If you had a friend who had served God and who was about to die by execution, – a beheading to be precise, what would you tell them as they waited to die? What words would you use to assure them they had not served in vain or invested in the wrong things? In other words, what would you tell them so they could die in peace?
John the Baptist was in such a predicament. He was arrested for telling a political figure that his lifestyle was perverted. As he waited in prison he began to doubt. He was sensing his days were numbered so he sent a delegation to Jesus to ask him if he was the One.
Jesus sent back a profound answer,
“Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen - the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11: 4-5)
Of all the information Jesus could have sent back to John, so John could die in peace – this was it. He didn’t include in his message a statement of things that could be done in human power and strength – good things like painting houses, raking leaves in your neighborhood or doing oil changes for single moms in the church parking lot. Jesus sent back a functioning definition of a Spirit-empowered Church living in culture.
As I look at the early disciples, and the Church birthed on the Day of Pentecost, I see a missional church that was a supernatural cohort embedded in culture making God known in any and every way possible – good works and the supernatural included.
If you are reading this and you serve in the Church, I don’t mean to step on your toes. I write this to simply have each of us revisit our definition of what it means to be missional and make sure it includes something of the supernatural dimension that Jesus shared with John along with all the other wonderful works we do in his name. These elements work together, not in exclusion of each other.
If we don’t revisit and expand our current definition of missional to include something supernatural, we will end up producing a ministry of good works that our local service club could do without Jesus and that would not be a message that would have brought John much peace as he waited in prison.