And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14, NIV)
While there are many things for thoughtful Christians to disagree about in the exegesis of Matthew 24, one thing at leas is clear: the end of the age doesn't come until the gospel has gone to every tribe, tongue, and nation and Jesus has gathered his sheep in.
Are you reading this post? While I'm sure the end has not yet come as I write it, I can't be sure about later today or tomorrow. Why did this day dawn?
The earth rotated and my side of the globe came into alignment with the suns rays? Check.
Light always follows darkness, a creation established pattern? Check.
There are U.S. National Parks that I have yet to visit? Sure, but not really.
All of the the above reasons an explanatory (well except that last one) but none of them are in and of themselves fully and singularly sufficient. Creation is sustained by the will of Christ moment by moment.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16-17 ESV)
For a reason to be fully sufficient it must be the condition on which the entire idea turns. There is only one fully sufficient reason that this day dawn - Christ has willed it. And if Christ wills it not, then dawn will not.
And why does Christ will it? Because he himself set the condition for the end: the gospel must go out and all his sheep be brought in.
What does this mean for the church? If there's only one fully sufficient reason for this day, there can only be one fully sufficient reason for each church. Jesus has sent the church on a mission to gather his worshippers to himself. Yes, we have to teach doctrine, yes we must practice biblical worship, and yes we must support and love one another. But the only fully sufficient reason for local congregations to exist is to advance the mission of Jesus.
This is a very hopeful reality! Jesus has called and equipped his church to advance his mission. On the podcast this week, we talk about Church Renewal as a process by which we recover a sense of our local place and advancing the mission of Jesus in that place. Does your congregation see herself as existing for the gathering of Jesus lost sheep or as a place for Christians to have their desire and preferences met? Is your church a tactical missionary team to a community or merely a convenient gathering for the faithful to be the faithful?