Most churches have a purpose statement that is buried in their constitution. The statement often has the basic ingredients of a biblical mission statement. However, generally the statement is not articulated well and/or is not communicated clearly. Establishing and communicating the mission of the church is crucial to building a ministry that makes both a local and global impact.
Establishing a Biblical Mission begins with the "Great Commission" being understood and communicated clearly.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20
Churches often think of these verses as a “missions conference verse,” but it is actually the foundational command given to the church.
Understanding this commission teaches us what the biblical mission of the church is. Below are four key points that must be communicated and become the foundation of a truly biblical mission statement.
- WORSHIPING Jesus Christ as Lord is the context and focus of any mission statement. A biblical mission calls people to first and foremost worship and "Love God."
- WITNESSING to the work of Jesus Christ (His death, burial, and resurrection) is the means to bringing people into discipleship. Discipleship is only carried out in the context of "baptizing" into the body (church) of Christ.
- Teaching the WORD of God must be communicated not only as a message of salvation and comfort to believers but as a command to "observe." Truth must be communicated without apology or compromise. The Apostles were bold to declare Jesus Christ and to establish churches founded on His doctrine. At the center of the great commission is "teaching them to observe all . . ."
- The identifying mark of disciples is that they WORK for Christ by demonstrating His love. The motivation for working/serving Christ is not earning salvation but expressing love for God and his body/family.
These four basic points have been the foundation of many church growth books in the last fifty years. Gene Getz referenced these basics in Sharpening the Focus of the Church. Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church and James MacDonald's VerticalChurch both recognized these foundations. The interesting thing is that each of these books, and others, gives us different contexts in which the foundations are applied.
I have been leading workshops and consultations based on these foundations for over 20 years. The interesting thing is to see how the biblical foundations can be fleshed out in different ways based on the profile of the individual church. In one of the last issues of The Equipper the Uniqueness of the local church was noted. When a church discovers its uniqueness it is better able to build its ministry on the biblical foundations.
The key to building an effective biblical ministry in a local church is to begin with clearly defining the biblical mission. The next step then is to incorporate the basic foundations into the context of the local church.
In the next few issues of the Equipper we will go a little deeper to see how the Great Commission was lived out in the book of Acts in establishing the church.