The Mission of the church
First, lets agree on some terms, when we say church, what do we mean?
In explaining the origins of the word “Church” the Holman Bible dictionary says: “the Greek word ekklesia refers to any assembly, local bodies of believers, or the universal body of all believers.”
The church is not a building or a place, the church is us. Those of us who have believed by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ according the Bible, as evidenced by our repentance and obedience, we are the body of Christ, and we are living stones being built up as a spiritual house (1 Cor. 12:12-27, 1 Peter 2:4-10).
This church is cherished by the Lord Jesus. He refers to us as His Bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). This is what we mean when we say “Church”.
In His final moments on the earth, Jesus gave His disciples, (and by extension, His Church) a mission that we are commanded to continue until He returns. In each of the four Gospels, and in the book of Acts, we have what we refer to as “The Great Commission”.
This is the Mission of the Church -
Matthew 28:18-20 (Go, Make disciples, Baptize, Teach obedience to His commands)
Luke 24:46-48 (Preach repentance and forgiveness in His name)
Mark 16:15-16 (Preach the gospel, believers are to be baptized)
John 20:21-23 (Preach the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness is available for those who believe)
Acts 1:8 (Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Be a Witness for Christ at home, in your community and abroad)
The word “Disciple” comes from a Latin root that means “Learner” or “Student”. Every believer in Jesus is a disciple of Jesus. When we become part of the Body of Christ (through His grace, by our faith, as evidenced by repentance and obedience) we become His disciples and we are called to Go and Make Disciples.
To say it in other words, our mission is to go and preach the gospel, to preach this message of reconciliation. Acts 1:8 tells us the power with which we are imbued in order to fulfill this mission. It is through the Power of the Holy Spirit. We also see the movement, from Jerusalem, to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. We can apply this to our lives by sharing the gospel in our own home (probably the most difficult place) then in our community, then outside of our community, and finally, to the ends of the earth as God guides.
The effectiveness of our preaching of the Gospel depends greatly on our obedience to it. Jesus commanded us to teach them “to observe all things I have commanded you…”. Living as a hypocrite not only damages our testimony but it should also cause us to examine our own lives to see whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The book of Acts is a history of the early church and it shows us how the Holy Spirit worked, and continues to work, through Christ’s Church in order to further His Kingdom by the act of preaching the Gospel.
If we look around at the church in much of the western world today, we are likely to find something very different than what we see in Acts. There seems to be a spirit of consumerism in the church, and the Body of Christ is becoming more like a commodity. We seek a church that meets all of our requirement, and if something doesn’t quite meet our standards, then we take our business elsewhere. This is far from what we see in the early church.
One of the examples that we see in Acts is that the church served as a strong community where believers from all backgrounds could come together in the name of Jesus. They would encourage one another, they loved each other so much that they would sacrifice everything they had in order to provide for those in need. There was a love within this community that transcended the love of blood relatives. They would care for one another, bind each other’s wounds and they would then go back out again to accomplish the mission that Jesus had given them.
By the way, the early believers were not persecuted because they believed in the Gospel of Jesus, they were persecuted because they Preached this gospel. After they were attacked, tortured and imprisoned, they would return to the church for healing, love and encouragement, and then they would return to the mission again.
This is a great picture of the way the primitive church operated. We would do well to study through the book of Acts to see how they accomplished this mission and ask God to guide His church back to the things that matter to Him.
Paul said in Romans 1:16; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
I used to focus on the first half of this verse, about being ashamed, but now I focus more on the second half that explains why Paul is not ashamed to preach this message. It is because the Gospel is God’s solution for the problem of fallen mankind, for everyone who believes.
The Gospel, Society and Culture
As the body of Christ, we are supposed to be in the world but not of the world. When Jesus prayed for HIs disciples in John chapter 17, He said; “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
As the church, we should be involved in our society and in our culture as God guides. We must not isolate ourselves from the ones to whom we are called to preach. As the church, we should be involved in the scientific community, politics, the arts, business, education, etc.
Alan Redpath said that the church was always called to be “Out” in the world. Just as the fisherman goes Out to let out his net, and the Shepherd goes Out to find his lost sheep, and the farmer goes Out to sow his seed. We can’t expect the world to come to us, we need to go out to meet the world where they are.
The church must also be involved in society for the good of everyone within our area of influence. Ministering to those in need, within the church and without. Providing for the poor and needy, standing up for those who are defenseless, promoting justice according to Gods word. We are called to serve the orphans and the widows. We are called to be the salt and the light to this dying world, (James 1:27, Matthew 5:13-17).
The church must be involved in every aspect of our society and our culture with the motive of fulfilling our mission. As we minister to those in need, we must seek to be used by God to share the gospel with them. Serving physical needs resolves a physical problem temporarily. As we serve the needs of our community, we not only meet the temporary, physical need, but more importantly, we address the spiritual problem with its eternal implications. How do we minister to this spiritual, eternal need? By doing exactly what Jesus told us to do, go preach the gospel, go make learners of this gospel and teach obedience to everything He commanded. I realize that this sounds overly simplistic, however, God does not operate the way we do. His way’s are higher, His thoughts are higher and He certainly knows what He is doing.
Again, The gospel is God’s solution for the problem of fallen mankind.
So what should we do? We should go preach the gospel to the lost and dying world.
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15