“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world,” writes Christopher Wright, “as that God has a church for his mission in the world.” In other words, “mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission–God’s mission” (The Mission of God by Wright).
The church therefore, God’s people, have purpose. And that purpose is wrapped up in what God is doing in the world. So what is God doing? What is God’s mission?
Andreas Kostenberger, in his book Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission, has a fairly good summary of the mission of God. He writes,
The Lord himself is the missionary who gathers and rescues, not simply the dispersed of Israel, but also people from “all nations,” in order that they may see his glory. The goal of mission is the glory of God, that he may be known and honored for who he really is.
I think it’s imperative we understand that this mission of rescue, redemption and salvation is God’s. It is for His glory. It is not something we created for ourselves, but was given to us as part of His plan.
Wright’s God-centered definition of mission is helpful at this point. He writes, “Mission means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation” (see The Mission of God).
Though mission is wrapped up in who God is and his plan for brining back His people unto himself, this does not mean that we as the church do nothing. Did you notice how Wright mentions that we as God’s people join God in what He is doing? We, as the church, participate in this mission. It’s why we exist.
Jesus was fairly clear to his disciples as to what they were to be and do in this world. It’s why they were left behind (see John 17:15-19). Jesus said, 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).
The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.
“Christianity is in its very essence,” writes Michael Horton in his book The Gospel Commission, “a mission to the world.” The bottom line is that “if it is not reaching, teaching, baptizing, and multiplying disciples, it is not Christianity.”
The mission of the church is clear. And for many of us, this is not new information. What we must continue to ask ourselves however, is are we as the church living out why we were created? For me personally, mission is not a knowledge problem, but an obedience problem.
May God, therefore, grant us grace today to allow us to see his heart for the world around us. And may such a glimpse of his heart and his grace toward us for our own salvation push us to join Him in where he is working. For it is in participation with God in his mission to the world for which the church exists in this world and by which true joy springs to life.