What is the Mission of the Church?

by J. R. Cuevas

An institution must have a clear mission to have a purposeful existence. Whether the mission is driven by principle or by pragmatism, it must be part of the institution and communicated clearly to those who are part of the institution. The moment an institution fails to accomplish its mission or operates contrary to its stated mission is a moment it must reconsider its existence. This holds true for Google. This holds true for Good Samaritan Hospital. And most importantly, this holds true for Christ’s church.

For the record, Google’s mission statement, “to make information accessible,” is not complicated. Google as a corporation is complex and multi-faceted, but the mission statement is simple. That’s because mission statements are, by nature, simple. The church’s mission is no exception. That’s not to say that church life doesn’t have its complexities and difficulties; pastors don’t get gray hair because church life is easy. But the church’s mission is both simple and evident. What is it that Christ commissioned His church to do? He didn’t hide it; He spoke it clearly, and it’s recorded in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (NASB).

It is vital to understand what Christ is saying here because people come to the church with a variety of desires and the expectation that the church is there to meet these desires. Some people get involved to fulfill their need for a social community (many ethnic churches started for this reason).

Others want a place for their kids to be involved and keep them out of trouble. Still, some come to church because their marriages are falling apart and they believe the pastor can rebuild it. Others come, admittedly, because they’re looking for a spouse. Some want money and free food and believe that it’s the church’s duty to dispense these things.

These reasons, though not always admitted, are brought to light when members leave for another church (or the church altogether) because the previous one in which they were involved didn’t meet their particular need or desire. In order for people to be involved in the life of the church in the right way and for the right reasons, they need to know what Christ has commissioned His church to accomplish, and that mission affects both the church’s membership (who joins) and the church’s ministry (what they do). And the mission is none other than to make disciples of Christ of every nation, tribe, tongue, and people group.

It’s not to say that the church cannot do more than this, but it certainly must not do less than this, and never must it sacrifice this mission of making disciples for the sake of any other endeavor. The global enterprise of discipleship is what the church has been commissioned to do.

So what, then, is a disciple? A disciple is a follower—more specifically, a student and learner—of another. A disciple of Christ is one who is wholly dependent on Him for salvation and wholly devoted to Him for direction and ministry. The world, by nature, hates Christ. I’m not being pessimistic or making exaggerations; I’m simply stating what Christ Himself said to His disciples in the Gospels (e.g., John 7:7 and 15:18). They hate Him unjustly, but they hate Him nevertheless.

The world has rejected His lordship and His ways, cares nothing for His name, and refuses to place trust in Him and worship Him. Need proof? Walk up to a random stranger anywhere in this world, hand them a Bible, tell them to read it, command them to obey it without compromise…and watch for their response.

Because of such hatred, most of humanity is walking down the broad path (Matt 7:13-14). The overall work of the church is simple: to proclaim Christ—who He is, what He did, what He does, what He is doing, and what He promises to do—to the world so that people may turn from their sinful ways and turn to Christ as Savior and Lord. The mission is two-fold in its aim: the conversion of unbelievers (“baptizing”) and the maturation of believers (“teaching”). The church is responsible for leading people to come to Christ and helping people become like Christ—to think as He does, to view the world as He does, to treat others as He does, to handle money as He commanded, to serve others as He modeled, to live out all aspects of life in a way that is consistent with what Christ has both demonstrated and prescribed.

The ministry of the church, however, is not monolithic. It is multi-faceted, as God’s people have been entrusted with a variety of gifts according to the manifold grace of God (1 Pet 4:10). Ministries related to teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, and service all take place in the life of the body.

That the mission of the church is simple doesn’t take away from the fact that the life of the church is complex, with activities ranging from the exposition of Luke to the preparation of lasagna. Responsibilities range from teaching Sunday School to running the coffee cart. But the church is not simply a community of people who do what they want to do in a civil manner. It is a fellowship, with all members participating in a singular cause. And that singular cause is the singular mission: to make disciples of Christ. 

How, then, will this happen? It will happen when He is proclaimed, when what He has commanded is taught, and what He has promised is shared. Colossians 1:28 says, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Who is responsible for it? The answer: all of His saints, working together as a united organism known as the church. How? Through the employment of gifts. For what? That Christ may be exalted and His kingdom furthered.

For this mission, let the church labor and strive according to the power that mightily works in us!

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