Missional Movements, Not Monuments, Involve Relational Connections, Part I

Missional Movements, Not Monuments, Involve Relational Connections, Part I April 25, 2019

Robert Nyman, “Christ the Redeemer, Brazil.”

Jesus did not come to earth to erect a monument, but to create a missional movement involving healthy relational connections with God and others. A ministry of any size and shape is only as good as its relational connections to God and one another in the ministry before the surrounding world.

The Gospel story—the Good News of Jesus Christ—is all about relational connections for now and eternity. We see such connections in Jesus’ prayer offered last Thursday evening—Maundy Thursday—during Passion Week, as recorded in John 17.

You learn a great deal about what really matters to someone when they are under extreme duress. During his passion, Jesus never lost sight of relational connectedness no matter how distressed he was: the Good News involves Jesus’ connection to the Father, our connection to Jesus before the Father, and our connection to one another in relation to Jesus and his Father through the Spirit. We will address each aspect in turn in three successive blog posts. In this post, we will consider briefly John 17:1-5 and reflect upon the following: Jesus longs to reconnect with the Father after departing this world.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:1-5; ESV)

John’s Gospel reflects at great length on Jesus’ vital connection with the Father. He is the Word of God (John 1:1). He is the Son of God (John 1:18). Jesus’ identity is never separate from the Father’s identity, and Jesus’ sense of value flows from the Father’s affirmation of him (John 5:20, 23). Everything the Father does Jesus does (John 5:19). Jesus comes from the bosom of God (John 1:18) and returns to God (John 17:5). Here we find in John 17:1-5 that Jesus longs for the Father to glorify him so that he may glorify the Father. He longs to share in the glory that he experienced in relation to the Father from all eternity. The eternal life God offers involves knowing God and his Son together.

So, what does Jesus’ desire to reconnect with the Father after departing this world signify for us, and for missional movements today? Such relational connectivity undergirds all reality. If this is true of the triune God from all eternity, we should take to heart that a solid foundation for life and ministry always involves healthy relationality. Jesus does not operate in life in traumatic reaction to ‘Father wounds.’ It is because of the Father’s love for him that he is willing to be wounded for us so we can share in the relational reality of God’s glorious love for all eternity. Eternal life involves knowing God and his Son experientially, not simply intellectually (John 17:3). Knowledge of God according to John’s Gospel in general and John 17 in particular signifies participation in God’s glorious love.

Do we engage in missional endeavors from the vantage point of participating in God’s life of glorious love for all eternity? Do we long to glorify God in Christ Jesus and experience eternal communal life in relation to them in the Spirit? Or does our supposed missional engagement proceed in a self-referential and non-relational manner that entails building a monument for our own glory?

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