In my last posting I reflected on an important question for the church (not just individual Christians) to think about: “Who are we and what are we about?” We looked at Scripture to get a glimpse of who the Bible says that we are in the eyes of God, which can be the start of some big changes. We are not a social club; we are not a philanthropic society (do-gooders), despite the fact that the world often sees us this way—and sadly, sometimes it is the way we see ourselves. Instead we are told that they Lord see us as the bride of Christ, the saved, the new Israel, priests of God, the body of Christ, and the family of God! Great kings sometimes have long lists of titles that boast of his glory and power, but they are only boasts. But the Lord’s church has a list of titles that are even more glorious, plus we have been given them by God Himself!
That being considered, then, let’s look at what we, this august group of people, are supposed to be about. What is our mission?
Evangelism—This essentially the sharing of the Good News, as commanded, commissioned, by Jesus in places like Matt. 28:18-20. This commission is effectively carried out by individual Christians, but it can and should also be carried out by a motivated, unified, focused effort of the church, too. This is why together we hold Gospel Meetings on occasion, together hold a VBS, together underwrite a web site with lots of good information on it, together sometimes have a Bring Your Neighbor Day, together fund the printing of brochures, together we hand our literature in neighborhoods, etc. And this commission for the church has even broader application, too, to sharing the Gospel at points outside of our community—sometimes in our own region, sometimes overseas—and so we contribute money sometimes, and sometimes contribute time and effort in short-term mission work. What are we about? We are about the supremely important work of telling the saving message of Jesus to the lost multitudes, near and far. There could be no nobler, no higher commission than this, which Jesus our Lord Himself also had as His supreme priority (Luke 19:10).
Teach and equip—Yet, there are other important commissions for the church, too, and teaching and equipping its members is one of them. The commission of Matt. 28:18-20 was to teach, baptize, and teach again. Learning is a crucial part of being a disciple, and to learn, teaching must be done. Leadership of the church is specifically charged with teaching and equipping the members of the church “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:13-16). And is not teaching opinion, traditions, theology, politics, philosophy, the latest fad, a discussion on the latest social trends, or feelings that will do this; it must be the word of God, the Bible. Therefore, together we have organized Bible classes that are not mere “Sunday schools”, together we teach the recently baptized the fundamentals of the faith, and together require a “thus saith the Lord” in all our preaching, teaching, and discussion. To remain faithful and obedient to the Lord, the Lord’s people must know what He has said. We have a commission to teach and equip.
Benevolence—Jesus often fed hungry multitudes, healed their sick, cast out demons, and while He always left people better off spiritually, He often also left them better off physically. The church, taking its cue from the Lord, was active in benevolence from its earliest days—many “…began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” (Acts 2:45). And Paul urged the Galatian churches to continue to do the same, (Galatians 6:10) “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” It is a part of letting our light shine in a dark world. And therefore, we have an active pantry in which we together pool our resources to be able to help people in need, and together we offer a Give Away Day as a church to provide the community around us with things that they can use. The Lord continues even today to bless people with the material things that they need; sometimes it is through His great providence, but other times it is through His church as it fulfills this commission.
Worship—Beyond question, the Lord is worthy of worship and praise of His glory and grace. Paul wrote, (Ephesians 3:21) “to [God] be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” God can and should be glorified by the church in many ways, but one of the most obvious is in assembled worship (1 Cor. 14; Heb. 10:25,26; Acts 20:7; and many others). Its purpose is two-fold: to praise, thank, and glorify God, because He is worthy; and to build up, teach, strengthen, and encourage one another in our discipleship. And it should be done, not a as a perfunctory act, but as with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to the best of our ability.
Fellowship—Lastly, the church has a commission to build up, enrich, and bind closely the fellowship of the saved. Over and again we find New Testament commands to love one another, to heal any breaches in fellowship, to unite, to commune together, to work together, to suffer together, to rejoice together, and be fitted together as a body. This is, sadly, one of the church’s more neglected commissions sometimes, since we think that it will just naturally happen. But fellowship and unity are not natural. The divided world, divided families, and even splintered friendships stand as solemn witnesses of how unnatural real fellowship is; and how something as formal as a commission to fulfill is really needed.
Commissions are not options. They are definitions of our purpose and meaning as God’s people. They are high and holy callings that transform us into the very hands and heart of the Lord Himself. Let us live up not only to who God has said we are, but what He has commissioned us to do! To do so turned the world upside down once (Acts 17:6) and it can do it again. Let’s shake things up!