What Is The Church For?

I’ve been reading Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. His aim in this book is to “describe what Christianity is all about, both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain it to those inside.” (p. ix)

As he writes about the church, he asks these questions:What is the Church For? | missionalchallenge.com

What is the church?

Who belongs to it, and how?

Equally to the point, what is the church for?

I particularly appreciate the pointedness of this question: What is the church for? In many secular minds the church is often known by what it is against! But, what are we for? And more importantly, why does the church exist? “It was brought into being through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus; it was energized by God’s Spirit; and it was called to bring the transformative news of God’s rescuing justice to the whole creation.” (p. 200)

In describing the church as the “Body of Christ,” he notes, “’The body’ is more than merely an image of unity-in-diversity; it’s a way of saying that the church is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world.”(p. 201)

“The church isn’t simply a collection of isolated individuals, all following their own pathways of spiritual growth without much reference to one another. According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination. Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the byproducts of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. This purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving and just creator; that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by His Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it.

“The church exists, in other words, for what we sometimes call ‘mission’: to announce to the world that Jesus is its Lord. This is the ‘good news,’ and when it’s announced it transforms people and societies. Mission, in its widest as well as its more focused senses, is wat the church is there for. God intends to put the world to rights; he has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting-to-rights purpose. The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin for ‘send’: ‘As the Father sent me,’ said Jesus after his resurrection, ‘so I am sending you’ (John 20:21).” (p. 203-204)

Wright answers the question: what is the church for? Once again, we see this same theme being stated – the church exists for mission. And that mission is to proclaim the gospel message. In Luke 4:43, Jesus states, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

Jesus understood that His mission was to proclaim the Good News. As those whose lives have been transformed, we must now continue to proclaim the same Good News to others. “From the very beginning, in Jesus’ own teaching, it has been clear that people who are called to be agents of God’s healing love, putting the world to rights, are called also to be people whose own lives are put to rights by the same healing love. The messengers must model the message. That’s why, though the reason for God’s call of the church is mission, the missionaries – that is, all Christians – are themselves defined as people who have themselves been made whole.” (p. 204)

All Christians are missionaries

All Christians are sent to proclaim the message of life and hope and transformation that comes only through following Jesus.

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
1 reply
  1. Bob Carder
    Bob Carder says:

    This is a good start in the right direction. This is one of the best posts I have read in a very long time. I love his comments on the Body of Christ and the fact that Jesus truly does SEND all of us to fulfill His Mission, the one He came to launch through us a mission of sending transformation.

    But again T.W. Write in this post does not speak to what will change the world by each of us living out and owning the Great Co-Mission (God and Us) in making disciples who also make others. Will we agree that we are all sent on His mission a Co-Mission? If the Great Co-Mission will be owned with passion to action by all believers, we would see America changed by the salt and light power of God through us. But to be fair, I will read the entire book and have a look see.

    Once we all figure out if we all agree on the main thing – which will take a miracle -then we need to figure out how to get the church in America to own this purpose with passion that leads to action which leads to the transformation of America.

    All the sermons I have preached on this subject were met with acceptance along with some Amen’s. Then next Sunday the congregation came back for another sermon with little or no action on the previous ones.

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