What is the mission of the church? And what role am I to play in it?
What is your life to be about? What is that thing you will consider every time you make a decision and seek to stay the course? I would like to explore the options of what actually is the goal of Christendom. Because what we consciously or sub-consciously point our lives at will be the filter through which we make our decisions, the big ones, as well as the daily ones of attitude and response that give your life its particular flavor.
I have been asking everyone I talk to what they believe the mission of the church is and I have heard varying answers. Some say the mission of the church is to spread the gospel. Some say it is loving as Christ loves. Some say its about getting more people to come to church. Some say its about Kingdom living. Some say its about glorifying God. Some say the point is worship. Some say its sanctification—becoming more like Christ. Some say its discipleship. Some say restoration. Some say its bringing God joy and enjoying Him as the ultimate satisfaction and pleasure available in life.
Rather than tell you how I articulate the goal of the Church and my role within it, let me ask you some questions so that we can peel back the layers and peer into the possibilities and consider what we will need for the task.
With Jesus’ final moments on earth he commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples, teaching them to follow all he had taught them (Matthew 28: 19-20). We often sum this up with “go share the gospel” and yes, we must. But let us ponder just how are we to do this and is this all that Christ is saying. Based on the Great Commission, discipleship is the job of the New Testament Church, and while sharing the gospel is necessary, it is not the whole picture. While I would never ascribe to the idea that we should retreat into a small, self-protecting Christianity where we hunker down into a “safe” Christian culture and are never challenged, offended, or made uncomfortable by the world, I would say that the mission is not purely outward and we must spend time and energy cultivating what we have already planted.
Discipleship is what happens when the church is intentionally being the church. One of the most successful mission strategies is church planting, which leads me to believe, that my investment and involvement within my church as a means of engaging in discipleship, to be discipled and to disciple others is part of living out the Great Commission. If all we ever did was go out into the world to tell others about Jesus without getting to know Jesus and growing, learning and training in the deeper truths of the Kingdom, then Christianity would begin to look like a pointless loop. Hebrews 5:11-14 stresses the need for us to grow in the deeper truths of the Kingdom and, to become “skilled in the word of righteousness”. We are to mature and to help others growing in their maturity, to have our “powers of discernment trained by constant practice.”
What we believe is our goal will help us have the kind of heroic endurance needed when the task is so difficult it hurts. The answers, the harvest, the thrill, these things rarely occur without effort, sometimes agonizing effort. In order to fulfill our mission we have to work hard and with profound patience. We have to be so committed to our mission that we do not give up even when it is hard, or painful, or slow. We share in Christ’s sufferings. This is both the cost and the means of accomplishing our mission. It is not about doing anything big and flashy for God’s Kingdom, for the desire to “wow” others reeks of pride and selfish ambition, and we cannot accomplish our mission in the Kingdom through sinful motive. Rather, it is about faithfulness—quiet, humble obedience, no matter the circumstance. It is about a heart defined by grace. As 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. “
It is also important not to overcomplicate things for overcomplicating the mission will end up making us immobile. But we must think strategically, and have the courage to dive into the messiness of real relationship. If we hope to be focused, committed, and affective, we must let God lead and direct our strategy because without His leadership, we will overcomplicate things until we are overwhelmed and defeated, or, if our tendency is not a strategic one, then we will be directionless and will inevitably end up taking the path of least resistance, which is not Kingdom living. 2 Corinthians 3:12 says, “since we have such a hope, we are bold.” And so we must excise our boldness, take more risks, reach out further, give more generously, pray with deeper intimacy. Unfurl our roots deep within the rich soil of the nutrients of Christ and the gospel and invite others to do the same.
Mission cannot be void of joy. If it is, it will fail. For “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). We must have purpose fueled by desire that runs deeper and rings truer than duty-driven service. When the road requires endurance and the mountain before us demands courage to be conquered, if Christ does not satisfy us, we will not press on toward our goal.
Without a heart at peace in the mission we will become hypocrites. Peace tells the truth about God. If we have no peace as we live on mission, we are essentially saying that the gospel is not true. Having a resonating peace about us even as we endure the difficult and move in strategic and bold actions speaks volumes about the Christ that we are professing. Demonstrating legalistic morality is not nearly as potent of a message as living in peace with joy and compelled by love. This reflects the gospel. Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and if the Prince of Peace is the Lord of your life, then you can say with Paul, “what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9
Finally, let us consider when Jesus was asked, “‘which commandment is the most important of all?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12:28b-31).
And the apostle Paul echoed this same pulsing emphasis on love when he said “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Without love, there is no mission.
So considering all of this, how would you articulate your role in the mission of the church? Spend some time talking with God about it and see what you come up with. Feel free to share your thoughts, we’d love to hear them.
Article by Makaila Mobley