Christ our mission

Small Group Study “Fourfold” Week 4

 

 

Reviewing Last Week’s Application

Last week we looked at the biblical basis for a doctrine of divine healing and wrestled with the question of whether this was something that we were willing to put our hope in Jesus for. As you have prayed through this issue the past week, why not review your experience by trying to answer the following questions:

 

  • Upon reflection, were you able to see God’s hand and mercy in healing experiences that you had previously attributed to more natural phenomenon?

  • Did Jesus speak to you in your pursuit of him this week about any healings that you have prayed for in the past but did not receive (or at the very least did not receive them in the way you asked for them)?

 

Study Text: Matthew 22:36-40; 24:14; 28:16-20

 

“The work of missions is the great means of hastening that end. The work of the Holy Ghost through the Church was chiefly intended to gather out from all nations a people for His name, a bride for the Lamb, It is not God's purpose at the present time by any stronger compulsion than the persuasion of the Gospel and the influence of the Holy Spirit to bring men to the acceptance of Christ as their Saviour and King.”

– A.B. Simpson, The Coming One

 

Why mission is a crucial (if unnamed) part of the Fourfold Gospel

In 1887 A.B. Simpson founded two fraternal organizations to accomplish the work of Jesus in the world. The Christian Alliance– which was a group devoted to promoting what Simpson called “the deeper life in Christ;” and The Evangelical Missionary Alliance– a group devoted to preaching the gospel in all lands so that all people may know and hear the message of salvation. After only 10 years, it was decided that this strategy was sub-optimal and in 1897 the two organizations were merged into one under the new name – The Christian and Missionary Alliance.
 

  1. Given what you have already learned about Simpson and the early Alliance, why do you think this was an inevitable move toward consolidation between the groups?

  2. What do you think is the relationship between the “deeper life” and “missions?”

  3. In what ways might the priority of mission be buried within the statements of the Fourfold Gospel?
     

Seeing Simpson’s Vision with 21stCentury Eyes

So much of what Simpson wrote about the motivation for missionary work was funnelled through his understanding of Jesus words in Matthew 24:14, and the motivation for sharing the gospel to all nations was so that it would fulfil the requirements of ushering in the return of Christ. It’s not that Simpson didn’t care about the peoples of the world, it’s just that he earnestly believed that the world was doomed and that the best thing for everyone was the swift return of Jesus. If preaching the gospel to every people group would allow that to happen, then it was a task worth accomplishing in its own right.

 

Today, even in the Alliance, we have a more nuanced view of mission. It’s not that we have lost Simpson’s passion for the nations or the priority of global evangelism, but it’s that we are coming to understand that the Great Commission without the influence of the Great Commandment can lead to a task-focused mission where we fail to love the people we are reaching. Considering the texts that you read at the beginning of the study discuss in your group the following questions:

 

  1. In what ways does our view of Christ’s return impact our motivation to share the gospel?

  2. How might observance of the Great Commandment change the shape of the great commission?

 

“How vain and fruitless all our efforts to help humanity and reform society short of God's plan! Are we wasting our strength in second class philanthropies and enterprises? They are not worth the cost. The time is too short, the crisis is too near, the conditions are too hard. Nothing else will help our ruined world but Christ, His cross and His coming. Do not sink your money in the sands of time, but put all the strength of your life into the best things, the one thing, the only thing that God has given us as the remedy for sin and the business of life.”

-A.B. Simpson, The Coming One

 

As previously mentioned, Simpson had a different perspective on the world than many of us have today. He eschewed many social justice ministries as being distractions from the single goal of preaching the gospel. Yet today, the Christian and Missionary Alliance (like many other Christian groups) has a strong emphasis on social justice, humanitarian aid, and philanthropic work around the world. Considering what has already been discussed so far, discuss the nuanced difference between the following approaches to mission (be sure to take time to ground your discussion in relevant examples from scripture):

 

  1. The proclamation of the Gospel apart from social action

  2. The proclamation of the Gospel alongside social action

  3. The proclamation of the Gospel through social action 

 

It can be easy to see Simpson’s position as dated and unenlightened in today’s context, but take time to consider the question at the heart of his understanding of Jesus as Coming King – if the world is going to be destroyed and the only thing that can save it is the coming of Jesus Christ, does it not make sense to prioritize getting him to come more quickly? As you conclude your study this week take some time to discuss what you actually think about the return of Jesus and then discuss what missionary strategy best fits your collective eschatology. On Sunday, Pastor Chris will be teaching on what Simpson believed about Christ’s return in his day, what the Alliance believes today, and why in either case we lose something when we emphasize his coming at the cost of his Kingship.