What is the Mission of the Local Church II ?

“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.”

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About UK Fred

A Christian who cares that the church in Britain conforms to societal demands, rather than transforms society. I am particularly concerned with the lack of support for marriage and the acceptance of divorce in the church. I also care that the body politic in Britain seems to be corrupt and in need of a good shake-up.
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3 Responses to What is the Mission of the Local Church II ?

  1. Jon Gleason says:

    “Mission is everything that the church does” — doesn’t really sound like what Christ told John to write to the seven churches, in Rev. 2-3. Seems like there was some “what the church does” that wasn’t mission and wasn’t acceptable. Same with I Corinthians. I’m sure if you had a perfect church, then everything the church does would be mission. Since none of us have that, this statement isn’t so great.

    #3, 4, & 5 would be hard to find Biblical support for those as something the local church should be doing. Individual believers, perhaps, though #4 & 5 might be a stretch, given the way they are often understood today. (Just what do they mean by “transforming unjust structures”? Using governmental power to enforce your ideas? Where do we get the idea that the church should be doing that?) Looks to me like we’re just grabbing someone’s political agenda here and saying, “The church should be doing this.” Where does the Scripture say so? Even #1 is not entirely clear that this is a church rather than an individual believer responsibility.

    I Timothy 5, talking about the care of widows, draws a sharp distinction between individual responsibility and church responsibility. If a widow has a family, they are supposed to take care of her, not the church. So we can’t assume that everything Scripture tells us to do is something the local church should do. Care of widows is something Christians should do, but in most cases, the local church shouldn’t. Behaving responsibly with God’s creation is something individual believers should do, but it’s hard to find any mandate for the local church.

    You are 100% correct that we all need teaching. Note the last part of Hebrews 10:25 and Col. 3:16, both emphasise that all are to be teaching each other.

  2. ukfred says:

    If I ever found the perfect church, I wouldn’t dare join it: no point in spoiling something perfect.

    If ever there was a case for a church to adopt expository preaching, then comments like this, from ordained clergy, are surely the proof needed to make the case. I have come to believe that using the Lectionary to give bible readings for each Sunday, because it misses out so much of the Bible is too dangerous because it allows preachers to omit passages that are too difficult or too politically sensitive, like the biblical injunction to complementary roles in marriage in a society that has swallowed feminism hook line and sinker to the detriment of the congregation.

    While I think that Mars Hill Church in Seattle has several fairly obvious flaws, one thing that I think that church has got right is to major on preaching the Word of God and to use expository preaching to do so. They may go into too much detail for some folks, but the problem is that too often people expect to come to church on a Sunday morning for a free ride. At the very least the system of expository preaching ensures that all of the passages are read in each book that is covered are discussed in some depth by the preacher.

    One internet page asks whether churches are, “worshiping the Lamb or entertaining the sheep?” It is a question that needs to be asked in many churches during many so-called services of worship. Preaching the Word is a core duty of the church. It is also something that we could consider for other church work too. Should a church be duplicating the work of other churches in the immediate area or other organisations, even when the work being done, e.g. Youth Clubs, Elderly Peoples luncheon clubs, is good in itself? Can the resources being expended on doing this duplicated activity be better expended in extending the Kingdom if they were used in some other way?

    I fully agree with your point on ‘transforming unjust structures’ and I would argue that the decisions yesterday at the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) on the cases of four Christians, only one of which had her argument upheld would be seen by campaigners for homosexual rights and aggressive secularists as transforming unjust structures.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Fred, that ruling was a total travesty. Now Christians are allowed to wear a cross (which the Bible doesn’t command) but aren’t allowed to practice what the Bible teaches.

      Here’s the thing about “transforming unjust structures,” though. Let’s use something which could really be called “unjust” — abortion. Some babies born in the 22nd week survive, but in the UK can be aborted until the 24th week.

      Even if one is so perverse as to believe abortion as birth control is acceptable, it is surely unjust to kill by abortion a baby which could survive if born instead. Many, even non-Christians, agree that abortion after the 20th or 21st week is an “unjust structure.”

      I would be enthusiastic about any Christian trying to change the law (I’d be enthusiastic about excluding abortion except to save the mother’s life, actually). But even in this “unjust structure” which definitely should be transformed, and which it would be good for Christians to pursue, there remains the question — is that really the job of the local church? What Scripture gives this role to a corporate body of believers, working together as a church?

      Not every good idea is a good idea for the local church, as a church, to do.

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