There is general agreement that, in the Church, there is a crisis in the sense of mission today, according to the head of the largest church-based charity in Australia.
At the end of last weeks Encountering God conference in Sydney, Wesley Missions Superintendent, the Rev Dr Gordon Moyes, said there has been a wholesale drift of membership from the Churches and a reduction of the number of Churches serving in the inner city.
Particularly, many Church leaders, wakened by the crisis, are searching for cause and cure, Moyes said during the closing service at Wesley Missions Conference Center in Sydney. Many are grasping at the mission of the Church, crying for renewal, reformation, restoration, or revival the choice depending upon the theological assumptions of the speaker.
According to the Wesley Mission head, the mission of God is fulfilled in part by the Biblical task given to the Church of Jesus Christ that is upward toward God, inward in renewal, and outwards in reach.
The mission of the Church is the Church as sent into the world as light, salt, the servant, the prophet, the witness, and any other of the descriptions given to the Church in mission in scripture, Moyes continued.
Prior to his call to conference attendees to enlarge their vision as evangelists, Moyes noted that the number of Christians in Australia was 12,850,833 a gain of 1.47 percent over 4 years. This, Moyes said, equates to 1 member every 2 minutes 25 seconds.
However, other religions in Australia including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam - have gained 41.8 percent over 4 years which equates to 1 member every 0.7 minutes 10 seconds.
To remind attendees of the Mission of the Church, Moyes referred to the rapid and far-flung spread of Christianity within the first few decades of the existence of the Christian Church, which he said is the best commentary on the zeal and purpose of the early Apostles.
To follow them was to follow in a path of mission, he exhorted. Every Church found itself in a mission setting in a very peculiar sense. Every Church was surrounded by multitudes without God, without hope. Here was their first challenge, as Paul tells the Church at Philippi in Philippians 2:1216.
Similar words are spoken to the Churches at Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica and Colossae, he added. Paul expects that his own example will inspire others to follow in his train. He calls upon the Churches to follow him even as he follows Christ
After referring to several passages from Scripture, Moyes said Paul makes it clear that his supreme mission is evangelism.
The early disciples had an enormous task in taking the gospel to the whole world, he went on to say. It is well known that they were ordinary, uneducated men without influential backing, and that they came from a second-rate province on the edge of the empire.
Moyes said if anyone had considered at the time the probabilities of the success in their mission even granting their enthusiasm, the odds "surely" would have weighed heavily against them.
Yet it was this overwhelming sense that they were fulfilling the mission of God through the command of Jesus that propelled them into every known part of the world, he stated.
As a result, there was somewhere about 5 million Christians out of a total Roman Empire population of 50 million by the end of the Third Century, Moyes said, citiing estimates made by Bishop Stephen Neill.
"Their effectiveness in fulfilling the mission of God can be seen in [these] estimates," he said.
"God will enlarge our vision of ourselves as evangelists if we allow Him."
In closing his point on enlarging vision as an evangelist, Moyes said, What Jesus made primary, we dare not make secondary. We need an enlarged vision of our work as an evangelist.
During the closing address, Moyes also noted ten other visions that believers must enlarge to be really effective in Gods service including: enlarging vision as a minister, a preacher, a church leader, a builder, a media presenter, a pastor, a counselor, a fundraiser, a family, and a citizen.
A narrow, negative vision, Moyes said, limits all growth.