Aligning with God’s Work in the World
by Emily Hamilton, Pastor of Missions
As we’ve walked through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in our sermon series this winter, it’s clear that Paul was writing to a diverse audience—people who had found new life in Christ but who, by all other identity markers, likely experienced division, distance, and even enmity. In a beautiful meditation on the peace and unity that we now have in Christ, Paul writes in chapter two, “And he [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. . . .” As Christ aligns us with Himself by the Holy Spirit, we also find ourselves aligned to other brothers and sisters in the household of God—a global community whose allegiance transcends nations and borders! We seek alignment with the work of the Spirit beyond our walls, because as we belong to Christ, we also belong to a global body.
In November I had the opportunity, alongside other CPCers and leaders from our denomination, to visit a segment of the global body of Christ. We went to learn about the ministry of Pars Theological Centre and to learn more about how the Spirit is moving in Iran, which is now home to one of the fastest-growing church movements in the world. Through visions, dreams, access to Scripture, and the testimony of transformed lives, Jesus is “preaching peace”—revealing Himself and bringing new brothers and sisters into the family, even amidst grave persecution and opposition. In response to this growing church movement, Pars exists to equip and form leaders with a passion for shepherding the Persian-speaking church through theological education, online publications, counseling, and leadership development forums. As our Iranian brothers and sisters befriended us, their honest lament and courageous joy in Jesus shined through their stories of persecution, martyrdom, and imprisonment. Our team sensed we were on holy ground as we learned from their witness. Pars leaders are realistic about the challenges the Iranian church faces, but they are also hopeful—motivated by the Spirit-bestowed conviction that this is God’s work and He will see it through.
If this is what the work of the Spirit in the world looks like—an unstoppable movement of people finding life in Jesus despite opposition—then what does it look like for us to align ourselves with it? Here are three ideas:
- LOOKING IN THE MIRROR: As we learned from our friends with Pars, I was reminded of how the relative ease we have in following Jesus in our American context does not necessarily equate to greater joy in Him. I felt convicted to look at my own life and wonder where I’ve made compromises for personal comfort rather than sacrificially loving my neighbors—which is also at the expense of my own joy in the Lord.
- ALIGNING RESOURCES: The Church in “frontier” contexts—places with limited, obstructed, or no access to Christianity—is often the least resourced. God’s work is not dependent on human power or resources to reach hearts, but God does invite us to play a part. Because we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” we are compelled to share our resources with our global Christian family. Our denomination, ECO, is inviting churches into relationships with frontier church partners for this purpose, and we’re excited to see what that will look like for us in the coming months.
- SEEKING RENEWAL: While it is true that Christianity is in decline in the West, many of our mission partners serve in places where the opposite is true. Through relationship with them, we have the opportunity to experience a renewed joy in our salvation. We taste and see afresh “the riches of [God’s] grace . . . lavished upon us.” Seek opportunities to listen, research, and read stories about the Church around the world, and see how it transforms your own faith.
How is God inviting you to look in the mirror? To align your resources? To experience renewal? In the words of Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesians 3, may we have strength to comprehend with all the saints—Iranian saints, American saints, global saints—what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the fullness of God’s love for us.