The Mission of the Church

by Andrew Munneke

In my last blog post I talked about the Mission of God.  And it's important before we talk about the Mission of The Hill Church that we take a step back and see from a higher perspective of what God is doing on a greater narrative and a bigger picture.  If I can put it a different way, the fact that we have a God on mission has implications for his people, the Church, and the mission of the Church therefore has implications for the mission of the Hill Church in Fayetteville, AR. 

If I could sum up my last blog post it would be that the mission of God is for the acclaim of his own glory through the redemption and restoration of broken creation.  But in the midst of all this restoration, God has elected a specific people to be a redeemed community, called the church, and for them to be the mouthpiece of his truth and beauty.  The church then plays a vital role in announcing the works of the Triune God.  Since the church is a product of a missional God the very purpose of the church is to be missional.  Let me put it a little bit more bluntly.  The church was never meant to be a collection of saved individuals who just look inwardly and try to learn more Bible facts, but its sole purpose is to partake in the mission of God by glorifying Him through the restoration of all things.  The mission of God and the mission of the Church are inseparably interconnected. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, the Apostle Paul highlights the mission of the church.  He says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 

Just like the first creation declares the glory of God by displaying his internal attributes and glory (Rom. 1:20), so also the second creation, regenerated believers, declares the glory of God because of its origins.  Just as the Father sent the Son to fulfill the mission of God, now the Son sends the Church as ambassadors to this lost and broken world.  The universal church ministers, serves, pleads, preaches, prays, and engages all aspects of broken creation, taking part of the restoration of shalom for the glory of God.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus further explains the mission of the church through what theologians call The Great Commission.  In this text Christ says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The important thing to highlight in this text is that Jesus claims that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him.  Already in the Gospel’s Jesus has shown this authority at work when he calmed the storms (Matt. 8:23-27) with his rebuke and healed the centurion servant by his mere words even though he was miles away (Matt. 8:5-13).  Now if Christ can foster those types of results with the mere pronouncing of words, then you can trust that what Christ say’s next is going to happen.  You know that when he says, “I am sending you to all nations in order to make disciples”, that if Christ is the active agent, then the spiritually dead will be awaken and the lost will be found.  God’s word will never return in void (Isa. 55:11).  Christ has said that he has been given authority and on that proclamation he commissions the church to go and make disciples of all nations.  The church then participates in the missio Dei (Mission of God) by bringing glory to God through gospel declaration throughout all nations and the development of disciples.

The church then is meant to be a “go and tell” body that goes to the people that are lost and the places that are lost in order to seek to transform it and redeem it into the image of Christ and into the coming kingdom.  However an honest assessment of our churches will reveal that the inside of our churches has become influenced more by the outside culture more than the church as been the salt and light to the community.  This is the result from the desire to be “relevant” and the aspiration to resemble the trends and fads, not for the sake of incarnational ministry, but in order to be liked by society.  The influence of the culture on the church has not helped it win converts or to distinguish it as a contrastive community.  It has had the opposite effect, where the divorce rate is the same inside the church, even higher in some places, as it is in the secular culture, and morality such as sex outside of marriage and acceptance of sexual immorality in all of its forms has become increasingly customary in the church.  When relevance became the mission of church, something went askew.

This “come and here” model of doing church does not work anymore because those who are hostile towards the faith and those who want nothing to do with Christianity will never set foot in a church.  But the church was never meant to have a “come and here” philosophy but since its inception it has been a “go and tell” culture.  Since our God is a missionary God, then his people are a missionary people.  In light of this, JR Woodward slightly edits a quote by Karl Barth and says, “a church which is not on mission is either not yet or no longer the church or only a dead church – itself in need of renewal” (Creating a Missional Culture, pg. 28).  According to Barth, if the church is not marked as sent people who engage the lost then they are just a book club, not a church.

This is why churches now are realizing that an incarnational approach to ministry compared to an attractional model is the most effective in engaging the lost in their communities.  But More on that in the next blog post entitled The Missional Church.