In Bible college, I was taught a fundamental principle for studying the Word of God. "If you want to understand a truth or principle of Scripture, go back to where it began and follow it." Establishing the Mission of the Church requires us to go back to the beginning of the church. Mission is not established by finding some "new" paradigm or a cultural expression.
Jesus declared "I will build My church ..." He, also, promised us the Holy Spirit would come in power to enable His disciples to be the builders. So, if we want to learn His building plans, the best place to go is to follow His Apostles and early disciples in establishing the church. Luke, in the book of Acts, gives us the record that reveals the implementation of His plans.
Jesus gave us the Commission in Mathew 28:19-20. In Acts we have the foundational stages of fulfilling the Commission. A quick tour of the book of Acts can give us the basics of how the Apostles established the Church based on the biblical mission of the church.
Stage #1 - Jesus reminds the Apostles of His promise, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Reality is that we are not in ourselves able to fulfill the commission. The mission of the church begins with praying that the Holy Spirit's power would be manifested, and that the church catch the vision of the global mission.
Stage #2 - God manifested His power at Pentecost, and in Acts 2 we find the basic foundations of the Church. The four basic foundations are manifested in the birth of the Church. Acts 2:42, they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Note three of the four foundations: (1) Teaching (2) Fellowship (ministry) (3) prayers (worship). Proclamation (the fourth foundation) preceded and followed the founding of the church. A hidden truth here is that proclamation actually led to the spread of the Gospel.
Stage #3 - The Apostolic leadership establishes the Church by multiplying leaders. Acts 6 we see a second tier of leadership established to be sure the church continued to meet the needs of the body. The story of these second tier leaders produces Stephen and Philip who go on tobecome ministers of the Gospel. An essential step in fulfilling the biblical mission of the church is developing second generation leaders who proclaim the gospel and provide leadership in ministering to the body. Stephen and Philip demonstrate how the gift of evangelism was crucial to the establishing of the Church.
Stage #4 – There is expansion of the gospel and the founding of churches. Acts 13 reveals how the church at Antioch had established leadership. These leaders, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, are called and sent out to found and establish churches globally (Acts 14-16). The commission of Jesus calls us to not only establish churches for edification locally but to be globally establishing churches. The church is at the heart of the mission.
In summery a few key principles need to be noted.
- The Commission comes from Jesus and the power comes from the Holy Spirit.
- The Apostles were quickly recognized and accepted as anointed authorities in the establishing.
- The Church was clearly the affirming central place for the mission. Churches were the sending base and the place of accountability.
- Evangelistic ministry is not a separate or individualistic act but a strategic part of building the Church.
- Assembling disciples into local churches with established order was at the center of the mission.
A biblical mission is founded on the Great Commission ofJesus Christ as established through the Apostles. In our next issue we will begin to share how to build a vision based on the mission following the established pattern of the Apostles.
This has been a brief introduction on how Jesus began building His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles establishing the mission. The established pattern is clearly a transferable strategy to fulfill the mission. A great way to build a mission statement and to instruct the church on the biblical mission of the Church is to do an in-depth series of messages based the book of Acts. The book of Acts provides us with principles and practices of how the Apostles fleshed out the Great Commission.