The Mission of the Church

Vision and mission statements provide businesses and services of all sizes and shapes and persuasions with a foundation upon which to build.  When the work of building grows tiresome or difficult, the vision and mission statements serve as rallying points.  They are reminders for what is at stake with respect to success or failure.  Sometimes these vision and mission statements go by another name called purpose statements.  It is true that there are semantic differences between the words vision, mission, and purpose.  My main point is that each statement based on those terms still functions like an anchor for the company and its employees.  Anyone within the company or organization can point to its vision or mission or purpose statement in order to assess his or her progress.  How does my particular line of work contribute to the company’s vision, mission, or purpose?

Good leaders use these purpose statements as guidelines for staffing changes, setting goals, delegating tasks, and company-wide assessments.  The church or the body of Christ is a living organization run by the head, who is Jesus (Ephesians 4:15-16 & Colossians 1:18, ESV).  The passage of scripture known as the Great Commission functions as the vision, mission and purpose statement of the church:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age'”  (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV).

Christ spoke those words over 2000 years ago, but the force of them remains in effect until his second coming.  No matter what takes place in my community or city or state or nation, my Lord commands me to make disciples of people of all nations anywhere and everywhere I set my feet.  It definitely makes me wonder how I have been doing in this regard.  This does not mean that I am employ complex surveys in order to assess the best methods of evangelism, discipleship, and preaching and teaching.  It might encompass something along those lines; however, I think Jesus had something much more simple and uncomplicated in mind.  For example, build relationships with my colleagues over time while living what I believe.  Will they see an impact that my faith in Christ has upon my life?  Am I punctual?  A hard worker who excels at his work?  A trusted colleague on the same team who looks out for his teammates?

Ministry, missions, preaching and teaching the word, these all have some measure of formality to them.  They are disciplines to study and examine at seminaries and universities.  There is tremendous value to learning different methods, techniques, and formulae with respect to ministry, missions, and preaching and teaching; however, if I bring us back to my personal example of being a living witness at work, the academic approach or approaches fade away into the background of distraction.  For example, do my colleagues enjoy being around me?  Knowing the latest methods of ministry, evangelism, discipleship, and the like add up to zero if I am a dirtbag to my colleagues.  Underneath the outward lies the inward condition.  I may have the trappings, but do I have the life of Christ within me?  There is no way to make disciples of Christ if I am not a disciple, too.  If I do not have him in me, then there is no way to display him to others in accordance with the Great Commission.

My heart condition is crucial in the area of making disciples.  The word itself suggests that I am under someone and his teaching.  In my case, this refers to Jesus and his words.  I submit my life to him as Lord by obeying his commands, which he enables me to do by the person and presence of the Holy Spirit.  The very life that I live is in constant discipleship to one greater than me.  I have kicked and screamed over the years as a follower of Christ.  When I recall such moments in my life, these soften my heart while transforming the way that I see men and women around me.  I am no different than the next person save for the fact that God set his love upon me by grace through faith.  Because Jesus is the ultimate teacher, I remain an eternal student of life and living.  This means that I will not arrive thereby becoming the paragon of Christian living and/or living life as a true disciple of Christ.  Being an eternal student of my Lord means that I do gain insights into who I am and who he is and how these impact my life.

Someone once said that I am a beggar telling other beggars where I found bread.  I find that to be wonderfully uncomplicated, which is the heart of Christ’s command to his church to make disciples of all nations.  Too many ministers and laypersons struggle for ways to share the gospel and to be a witness; consequently, their churches and denominations exemplify this struggle.  “New ways” or “new expressions” of churches have cropped up throughout the US over the last fifteen years.  There are the seeker-sensitive churches, the Emergent types, the Progressive ones, and many many more; however, each of those “new streams” refuses to yield to Christ and his word in subtle ways.  Some embrace views of the afterlife that redefine God’s character and the nature of the atonement.  There are others who call into question the bible as God’s authoritative word by employing deconstructionist forms of scripture interpretation, and/or by employing radical re-contextualizing methods to make the bible more relevant to today.

The point is very simple or basic.  If I have a desire to obey Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations, then it starts with me being his disciple.  This is a call to obeying him and his word or teaching.  When I claim that Christ is the Lord of my life, then by definition, I embrace his teaching as authoritative.  Acknowledging Jesus as Lord goes hand in hand with ordering my life according to his word.  When I create a false dichotomy between the two, my testimony to others about Christ will suffer somewhere down the line.  If I say that Jesus  is Lord, but then reinterpret his word to lessen its force, or to make it more appealing to culture, then I no longer love him.  In the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel, the Lord states unequivocally that those who love him will keep his commandments and see him (John 14:21-24, ESV).  In the last book of the bible, Jesus warns the church at Ephesus to return to their first love, or else he [the first love] would remove their lampstand from his presence (Revelation 2:4-5, ESV).  There is no middle ground for the church and for me.  Jesus is Lord and his word is authoritative.

Here are a few questions to consider: 1.) Am I, are we, being his disciples by yielding to him and his word? 2.)  By virtue of our submission to Christ and his word, are we making disciples who submit to him and his word?  and 3.) What needs to change in us (in me) to continue being Christ’s disciple who makes disciples?

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