If we truly want to stop ‘going to church’ and start ‘being the Church’ then we need to accept that the majority of what we have experienced as ‘church’ throughout our lives is man-made and part of an organization, an institution we have built and it did not come from God or the New Testament! But somewhere, buried under all those structures, programs, regulations, activities and buildings is the Church which Jesus promised to build and God has called me to devote my life to finding that true Church and re-connecting God’s people to its heart, which is the mission of Christ.
To do that we need to get back the New Testament – and once again ‘… devote ourselves to the Apostles teaching, to fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer ..” (Acts 2:42) and re-capture the vision and the purpose of the Church Jesus birthed and promised to build. What is the purpose of that Church? Why are we all still here? We are here to advance the Kingdom of God, by His grace and for His glory. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the rule and reign of Jesus Christ – as it has always been in heaven, so shall it increasingly be on earth. The Church does not have a mission – Jesus Christ has a mission and that mission has a Church. The mission of Christ is the only mission the Church has ever had. That’s why Jesus commissioned us to go and make disciples and teach them everything He has taught us.
What did Jesus teach about more than anything else? The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. Then He told His disciples to pray and believe that this Kingdom of heaven would increasingly come to earth: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven …” It’s all about the Kingdom of heaven breaking into the kingdom of this world. It has never been about ‘converts’ or ‘members’ of an organisation. Our primary mission is not to grow an organisation and call it Church. We are not called to recruit volunteers to a worthy cause. We are not called to be the social conscience of society. We are not called to be a refugee advocacy group, an environmental watchdog or campaigners for social action, justice and equality. As wonderful as those pursuits may be, none of them are the mission of Christ and yet that is where a growing number of Christians spend most of their time in the name of the Church.
The mission of Christ is to make disciples and teach them everything Jesus has taught us. What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who has met Jesus, has been overwhelmed by His love and grace, has fallen in love with Him, received His salvation, embraced His mission, and committed their earthly lives to its fulfilment in and through their own lives and their own circle of influence. How is that possible? By His grace, which He has lavished upon us in the life, death, resurrection and empowering presence of Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. To what end do we do all this? The glory of God. The more we help Jesus usher in the kingdom of heaven right here and now, the more God is lifted up and glorified. The more God is glorified, the more He empowers the mission of Christ to reconcile His lost children to their heavenly Father.
So where do all those other noble causes fit into this purpose of the Church? Will we not still care about the marginalized and oppressed? Will we not still be concerned about our environment and about justice for all people? Of course we will – but none of that is the primary purpose of the Church. The mission of Christ is to the advance the kingdom of heaven by introducing people to Jesus and making them His disciples. All manner of fruit will then flow out of the fulfilment of that mission – more fruit than we could ever imagine. All those social concerns and issues will be impacted as the fruit of the Gospel impacts our world around us. But the fruit is not the tree! Social action and advocacy must flow out of the gospel and the life of Christ in our midst – they should never replace the gospel. When they do, we are no longer part of the Church which Jesus is building – we are part of something else.
We must get back to the core purpose of the Church which is to join Jesus in His mission. We need to get back to the place where it’s all about Jesus and His Kingdom rule and reign; where it’s all about the gospel – the good news of Who Jesus is and what He has done and promised to do; where it’s all about bringing heaven to earth which is what Jesus did when He was here and what He has commissioned us to continue doing.