As we discuss the life of the Church as mission, I want to start out by affirming that there is one mission, centered around one goal, but, as you might expect from the mission of a Trinitarian God, the mission is at the same time both simple and complex, singular and plural. Our goal today will be to look at the big picture of mission considered at three levels. We will look first at God’s mission, secondly at the Church’s mission, and finally at the mission of individual Christians.
God’s Mission – John 3:16-17; Hab. 2:14
John speaks of God’s mission as the salvation of the world. Motivated by love, God reaches down into a broken world, and rescues the perishing. But there is a deeper motivation for mission, even deeper than love for the world. God so loved the world not because of anything in the world, but so that God’s glory might be shown through the world, because what God the Father loves more than the world is His Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father loves to glorify the Son, and the Son loves to glorify the Father, and the Spirit glorifies them as well. Everything that God does, He ultimately does for His own glory, which means that the goal of God’s mission is God’s glory in the salvation of the world.
The Mission of the Church – Matt. 28:18-20
God doesn’t have a bunch of things going on, a whole portfolio full of ways to save the world. He’s put everything He has into one plan: the Church. This is why worship is the most important thing in all the world, more important than politics, more important than Christian education, more important than cultural influence. Salvation comes to the world through Christ working in His Church. Jesus’ command is simple: make disciples, produce followers. At the very heart of the Church’s work is the call to bring more glory to God by spreading His glory to more and more people. So how do we make disciples? Two ways: baptizing and teaching. Whatever the Church does, it needs to be closely connected to the ministry of washing, or the ministry of teaching. There are thousands of good works that God wants to see in the world that don’t fall under these categories, but when the Church as the Church tries to do those things, instead of baptizing and teaching, she is losing focus and departing from her mission.
Your Mission – Eph. 4:1-16
God brings people into the Church through baptism, He gives gifts and callings to individuals, and uses the Church to teach them what kind of person they need to be to use them, and then sends them out into the world as this new kind of person. This means that you are part of God’s mission. God has given you gifts, He’s given you a calling, and your job is to become like Jesus so that when you use your gifts and live out your calling, the world around you is transformed, and God is glorified. The goal of your mission as an individual, therefore, is to glorify God by living a normal Christian life.
A Glorious Mission –
So what’s God’s mission? God is glorifying Himself by saving the world. How is God saving the world? Through the Church, which equips the saints for ministry. What is the mission of the Church? To glorify God by equipping the saints by washing them and teaching them. What is your mission? To glorify God by growing in maturity as you live a normal Christian life. The common thread that unifies the mission should be obvious: God’s mission, the Church’s mission, and your mission is to glorify God.
God’s mission in the world is to glorify Himself, and so He has chosen the to save the world in the way that brings Him the most glory: through a humble Church, where people conduct ancient rites with water, bread, and wine, and talk an awful lot from an old book, and through a bunch of people who listen to the words of life from that book, and go out and live quiet and peaceable Spirit-filled lives that prove irresistibly attractive to a watching world.