Revealing God's Heart
John 17 reveals the heart of Jesus’ mission. Speaking to his ‘Abba’ Father, Jesus prays ‘Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.’ It’s a close relationship of mutual honour, a model for us as churches as we seek to show the world what God is like. Jesus’ path to glory is by way of the cross. It is not always a comfortable journey. This way of the cross – giving ourselves, together, to God in his service – is also the path we must take in mission as we share Jesus’ longing that people will come to know ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’.
When Jesus prays for his disciples, God’s glory is his priority. He knows that his followers will need God’s protection and he prays that they will be equipped with God’s joy as they are sent out to live out God’s word. The emphasis is not on gathering away from the rest of the world, but on going out, full of joy, strengthened by God to finish the work Jesus started.
Amazingly, Jesus also prays for us ‘that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you’. Jesus wants us to create communities of love, which show the world what God’s love is like. He wants our churches to be characterized by love for one another, and the love that he has for the world, which sent him to the cross. Our unity and sacrificial love has a missional impact as Jesus said: ‘the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me’.
HOPE aims to help churches make this prayer a reality as we work together in villages, towns and cities, putting our Christian faith into words and action in a rhythm of mission through the year. During 2014 HOPE was a catalyst for a focused year of mission, as churches throughout the UK used words and action to point people to Jesus. At the end of the year, the think tank Theos, conducted an evaluation. Their report examined the success of HOPE’s aims to:
create unity in mission, helping churches to do more together;
help local churches integrate their mission, sharing the gospel with words as well as serving communities;
leave a legacy of mission, resourcing churches to embed a rhythm of mission in their church life, and training and developing young people to lead in mission.
They found that HOPE has become much more diverse than it was in 2008; 67.5% of survey respondents who represented churches reported that they had collaborated with other churches through HOPE 2014. Of these, 85% were working with churches of different denominations; 90% of local practitioners said that HOPE 2014 helped them reach their neighbourhood. Four in ten respondents to the survey said that someone had come to faith after activities that were part of HOPE 2014.
Part of the legacy of HOPE 2014 has been the impact on young people: 32 Mission Academies were run; training, developing and encouraging 750 young people in mission.
Also, local churches are adopting HOPE’s rhythm of mission, reaching out in mission together at Christmas, Easter and Harvest.
In its conclusion the report asked, ‘What further steps can be taken to increase confidence in sharing the gospel?’ As HOPE goes forward to a further year of focused mission in 2018, we would love to serve local churches as, together, we seek to respond to Jesus’ prayer and commission to go out into our communities. Also, HOPE’s book Sharing Jesus has been published to help churches to equip members to put their faith into words, sharing the gospel in relevant ways in contemporary society.
Copies are available from http://www.hopetogether.org.uk/Groups/257155/Sharing_Jesus.aspx. We’d love you to use this resource to equip your church, so we are offering the book at the special bulk order price of £60 for a box of 52 copies including p&p. Email the HOPE office firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order.
Roy Crowne, executive director of HOPE, www.hopetogether.org.uk
Link to the Theos report/evaluation PDF download from the Hope website
Link to video of Roy speaking to Churches Together in England re local groups doing word and deed mission