The big news on the past few weeks has been the Pew Research report on Christianity in America.
America's Changing Religious Landscape: Our survey of more than 35,000 Americans http://t.co/ybR4e8ydJh pic.twitter.com/GQKqJKxT6Z— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) May 12, 2015
According to their extensive research, the number and percentage of Americans identifying themselves as "Christian" has declined significantly. Only the percentage of those identifying themselves as "Evangelical" has remained relatively stable.
Why is that "Christians" are decreasing, but "evangelicals" are not?
While the term "evangelical" means many different things to different groups, at its core the term implies a people who possess a mission, a purpose, rather than just a label.
That's as it should be for any follower of Christ.
Jesus' final prayer with the disciples, recorded in John 17, is all about mission. God's mission, Jesus' mission, the disciples' mission, and our mission today.
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. (John 17:6-10)
We're all on a mission and we're all at different points in the never ending chain of doing our part.
God's mission: to reveal Himself to the world through His son and to sacrifice His son for the sake of the world.
Jesus' mission, passed on to Him by the Father: to live and teach in such a way as to reveal the character of God to the world, and to sacrifice Himself for the world.
The disciples' mission, passed on to them by Jesus: to reveal the character of God to the world by teaching, by living through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by being willing to sacrifice their lives for the mission.
Our mission, passed along through the centuries is no different. We're not called to be part of the church so we can show up every Sunday, sing some songs, listen to a pep talk or a theology lesson, and then come back the next week to do it all over again. We're to be about the business of the Father, revealing His character to the people outside the church. We do that by talking to them, investing in their lives, loving them, living out the character of God in our lives through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by being willing to sacrifice our time, our priorities, our reputations, our "cool" factor, and our lives for the sake of the mission.
The church will survive and thrive when the people of the church eagerly embrace their identity of being chained to the mission of God.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)