The Bible teaches that the church is not a building, not literally anyway. Rather, it is a people, the people of God. That is to say that the church consists of those and only those who have repented of their sin and turned in faith to Jesus for salvation. We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, racially diverse body bound by a common confession, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and characterized by shared attributes, namely, reverence, unity, love, submission and devotion to the Word, to the local church, to worship and to the spread of the gospel.
As a people, we answer to our ruler, King Jesus, who upon leaving this earth gave certain commands regarding our purpose and how we are to function in order to fulfill it.
By His authority, King Jesus has commanded the church to carry out His mission-the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ through the salvation of those for whom He died, a people from every nation, tribe, tongue and people group.
I was told of a bright young pastor fresh out of seminary who began to reach his community for King Jesus. Only, the people He was bringing into his church didn’t look and act like the current membership. Eventually, people began to grumble and ask the question, “Who gave him permission to bring ‘those people’ in?” Matthew 28:19-20 answers that question very clearly.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (NASB).
King Jesus, the Creator of all things, the Head of the Church and Savior of the World not only gave that young pastor permission to engage the lost on His behalf but He commanded him to do so.
We embark on His mission to seek and to save the lost for the same reasons, by His authority and per His command. He has granted us the permission and privilege to bear witness on His behalf, and He has charged us to go and to make disciples.
And when we doubt…
We engage His mission by His presence and in His power.
Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (NASB).
The Lord makes it clear that He will be with us always, and the way in which He will be with us is by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. Not only that, but by His Spirit He will actually empower us to continue, carry out and accomplish the mission He left us to do. This means that no matter the response, the mission of God cannot fail. Jesus has already won the victory on the cross and in the resurrection. Hell cannot prevail against the army of God, the church, who storms her gates with the gospel of King Jesus.
And how far do the gates of Hell extend?
We extend His mission to the ends of the earth. The battle must be waged on every front. Jesus said that the witness of the church would begin in Jerusalem, expand to Judea and Samaria and eventually reach the remotest parts of the earth. This mission would last until the end of the age. The apostles are gone, and yet there are 3.14 billion people on the planet who are considered unreached (Joshua Project). With nearly half the planet’s population desperately in need of the gospel, the church’s task is largely unfinished, and it is the call of every individual Christian and every local congregation to “strategically and comprehensively embrace [a] plan to reach” our Jerusalem, our Judea and Samaria and even those hard to reach places and unengaged peoples with “message of salvation through Jesus Christ (David Horner, When Missions Shape the Mission).
As the people of God, we must lovingly and obediently heed the command to carry out the Great Commission. But John Stott is correct when he says that we must be driven by more than mere love and obedience, as important and as necessary as those things are. Our passion and motive must be the glory of His name among the people for whom He died.
To ensure that His Kingdom outposts, local churches throughout the world, remain healthy and faithful to this call, King Jesus has established systems to protect their purity and to foster their spiritual growth-church discipline and church leadership. In my next two posts, we’ll look at each.