Letter from Smyrna to the Global Church
To our brothers and sisters in Christ,
Grace and Peace.
We, the Mission Commission of the WEA, have been gathered for five days in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the setting of the Apostle John’s letter to the seven ancient churches of Revelation 2 and 3.
This setting has been a profound reminder of the 2000 years of church history to which we are connected, of the struggles to ensure that the apostolic witness should be passed down faithfully, and of the reality that we today receive that witness because men and women laid down their lives rather than compromise the gospel. It has been a vivid reminder that from the beginning of the church it has been costly, even sometimes to martyrdom, to declare that Jesus Christ is Lord and he alone is to be worshipped.
In our studies of God’s word and in all our learning and conversations, we have thought about God’s church and God’s mission, both then and now, and sought to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We have been sobered by the recognition that we must constantly be reminded of what it means to be a child of God, and to remember God’s grace. We have seen that we can drift from love for God, and be taken up with being busy for God. The Lord calls us to repent, deeply and with tears. He calls us to constant renewal of love for him. He calls us to persevere as joyful disciples, in love with Jesus.
The ancient creedal declaration that the church is “one, holy, catholic (*1), and apostolic”, speaks powerfully to us today. We call on the evangelical family to repent of competitiveness, duplication, and fragmentation, and to strive for the unity of fellowship, witness, and life that the Lord declares to be a fundamental sign of the credibility of the gospel. We commit ourselves, and call upon the church, to demonstrate God’s power to transform people into Christ-likeness, to being the passionate disciple of an undivided heart, and the simplicity that encourages holiness of mind and life. We recognize that Christ’s authority is for the whole world, every nation, and the whole creation, and that the fullness of Christ is seen in the whole church in its global entirety. We commit ourselves afresh to a gospel faithful to the teaching of God’s word, passed to us with both the Lord’s and apostolic endorsement as the truth once delivered to the saints. We commit ourselves to apostolic practice, recognizing the importance of teaching, prayer, fellowship, the breaking of bread, witness, and proclamation.
We heard of the pain of some of those who suffer for Christ in many parts of the world. We acknowledge the trauma of persecution, and that those who suffer are our brothers and sisters, whose pain was felt by all of us gathered here, and should be felt by all of us more widely in the one body. We commit to deeper prayer for them, and to telling their story more persistently in all our churches. Soberly, we recognize the teaching of the Lord Jesus that for those who suffer for his sake, theirs is the kingdom as a promise, and that the glory of Christ rests upon them. We pray that they may know the comfort that “God knows”. We want to be proactive in advocacy for those who do not experience the human right of freedom of faith.
We faced once again the challenge of the unreached, the dechurched (*2), and the unchurched, and commit ourselves afresh to the sowing of gospel seed so that God may birth new churches. We recognize with sorrow that many areas of the world, especially the Western world, need to have churches renewed by the Spirit, and new churches established. This is in addition to the pressing needs of the unevangelised world to be addressed with urgency and persistence. We recognize that the Lord is inspiring many new initiatives and that in some places the church grows rapidly, for which we praise God. We pray that it may also grow deeply in faithful discipleship.
We reflect that God calls us to be his pilgrim people. This calls us to hold lightly all that we have by way of material goods, and even those things on which we often rely for our sense of identity: home, country, job. By contrast we are called to find our truest and deepest identity in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the family of God’s people. We pray that God will keep us moving in step with him and, like the pilgrims of old, that we will set our hearts by faith on that final heavenly destination. And we pray that we will have the discernment to recognize what God is doing in our day, and then joyful obedience in finding our role in being God’s hands and feet, mouthpiece, and visual aid in his world.
May we reflect and act upon these things to the glory of God.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
(*1) Universal, general
(*2) Dechurched – referring to those who have been part of the church, but are estranged from it