God’s Mission for the Church Revisited

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Jesus commands us to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). According to the Barna group, many people in the U.S. Church today don’t know what the Great Commission is. Though the term itself isn’t found in the Bible, we need to ask if people know the words themselves and their significance for us as believers. Even more important, are we fulfilling this mission? Perhaps it’s time to revisit God’s Mission for the Church.

A Look at Jesus’ Command in Matthew 28:19-20

Often we think of the Great Commission as the outreach arm of the Church. A careful look at Matthew 28:19-20, however, lets us know that it’s much more encompassing. We are to …

“go and make disciples of all nations” — That’s the outreach part. We take the Good News of Jesus to the world around us and beyond (Acts 1:8).

“baptizing … and teaching them to obey …” — That’s helping people who have put their trust in Jesus to become more fully devoted followers (disciples) of Jesus.

Let’s Not Limit the Great Commission to Outreach Efforts

Matthew 28:19-20 commissions us to not only lead people to the Lord but also to shepherd them in the ways of the Lord. This is the mission of the Church. It isn’t merely about how many new converts we make. It’s also about how many of those people are going on to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind, so that His love spills over into loving others as themselves (Matt. 22:36-40). And, it’s about how many of those people are doing their part in the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:16).

Need Help Revisiting God’s Mission of Discipleship?

Discipleship Bundle to Help with God's Mission for the ChurchThe TrainChurchLeaders.com site has a section devoted to this encompassing view of the Great Commission. The MinTools.com site divides it into two sections, one on Outreach Ministry and another on Shepherding Ministry. You’ll find much written on these sites but even more help if you order the Discipleship Bundle. In that resource you’ll get the Steering the Church Toward Discipleship Leadership Guide, Outreach Ministry Manual, and Shepherding Manual. These resources will help you gain a more comprehensive view on our mission to go and make disciples. (Each of those resources can also be ordered separately.)

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God’s Purposes for the Church Revisited

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When was the last you revisited your church’s purpose? You can get help with that on the MinTools.com site which has a section devoted to the church’s purpose beginning with a look at God’s unchanging priority. The TrainChurchLeaders.com site also deals with God’s purposes for the Church and how it affects various leadership responsibilities.

Do We Align with God’s Priority?

Based on what Jesus defined as the greatest commandments, we could conclude that our purpose would be to live out those commandments.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39)

The next verse cues us in to the importance and priority of these commands. Jesus asserted, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If the Law Hangs on Love for God and People, So Should our Church Purpose

The Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 are ways to show love for God and love for people.

Love for God:
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol.
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Love for People:
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house … wife.

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The theme of love for God and love for people runs through Scripture with the various commands lining up under these purposes. God’s objectives haven’t changed. Consequently, we should be able to make a two column chart for our church with the headings Love God and Love People. What we do should be able to fit under one column or the other. That which does not clearly fit, should be examined for its value of the time and resources it takes in light of these purposes.

The question we must ask is if we are actively pursuing and lining up with God’s purposes as a church. If not, why not?

Need Help with Revisiting God’s Purposes?

Church Purpose Bundle
In addition to content provided on the above mentioned sites, check out the Church Purpose Bundle. The Church Purpose Ministry Manual builds off of the content on the MinTools.com site and the Steering the Church Toward God’s Purposes Leadership Guide from the TrainChurchLeaders.com site. Together, these two resources provide a more comprehensive look at our church purpose but they can also be ordered individually.

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Leadership Training and Growth Important

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When we put leaders on pedestals, like as though they’ve arrived, we’ll likely find ourselves disappointed when they fail to live up to those expectations perhaps even disillusioned and ready to quit the church. What we tend to forget is that leaders, like us, are human beings. We’re all in process.

Leaders can deceive themselves into believing they’ve arrived which makes them feel superior to others, leading to pride. That puts them in a vulnerable position as “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). What they tend to forget is that just like everybody else, they too are in process.

The Apostle Paul, perhaps one of the greatest church leaders to live, said,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)

What Leaders Mustn’t Do If They’re Going to Stay in Process

From Philippians 3:12-14, we can learn as much from what Paul did not do as from what he did do. He …

did not think too highly of himself. (“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect”, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it”)

did not rest on past accomplishments. (“forgetting what is behind”)

did not coast through his leadership efforts. (“I press on”, “straining toward”)

did not function with a narrow perspective. (“press on toward the goal”)

Leaders Must Continue Training and Growing to Stay in Process

The Apostle Paul acknowledged that he had so much more to learn and grow for he didn’t use a mere human or worldly standard of leadership. Rather, he said he wanted to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. That’s a standard of Christlikeness to which we will never attain but we can keep growing and advancing toward it.

Elsewhere Paul referred to the Christian life as a race. He said, “Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. ” (1 Cor. 9:24). Strict training is intentional and continual. Runners can’t stop training, thinking they’ve arrived, and expect to win. Perhaps Paul had this in mind when he said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). That’s a goal with an eternal prize which we won’t fully realize until eternity. It’s therefore a goal that requires perseverance (Heb. 12:1), “straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13).

Are you a church or ministry leader who realizes that you have not yet arrived? Check out the site, TrainChurchLeaders.com, developed by Ministry Tools Resource Center, for church leaders wanting to stay in process.Leadership Training at TrainChurchLeaders.com

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Beyond Definitions and the Labeling of Our Spiritual Gifts

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Beyond Defining & Labeling Spiritual Gifts to Using Them as Everybody Does Their Part
Many churches have classes about spiritual gifting to help people understand the special divine empowerments God provides to enable them to effectively serve. It’s particularly good when that teaching gets beyond providing definitions to showing the bigger picture of how everybody has a part in the health and growth of the Body (Eph. 4:16).

Looking for a lesson plan to do that? Check out the Everybody Has a Part Curriculum.

We do even better when we help people identify the spiritual gifts they’ve been given. That can be done as part of a class or through other discipleship and/or mentoring efforts.

Looking for a spiritual gifts test?

Get Beyond Defining and Labeling Spiritual Gifts to Actually Using Them

Knowing about spiritual gifting and being able to label our gifts is good but it isn’t enough. As a church, we need to plug people into ministry in ways that line up with the spiritual gifts God has given them.

Begin by knowing what spiritual gifts best suit the ministries in your church.

Strategically plan ways to communicate gifting needed for the various ministries and recruit accordingly.

Be intentional in following up with people.

  • Confirm that the person is gifted in accordance with test results and serving in a place that truly fits.

We’ll take this time and effort when we grasp God’s design for the Body and His intent for everybody to do their part. It can no longer simply be about filling positions but rather an ongoing emphasis, and even expectation, of serving in accordance with the way God has gifted us. That takes a culture shift.

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Don’t Despair, Get Creative

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Whether teaching, leading, or serving in any other capacity, we face situations that could seemingly limit what we can do in ministry. Before we despair, let’s remember that we serve a creative God who wants us to join Him and not be limited by what is seen or known to us. God might simply want us to go in a different direction.

Faith in a Creative God Able to Do Immeasurably More
We put our faith in a God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). Remember, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

Are finances tight? Get creative.
Are facilities less than ideal? Get creative.
Are schedules busy? Get creative.
Are workers few? Get creative.

An Acrostic about Getting Creative

We’re talking about creativity guided by a creative God. So, ask God to guide you in the process and to open up the realm of possibilities before you. This acrostic shows what He might use to help you be creative:

C – Challenge: going beyond what is comfortable

Don’t be afraid to step our in faith and take risks.

R – Resourcefulness: thinking through alternative means or uses

Don’t get locked into tradition.

E – Experimentation: trying something out of the usual

Don’t be afraid to try something on a trial basis.

A – Adaptability: willing to make changes

Don’t be rigid and stick with the way you’ve always done it.

T – Teachableness: continuing to learn

Don’t assume you’ve ever arrived.

I – Imagination: brainstorming all sorts of possibilities

Don’t be bound by logic or past experience.

V – Variety: using different means

Don’t do things the same way every time.

E – Evaluation: seeking how you can improve

Don’t forget to learn from what you’ve done.

May we trust our all-knowing and all-wise creative God to guide us. May we depend on our all-powerful creative God to enable us to go where He leads us.

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We Need More Than Relevancy

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Jesus, God Himself, Became Relevant Being Made in Human Likeness
Jesus’ incarnation shows the importance of meeting people where they are, so being relevant is important. Adapting to where people are tends to make a difference in their receptivity to the Gospel and their ability to understand and learn (1 Cor. 9:19-22). But, how far do we take it? Relevancy alone won’t bring eternal results.

What’s Needed More Than Relevancy

Jesus does set the example for us, which the Apostle Paul followed as seen when He wrote, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22). Yet, Jesus Himself said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5). And, throughout his epistles, the Apostle Paul repeatedly acknowledged the need of divine power for anything of significance to happen in ministry (1 Cor. 3:6-7). No matter what words or strategies we use, people aren’t going to truly understand and accept truth without the Spirit of God at work (1 Cor. 2:11-14). Consequently, more than relevancy, we need God’s power. Seek to be relevant but don’t rely on that.

Relevancy does tend to help people in their understanding and motivation. Yet, if we aren’t careful, it can also be seen as a manipulative tool. Are we just doing certain things to pull people in or because we truly care enough to meet them where they are? God clearly states that we can do a lot of good things for the wrong reasons. Our words become like “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” without love. No matter what we do, we “gain nothing” of eternal value if we do not have love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Consequently, more than relevancy, we need to be real in our love for people. Seek to be relevant but for the right reasons.

Relevancy does tend to grab people’s attention. Using what interests them makes it seem more palatable. Yet, we must guard against letting a need to be relevant turn into a quest to gain people’s approval. When that happens, we too easily can slip into compromise. It chips away at our integrity as we become more and more about pleasing people than pleasing God (Gal. 1:10; Col. 3:23-24; 1 Thess. 2:3-5). Consequently, more than relevancy we need a focus on God Himself. Seek to be relevant but keep God first and foremost.

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