What is the Mission of the Church?

It’s a topic that is widely disputed among Christians. Some say it is to usher in God’s kingdom; others say it is to uphold social justice. But what does the Bible have to say about the church’s corporate mission?

Before we get there, let’s define the word “mission.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mission means “a task or job that someone is given to do.” Notice the singularity in the description of mission. In the four Gospels, Jesus gives many commands for us to obey. Yet, there is one that is specifically set aside for the church to be its priority.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This passage is commonly known as the Great Commission. Jesus gives His authority onto the disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all people. From the beginning of His ministry, His intention for His disciples was to groom them for so that His church would be built through the proclamation of the Gospel (Matthew 16:18). This is evident when Jesus first calls them:

And [Jesus] said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 ESV)

The Gospel is not only to be proclaimed to coworkers, classmates, family, and friends through evangelism (although that is part of the Great Commission). We are commanded to preach the Gospel to every people, tongue, and tribe. In Revelation, John writes about the end times, when people from all around the world will worship God:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10) 

This is why missions is so important! Whether you go or stay, missions is a vital part of carrying out the Great Commission. I can’t wait for that day when we can all worship the Lord together!

Also take note that disciple-making occurs through teaching them. Fulfilling the Great Commission is not making converts but making Christ-followers. We don’t just share the Gospel with people and leave them to fend for themselves. Jesus tells us to teach them to follow His commands, accomplished through the means of the local church. This is how believers will grow in grace and godliness to become more like Christ.

The other Gospel writers recorded similar messages of making disciples (see Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:45-49, and John 20:21-23). And it’s even in the book of Acts:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

Christians are still here on Earth to make disciples. If it were up to me, I would want to be in heaven with God. No more sin and suffering sound great! But God has kept all of us in this world for this very reason: to preach the Good News to all mankind, and to teach them how to live according to God’s commands.

Book Review: “Prayer and the Knowledge of God” by Graeme Goldsworthy

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It is an uncontested given of Christianity that Christians pray, and it is not uncommon to hear a fellow Christian say how they, and by extension we, should be praying more. The exhortation has probably been tossed at us enough that it must often elicit our conditioned affirmative response. “Yes,” we go, “I should pray” or, if we feel lacking, “I should pray more.” Often this is where our minds gravitate towards when we think of prayer. Yet, when we evaluate our prayer lives, it is so much more than just increasing it in frequency and fervor.

In Graeme Goldsworthy’s Prayer and the Knowledge of God, Goldsworthy starts by addressing what prayer is and what it is not in order to “get a handle on prayer by asking why it is there in the first place; what its role is in our fellowship with God; and what is involved in praying as a Christian,” (17). Prayer is a reflection of our deepening relationship with the Father. With so many ways we can deviate from God’s intended purpose for prayer, Goldsworthy spends the majority of the book answering these questions before walking the reader through a biblical-theological reading of Scripture to show how God is fulfilling his promises to his people, what our prayers are founded upon. Goldsworthy’s study is wide-ranging, working through the history of Israel as well as tackling prayer as it concerns the eschatology of Scripture all of which points back to the Creator and how he has, in his infinite wisdom, orchestrated the course of history to His glory and, in His abounding love, has delivered us from ourselves and continues to provide for all our needs.

This book ends up being more than just a scholar’s romp through the Word, but an encouragement to us in praying faithfully as Goldsworthy shows us how our God is a faithful and loving God that has given us his Word so we can know Him, and has given us the gift of prayer to commune with Him no matter what season we find ourselves as we pray for God to fulfill His promises in His time. “We can say that how we know God will greatly affect the way we approach him in prayer,” (18). Where others may insist on understanding prayer through personal and/or comparative experiences, Goldsworthy’s methodology is aligned with what we know to be true, that wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit enlightening our eyes as we read and meditate on Scripture. Because this book is a survey of the Bible in its execution, it lends itself to pointing any industrious student of the Word towards passages in Scripture for further study.

I appreciated the scholarly bent of this book, because I knew the stirrings in my heart were from the Holy Spirit and not just some plucking of my heartstrings that can happen with a well-told story. While some authors stir one’s emotions, Goldsworthy makes no such attempt with dramatic anecdotes. His analogies and snippets from his time are utilized to help us better understand prayer, not to get us to pray. Goldsworthy is focused in his goal. If after reading a chapter you find yourself desiring to go to the Lord in prayer, that’s the Holy Spirit’s work. I found the conclusion of every chapter, where Goldsworthy recaps the main points of it and posits questions that turn our attention to our hearts, to be apt in stirring my heart towards growth and change.

If you are looking to grow in both understanding and action of prayer, Prayer and the Knowledge of God will be of use in your endeavor. We can keep telling each other that we need to pray, pray more, pray ceaselessly, but if we pray for the sake of praying without knowing who it is we pray to we have missed the wonderful truth of prayer. “The teaching that Jesus gave about prayer should always be seen as one aspect of being caught up in the saving work of God. The act of praying, and the content of the prayer, is part of being saved” (29).

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Book Review: “Passion and Purity” by Elisabeth Elliot

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“Whom have I in heaven but You?

And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;

You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;

I have made the LORD GOD my refuge,

That I may tell of all Your works.”

(Psalm 73: 25-28 NASB)

“I have set the LORD continually before me…”

(Psalm 16:8a NASB)

Premise

Elisabeth Elliot is so much more articulate than I could ever be, so I’ll just put her explanation of the book’s premise here:

“The framework of the book is the story of five and a half years of loving one man, Jim, and of learning the disciplines of longing, loneliness, uncertainty, hope, trust, and unconditional commitment to Christ—a commitment which required that, regardless of what passion we might feel, we must be pure…

“If I can help some to avoid sin, I want to do that. If I can show others the message of the Gospel is the possibility of a new birth and a new beginning and a new creation, I want to do that.

“The love life of a Christian is a crucial battleground. There, if nowhere else, it will be determined as to who is Lord: the world, the self and the devil, or the Lord Christ.

“This is why I take the risk. My own love story might be of more or less interest to a few; the “Dear Abby” sort of letters and my replies might be amusing; but my chief concern is that readers consider the authority of Christ over human passion and set their hearts on purity.” (14)

Elisabeth Elliot was the wife of famed missionary and martyr Jim Elliot, who died evangelizing to the Auca tribe in Ecuador. This book is Elisabeth’s memoirs of her relationship with Jim, interspersed with personal observations on romance and Christianity.

How This Book Helped Me

Let me be vulnerable with you: for the majority of my life, I was a romantic enslaved to an idolatry of romance and the idea of marriage. My thoughts were perpetually bent on how I would find a great woman and have a perfect marriage, even from a young age. Even after I was saved and professed my devotion to Christ, the pursuit of a romantic relationship continued to be a deep-seated desire.

Passion and Purity was the most influential book to me in that respect. It forced me to come face to face with my idolatry and to see it for what it was. It taught me to ask questions that were both incredibly hurtful and wonderfully healing: who is Lord over my life? Can I place my desires in submission to God, or do I withhold them out of fear? What is important to me? What am I willing to let God take from me? Do I trust God to know what is best and to provide it?

One thing I really appreciated on my most recent read through the book was what Elisabeth Elliot had to say about the purpose of desires. We’re told to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rm. 12:1, NASB); what we often withhold from God, however, is our deepest desires. Elliot explains that these desires are given to us so that we can offer them to God in submission:

“If the yearnings went away, what would we have to offer up to the Lord? Aren’t they given to us to offer? It is the control of passion, not its eradication, that is needed. How would we learn to submit to the authority of Christ if we had nothing to submit?” (91).

Every time I read this book, I find myself challenged in contentment, in submission, and in single-minded devotion to Christ, and every time I reach the last page I find myself willingly and joyfully offering my life to God again, His worthiness being displayed so clearly.

Recommendation

* Length: The book is less than two hundred pages and is divided into two or three page bite-sized vignettes. Each chapter is weighty enough that I found a lot of value in reading just a chapter per day. You can finish the book at that pace in four to six weeks, or you can read it like a novel and power through over the course of one to three days.

* Readability: Elliot’s prose is exquisite. Maybe she was a fantastic writer, or maybe everyone had that level of eloquence sixty years ago; in either case, between the beauty of the language and the compelling way the book is written, the book is a true pleasure to read.

* This Book Is Good For: Anyone who has, or has had, or plans to have a romantic relationship during their lifetime; anyone who thinks they may have an idolatry of romantic relationships; anyone wanting to learn about contentment; anyone seeking to grow in a single-minded pursuit of Christ; anyone interested in missions; anyone who enjoys biographies or well-crafted prose. (Frankly, I’ve recommended this book at every opportunity. It’s worth a read.)

 

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