What is the mission of the church?
Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert write,
“The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey His commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.”
I personally think this is a great summary statement.
One of the elements of this particular mission statement that stands out to me is where they say that the mission of the church is to gather these disciples into churches that they might worship the Lord and obey His commands.
I am thinking especially about that word obey.
The church wants to see disciples obey Jesus commands.
What particular commands are we talking about? All of them, of course. But specifically, if we want to start with the most obvious, we might think of the two greatest commands. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
Now what would loving your neighbor as yourself include, I wonder?
I think the answer to that question could be almost endless. But certainly it would include things like actually caring for the people who live near you. It would involve thinking of ways to show the kindness of God to them. It might even require perhaps, disadvantaging yourself for their good.
Sometimes when Jesus talked about the command to love one’s neighbor he stressed the fact that we must love our enemies as well. He goes on to say if you love only those who love you, what reward is that?
Obviously Jesus saw this as a particular temptation, to limit the command to love one’s neighbor to only people we are comfortable with, and we can assume it is a temptation today. If DeYoung and Gilbert are correct to include obedience to Jesus’ commands in their mission statement, then obviously the church has a responsibility to help its members learn to obey this command to love their neighbors as well. In other words, part of the church’s mission is to help followers of Christ obey His commands, all of them, even commands that are difficult, like loving people that are different than us or that are difficult for us to love.
Perhaps a church’s mission statement isn’t a place to talk about all the specifics of what it means to obey Jesus’ commands to love one’s neighbor and to love one’s enemies, but if we agree with these authors that the church needs to help its members obey what God says, then talking about how a church should do so in specifics like helping its members learn to love people of different cultures that are are living in their communities and think about practical ways to show kindness to the community around them is definitely not a worldly agenda, it is a biblical one.