“Mission is everything that the church does”
This statement was offered to a local church who were going to have a meeting about the mission of the church.
Mission was defined as being all sorts of things,
Telling people about Jesus
Teaching and baptising new believers
Tending to the needs of people outside the church
Transforming unjust structures in society
Treasuring creation by taking care of it.
Being a bit of an oddity, I would like to look at these in reverse order.
Treasuring Creation sounds very much like the state religion of Climate Change Adulation.
We all know that the Earth and everything in it is the Lord’s and we are here as stewards of His creation. But we need to be aware that many people who are not Christian will be worshiping the creation itself and not the Creator. Anyone who sees treasuring the creation as a major mission of the church, unless they are living in an Erin Brockovitch scenario, is going to have to tread very carefully to put a distinctively Christian position across to their fellow environmentalists.
Transforming unjust structures in society sounds wonderfully Christian and makes us remember that we need to consider the corporate as well as the personal aspect. But this is something that will generally make us unpopular with the powers that be, because in doing so we will upset the status quo. We also need to choose our targets wisely, because as the recent decisions from the ECHR have shown, it is only permissible to be Christian provided your being Christian is inoffensive. Where it means challenging someone about what is truthful, or saying that you have a different set of moral values to the mainstream in society, we will be struck down. We need to remember that Jesus did not make many friends in the Sanhedrin the day He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and xdrove out the sellers of animals for sacrifice from the temple. As was said in a recent comment, Trevor Philips, the head honcho at the Equality and Human Rights commission claims that the freedon to exercise one’s religion only extendss to the temple door.
Tending the needs of people outside the church is a good thing to do. But many secular organisations, including the state, are doing this too. How do we do this is a way that is both distinctively Christian and also not wasting resources by duplicating what others are already doing and sometimes doing well.
It is right to teach and baptise new believers. Jesus said, “Go to all nations, baptising them and teaching them all that I have commanded you.” To do this we need to be able to know what Jesus commanded us. This means that we must start with ourselves, obeying all that Jesus commanded us. This means being good, and not necessarily being nice. If we can point one person to the Lord, and teach enough so that the Holy Spirit can convict that person of their sin and their need for forgiveness, then that is good. We do not all need to be walking encyclopaedias of Bible knowledge, but we all need to know the basics about how to live as Christians in a fallen world. But sometimes old believers forget and they too need teaching. Sometimes a new topic comes to the forefront of society and we all need to develop a biblical approach to it. Teaching is for all, not just new believers.
Finally, we come to telling people about Jesus. Why leave this to last? to reasons: firstly it is something that in today’s society we need to have built up some credibility with our acquaintances to be able to earn the right to tell them about our motivation for all that we do, and secondly because so very important. Psychologists tell us that we remember firsts, lasts, and unusual things. Leaving it to last helps us to take away the fact that it is important, without the complications of the other topics. How do we tell people? We can use words, but our example in our daily living is probably better than anything else we can do to show those around us that there is more to life than what is offered by drugs, debt and the other effects of consumerism. I cannot remember which of the Christians from a bygone era said, “Preach all you can, and only if you have to, use words.”