The Church Is For Us But Not About Us
As we continue our study on the different facets of the church, this week we are discussing the mission of the church. This is a large topic to cover and much as has been written on this subject, especially in the past 50 years. Is the mission of the church to feed the poor? Is it to heal the sick? Is it to recycle and shut down coal plants in order to lower our carbon footprint? Is the mission of the church to live in a holy huddle and never engage the culture? Or is the mission of the church including a little bit of each of these questions?
Before we dive into the definition of the mission of the church, we need to address some faulty thinking in the Christian community. Unfortunately, most of us are consumeristic in the way that we approach life. Our immediate thought is, “What’s in it for me? What does it offer me and my family?” We think the church is about us. This faulty view of the church leads to many errors in our thinking and doing. We see the church as a place where we are catered to and where we come to get our needs met. Although the church does meet our needs through the love of Christ, it’s not the church’s primary focus. The church is for us but not about us.
The Mission of the Church
We must define what we mean by mission lest everything the church does becomes a mission. Stephen Neill notes, “If everything is mission, nothing is mission.” We must be careful to define what mission is lest mission become a catchall word with no meaning. The mission of the church is to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who don’t yet know Him and those who know Him already. We call this evangelism and discipleship. Sharing the gospel with those around us who do not yet know Jesus is one of the biggest responsibilities of the church and it should be something we are passionate about. The great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 commands us to become everyday missionaries as we go throughout our lives.1
Matthew 28:19-20 says this: 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...
When we read through those verses you’ll see that there are four verbs: Go. Make Disciples. Baptizing. Teaching. The thing is.. Only one of those verbs in Greek is an imperative. A command. The others are participles. They support the one verb. Based upon what we’ve heard in the past about this verse, most people think that one verb is go. Unfortunately, this verse has been misunderstood in the past. The command in this passage is make disciples. More literally, the verse should be, “As you are going, make disciples” and you do that by baptizing and teaching. This verse really paints an amazing picture of discipleship. As we are going through our lives we are commanded to make disciples. But in making disciples of Jesus there are two elements.. We make disciples of Jesus out of those who do not know Him. And we make disciples of Jesus by teaching those who already know Him. As Christians we are to use every opportunity throughout our every day life to make disciples of all nations. So when we are going throughout our days, we are to be taking every opportunity to be making disciples, whether it’s making a disciple out of a non-Christian or teaching existing Christians how to follow Jesus well.
Do you see here how the gospel affects every day life? In addition to being an everyday missionary, we need to be an everyday disciple of Christ. This is important because we simply can’t be miraculously born again and never grow up in the faith. Discipleship is simply becoming more and more like Jesus. We do this through reading the Bible, prayer, worship and community. Growth occurs through our vertical connection with Jesus and the horizontal connections with those around us. Our passion is first and foremost Jesus but we work out that passion for Him in our evangelism and discipleship. The Christian life isn’t simply a set of predetermined moments where we have life group and weekend services and random service projects. The Christian life is taking advantage of every moment as an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus. We grow closer to Jesus by helping others both know and grow closer to Him as well.
The thrust of the great commission is making disciples. It’s not simply about being a better disciple so we can be better people. Discipleship is Christ-centered. Discipleship begins and ends with Jesus. It begins with the authority of Jesus, continues in the presence of Jesus, and ends with the Glory of Jesus. Without balance in our approach to being the church, we run the risk of being a people of God who don’t image the fullness of God in our lives. We can’t be a church solely on getting people to say the sinner’s prayer and not give them a next step. We also can’t be a social club who talks theology and never pursues justice and mercy in the community for the glory of God. The mission of the church needs to encompass the whole of God’s mission in the kingdom. We must make disciples of Jesus. That means we share the gospel with those who do not know Him and we reinforce and teach the gospel to those who already do. The goal in discipleship is to become more and more like Jesus. You can’t be like Jesus if you don’t know Him or if you don’t know anything about Him. These disciples are taught to love God well, to love one another well, and to love our city well.
Connect. Grow. Serve.
Here at VGF, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus through connecting, growing and serving. These three elements are a way of life here in our church. We desire to connect to Jesus by both sharing the gospel with the lost and encouraging those who know Him to know Him deeply. We grow through teaching and community, which culminates in service to our communities and families. This is not a three-step process, however. We connect, grow and serve continually no matter what we are doing. We are always connecting, growing and serving. We connect, grow and serve in the weekend gathering, in our life groups, and in our homes and communities. Discipleship is a lifelong process, and this is why we must be on mission in creating new disciples as we grow as followers of Him.