The Mission of the Church is Mission
However we look at the purpose of the Church in the world today we cannot avoid the fundamental truths that God created us to firstly have communion with Him; then to fellowship with others who have also come to believe in the saving work of Christ; and also to witness to the lost who live in our midst. These three things I believe are inseparable and I want to focus on the last point after making some brief comments about the first two.
God did not leave us in doubt about His love for mankind when we read throughout the Old and New Testaments about His provision of a way back to Him, even though it was Man who rebelled against God and so deserves His wrath. Many times we see how God made covenants (agreements with a promise) with men of old such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, and countless numbers of prophets. Mostly the promises of God are that He is selecting a people for Himself, the children of Israel, and these special people are chosen to be a light to the rest of the world, witnessing God’s goodness and mercy to them. The aspects of God’s choosing and calling His people, and gathering them together as a community are preparatory for the ultimate purpose of God’s will – that all people on earth will worship God and receive salvation from Him.
Abraham was given the promise that he was ‘blessed to be a blessing’ (Genesis 12:1-3). While he never saw the fulfilment of this promise Abraham is remembered throughout history as the man who ‘believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ (Romans 4:3). The Psalmist tells us that all people are meant to ‘be glad and sing for joy’ as they praise God (Psalm 67). It was God’s intention that through His people God’s ‘way may be known on earth’. Even the dispersion (Diaspora) of Jews through the exile to Babylon and subsequent return of some, God used to spread His message throughout the rising Greek and later Roman Empires that stretched to the extremities of the known world.
And then God sent His Son. To fulfil the promises He made in the beginning, God redeemed all peoples by sending the Christ not only to proclaim the coming Kingdom, but also to pay the price of the sins of mankind by dying on the cross. The resurrection of the Christ on the third day proved the power of God to all mankind that even death has been conquered by Him.
The Christian Church was born. The first believers were given a mandate that would have seemed rather daunting in the ancient world – ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’(Acts 1:8 NRSV). But this was consistent with the message of the Old Testament and proof of God’s faithfulness; He has not abandoned His people He so dearly loves.
During the past two thousand years there have been many developments in the way Christians interact with each other and with the rest of the world....