There may be varying opinions about the multiple tasks and functions of the church, but the following represents what would be its four highest priorities:
(1) To proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and
make disciples of all kinds of people. "Go therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have
commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"
(Matt. 28:19-20). "And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
The passages above, often referred to as the Great
Commission, were among Jesus' final admonitions to His disciples before He
ascended to Heaven. Mark's gospel refers to Christ's command for his
followers to "go preach the gospel to the world," while Matthew's reflects
His emphasis for the church "to go and make disciples of all nations." The
combination of these two elements, evangelism and discipleship, are
generally considered as Christ's primary mission for His church.
"Evangelism" is the ministry of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ
that will bring men's souls into fellowship with God, while "discipleship"
is the training of believers to become disciplined followers of Jesus and
The mission of the church is, in reality, a
continuation of Christ's earthly ministry (John 14:12). Jesus viewed that
redeeming men's souls was His whole purpose for coming to the earth. "For
the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost" (Matt. 18:11). And in
turn, He imparted this same objective to His disciples. He said to them,
"Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). The Apostle
Paul later confirmed that the ministry of bringing people to God has been
imparted to all those who have been brought to Him (the church). He wrote,
"God... has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us
the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). It is the purpose of every
believer, not only pastors and clergymen, to bring souls to Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the statement which best summarizes this
mission of Christ and His church, was given as Jesus read from Isaiah's
prophecy in Nazareth's synagogue on the Sabbath day. He said, "The Spirit of
the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the
poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the
captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are
oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the LORD" (Luke 4:18-19).
(2) To serve as a community of worship and fellowship
— to manifest the presence and love of Jesus. "For where two or three are
gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt.
God originally made man for His own pleasure, to enjoy
his fellowship and worship (Rev. 4:11, John 4:23). Thus, a part of the
Lord's purpose of the church, besides bringing people to God, is to gather
His people together and facilitate a corporate environment of worship, to
express our love toward Him and one another. Jesus described these as the
two highest ideals of Christianity. "And you shall love the LORD your God
with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all
your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is
this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other
commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31).
The Lord is greatly pleased to receive the corporate
love and worship of His children who are joined together in unity and love
toward one another (Eph. 4:1-4, 1 John 1:7). His presence is manifested in
such an environment, and authenticates our Christian witness in the eyes of
the world. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have
love for one another" (John 13:35).
Sunday church services were originally modeled from
Lord's Day gatherings of the early church which included the agape "love
feast" (Acts 20:7). They would share a common meal together (Acts 2:46) and
then partake in the Lord's Supper — in recognition of the Lord's sacrificial
body, and in recognition of His beloved body, the church. It was a gathering
of love to the Lord and toward one another.
(3) To mature believers and prepare them to perform
works of ministry. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets,
some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the
saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ..."
Another important mission of the church, by means of
its ministers, is to strengthen the body of believers and equip them for
works of ministry. The church should be an atmosphere of spiritual
edification, where God's Word is taught, where believers are grounded,
discipled and led toward maturity. This not only serves to anchor their
faith in Christ, but prepares them for service. According to God's plan,
each member of the body of Christ is called to serve in some aspect of
ministry (Rom. 12:6, 1 Cor. 12:14-31), especially as it pertains toward
bringing souls to Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
Even the laity is charged to encourage and spur their
brethren on toward works of ministry, and according to scripture, this is
one of the primary reasons of our church attendance. "And let us consider
one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting
one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb.
(4) To represent the interests of the Kingdom of God
in the world, and to influence our society with the ideals of the Lord. "You
are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be
seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled
under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a
hill cannot be hidden" (Matt. 5:13-14).
Jesus used salt and light as metaphors of the
influential characteristics of His church in the world. Historically, salt
has always been a valuable commodity used, among other things, as an
antiseptic to withdraw infection. Light, of course, dispels darkness and is
an essential element of life.
Likewise, the presence of the church in the world is
Christ's antiseptic to sin, an influence of God's righteousness that tends
to displace the infection of evil. The church is intended to represent His
interests in the affairs of society. It was never intended to be passive,
nor to be confined within four walls of a building, but to be involved as a
catalyst of God's high ideals in the world around us.
Christ has intended for His church to let its light
shine to the world — to love, to care for, and to meet needs of humanity,
while upholding the redemptive truths and righteousness of Jesus Christ.
"And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs,
that they may not be unfruitful" (Titus 3:14). Jesus told His church, "Let
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and
glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).