“What am I doing here?” is a question we may ask ourselves from time to time in order to rediscover our purpose and direction. “What are we doing here?” is also an important question for every church to answer. The church has a certain mission, but often we can get a little side-tracked.
Sometimes we might be tempted to think the church’s mission is to transform society. With some kind of utopian hope in our eye, we think we are placed here to do good to society and make it better and better. We want to raise up the oppressed, give money to the poor, and get involved in every social cause we can. But though we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, and faith without works is dead (Eph 2:10; James 2), these things fall short of defining the central mission of the church.
Sometimes we get thinking our mission is to transform our government. How great it would be to see every nation following God’s standards! But in reality, God never promised an earthly kingdom visibly expressed through nation-states that honour His supremacy. We sometimes forget that Christ’s kingdom is the kingdom of heaven, which now expresses itself on earth in the church of Jesus Christ, the only institution Christ promised to build in this present evil age. And in God’s sovereign plan, the sons of the evil one must grow together with the sons of the kingdom until the harvest at Christ’s second coming. Our mission is not to transform earthly governments.
Sometimes we think our mission is to get more numbers into the church. The Charles Finneys and Billy Grahams of the past taught us how to prop up charismatic speakers, give altar calls, and fill stadiums with people who can be emotionally manipulated into saying “the sinner’s prayer.” The seeker-sensitive movement taught us how to bring as many people into our services as possible and build suburban mega-churches. The results of these teachings may look outwardly impressive but are usually spiritually shallow, and again, they fall short of our biblical mission.
Where do we go to find our true mission? I suggest we go back to the good old “Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:19-20. Here, Jesus gives a commission involving one main action and three accompanying actions. “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.”
Make Disciples of All Nations. This is the main action. We are about making disciples of Jesus Christ, which means we must first introduce people to Christ (in other words, preach the gospel), so they can begin to follow him (in other words, repent and believe). We are to do this work in all nations. Early disciples preached the gospel everywhere, beginning from Jerusalem, and when the gospel was proclaimed, some believed in Christ, and some rejected Christ. Those who believed in Christ were called disciples (Acts 14:21).
Going. The first supporting action is “go” or “going.” Obviously, we can’t make disciples of all nations without going. And again, that is exactly what the disciples did. They went from Jerusalem, to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Baptizing. The second supporting action is “baptizing.” Baptism follows the making of a disciple. When someone believes the preached word, they are baptized and added to the church. We often read of this pattern in Acts (2:41; 8:12; 8:35-38; 10:44, 48; 16:13-15, 30-34; 18:8).
Teaching.The third supporting action is “teaching.”When disciples are added to the church through baptism, we are to continue teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded us. We also see this happening in the book of Acts. The early church devoted itself to the “apostle’s teaching” (Acts 2:42), and the leaders of the church gave themselves to continual preaching and teaching (Acts 5:42; 8:4; 11:26; 18:11; 20:18-21; 28:23-31). The work of the church continues through qualified pastor-teachers who equip the saints to teach one another and raise up other faithful men who will teach others also (Ephesians 4:10-11; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:2).
Our main mission is clear as we look to the Great Commission. Go, make disciples in all nations, baptizing them and teaching them. In other words, we are to advance the kingdom of the King of Kings through the normal work of the local church in all places.
This is what the church is doing here! Let’s get at it!
Pastor Rory St. John