The Real Purpose of the Church is…? (Part II)
Note: This is the third of seven articles on becoming a sending church that started with “Cancel the Missions Program”.
What, therefore, is the purpose of the church? However you word your answer, the Great Commission (Matthew 28;19-20) is at the core and this includes making disciples BOTH locally and around the world. The local church has a primary responsibility train Christians for Great Commission endeavors. This is borne out through several concepts in scripture.
- The central story line of the entire Bible is how God redeems lost people.
- The Great Commission is a common denominator in each of the four gospels and the book of Acts (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 13:10; 14:9; Luke 24:44-49; John 17:18; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8). It is obvious that God did not want us to miss this.
- This Great Commission imperative was strategically given at the end of Jesus’ ministry so that these would be the last words ringing in the ears of the disciples. It is almost like Jesus was saying: “I’m leaving and if you don’t get anything else done, make sure you take the gospel all over the planet.”
- The job description of a pastor (Ephesians 4:11-12) makes it clear that his role is to train believers for ministry. The local church may be a nice place to gather with like-minded people, and we appreciate having a pastor who can serve as shepherd in times of crisis. It is nice to have a preacher for weddings and funerals but ultimately, the pastor’s primary task is to “equip saints for ministry.” The local church is meant to be a training center for Great Commission ministry.
- Jesus’ primary focus was preaching redemption. Jesus said: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38). I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Additionally, He says: “so send I you” (John 20:21). His mission is our mission.
- Jesus repeatedly made it clear that there was a singular mission for His life: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
- In Jesus’ prayer in the garden He said: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world…” (John 17:15). And then goes on to say: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 15:18). It is obvious that Jesus had a mission for His disciples.
- The book of Acts is the story of how the church implemented the mission of the church. It is a practical example of His intentions.
- The Apostle Paul embodies the mission of the church and his story dominates the pages of the the New Testament. God made it abundantly clear on the road to Damascus that the Great Commission was to be Paul’s mission (Acts 26:16-18). That one mandate drove the Apostle Paul with insatiable appetite to accomplish one thing… the evangelization of the lost around the world.
- The first official missionary team was sent from a local church (Acts 13).
- Fulfillment of the mission comes to a crescendo in the end times (Revelation 7:9-10; 15:4) The completion of eschatology is preceded by the fact that “the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations” (Mark 13:10).
- The church is not an organization but an organism (Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Cor. 12:12-27). Living organisms reproduce. Just like believers are to reproduce themselves, so also the local church should seek to replicate itself.
The evidence is overwhelming that the church is not an end to itself… it is a means for accomplishing something else. God does not have a mission because of the church, He has a church because of the mission. The church exists because there is a mission. That concept is pivotal in ecclesiology. If a church acts like it exists for its own benefit, it will become inward focused. If the mission of the church is the church, then everything will point inward and it will become self-serving. If a church is not fully engaged in the Great Commission, there is good reason to question the validity of its existence.
But…there are dominoes in the way that must fall into place. The next three articles will discuss these in some detail.