In the previous installment, I argued that Jesus has tasked his church to take the verbal message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to the nations.
The central mission of the church, therefore, is to take God’s Word to God’s world.
The church’s chief task is to bear witness to Jesus, so that people may be saved from hell for heaven forever by repenting and believing the gospel.
We see this priority throughout the New Testament.
In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) we often read of Jesus teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God, what it is like and how one may enter.
Jesus does do healings and perform exorcisms, but they are not his priority.
On one occasion masses of people come to Jesus to be healed and Jesus leaves them and goes to another town so that he can preach there (Mark 4:35-39).
The book of Acts
The book of Acts tells the story of the growth of the early church.
As the Apostles and early Christians bore witness to the trust about Jesus (cf. Acts 1:8), people were converted and churches established.
The Apostles and early Christians made a huge impact on their society.
The interesting thing to note is that when Paul and the other Apostles entered a new city, they aimed, not to build schools, run employment projects or to transform the city, but to teach the gospel and plant churches.
Paul was clear on what Jesus had tasked him to do, which was to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins.
The early Christians did help the poor and vulnerable and they did, to a certain extent, transform society in the years to come. But this social action was a by-product and spin-off of people being converted. There certainly realized that Christians are called to be salt and light in a dying and dark world.
Their and our impact on society is a result of the gospel, not the gospel.
The phrase that is repeated throughout Acts is that the “Word of God spread”.
New Testament letters
In 1 Thessalonians we see a typical example of Paul’s priority of evangelism and church planting.
In chapter one Paul describes how the gospel came to these former unbelieving pagans,
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)
The gospel came to them in words, and the Holy Spirit enabled them to understand those words.
What was at the heart of the Paul message?
“…They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, cf. Isaiah 21:1)
Paul arrived at the city and preached repentance and forgiveness of sins (i.e. the gospel). That was his goal and mission.
Paul then tells of how the Thessalonians followed in his example of evangelism:
“And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
The gospel “rang out” – not from Paul only, but from the early Christians.
We too, as Christians, are all called to be involved gospel ministry and word proclamation.
Only God can convert and grow, but we are all called to be prayerfully speaking God’s Word to others.
Transfer and transform
Paul summed up what the gospel does in Colossians 1:13-14,
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into (transferred us to) the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
God’s chief purpose is to see people TRANSFERRED – from darkness to the Kingdom of the Son.
This means that the Kingdom of God grows as people submit to the King and thereby enter his Kingdom.
The Kingdom does not grow by the church building low-cost houses, feeding the hungry, or establishing a socially just society. These may be good things, but they not the primary mission of the church.
God’s priority for his church is to see people transferred.
But our mission does not end there. Paul continues in Colossians 1:28-29,
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”
Paul also worked hard to present everyone perfect in Christ.
Thus, Paul’s second goal was to see Christian people TRANSFORMED to be more like Jesus.
How are people transferred? By the gospel.
How are people transformed? By the gospel.
The Church’s mission is to take God’s Word to God’s world, or if you prefer, to take God’s gospel to God’s globe.
Join the mission
Gospel ministry is not just for your pastor.
We are all called to prayerfully speak the gospel to others. We are all called to bear witness to the truth about Jesus.
The fruit of the mission
We are also all called to grow to be more like Jesus.
As Christians become more like Jesus, we will be better equipped to be godly business-people, better trained to be honest politicians who make courageous decisions, better resourced to make loving and just decisions, better trained to love the needy, and better motivated to make a difference in our country and city.
As people become Christians and start living transformed lives, they will influence, affect and transform the societies in which they live in all kinds of ways.
But the church’s central mission is gospel proclamation. 1
That’s where it starts. And that’s the church’s chief concern. 2
- (Many of these truths come from the books, “What is the mission of the church?” and “The Trellis and the Vine.”)
- Note that I say, “chief concern”, not only concern. The church may, for instance be involved in education or mercy ministry, but these still are tools to make inroads for gospel proclamation. Any ministry that does not involve – at some stage – speaking the gospel, is not gospel ministry.