any future followers will need lies within the power of God’s people and his Spirit presiding among them. Does the church have exclusive rights to God’s power or presence? No! But they should be seen as a living witness and testimony to the story that God is telling through salvation in Jesus. This also will not (as we will see in just a few chapters) mean that the church is above reproach, cannot get it wrong, exercise poor judgment, use power incorrectly or is suddenly without sin. What Luke is trying to do, as a foundation for what is to come, is to tie not only the original Jesus story (his Gospel account) to the life of the early apostles, but in essence to the rest of church history. Your story, our story, and our future, lie here in this movement of Jesus shaped people.

So what’s the plan?

Jesus speaks of three key things before his ascension. Group by the sea

  1. The Kingdom of God. The forty days that Jesus stuck around after the resurrection was spent teaching his followers about the Kingdom of God, God’s great restoration plan to bring heaven to earth, the space where the temporal crashes into the eternal, the human mingles with the divine. I imagine that Jesus’ teachings look a lot similar to what we have recorded in the Gospels, only perhaps now the apostles finally understand it (with great excitement) and Luke omits it, because again, the church is to serve as the ‘proof.’ The church now *should* stand on the right side of history, the visible representation of God’s restoration plan and desire to bring the world back to shalom.
  2. The need to wait. His final instruction is to wait. To pause. To anticipate. The Holy Spirit is coming and any movement or action prior to receiving this gift is foolish. Any good done, without the presiding and guiding Spirit of Jesus, is not Kingdom of God work (Scot McKnight calls this “Skinny Jeans version of the Kingdom). The impetus behind the work to be done (what we see in the rest of the book) is done only because the church has been given the Spirit of Jesus. It resides among them (the Greek ‘you’ is plural) and it is what powers their drive and mission.
  3. The need to go. Finally, there is a clear need to go. Once the Spirit has been sent, and once they have been empowered, they quite clearly have a mission, purpose, and identity. They have been called by Christ, shaped into little Christ’s, and sent out at Christ’s ambassadors.  Our mission, despite what some certain sections of modern Christianity might tell you, has no business looking into the heavens, predicting what this next blood moon might actually mean (hint: it means nothing), or what the end will look like. The more time we spend preoccupied with that stuff (which Jesus calls a waste of time) the less time we have to engage in the more serious matters to which he has called us: discipleship, mission, and Gospel advancement.

Luke’s book begins with intention: The message that started with Jesus will carry forward through his church and by his Spirit, of this we can be assured. The rest of what unfolds will be a story about God’s faithfulness to his mission and his people, join me in exploring the journey.


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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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