The Mission Of The Church

On July 13, 2012 by Eddie

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If you’ve heard me talk lately, you know that I’ve been reading a lot of NT Wright. In the last twelve months, I think I’ve read five or six of his books, and they’ve all been pretty incredible. I wrote a post a while back about his book, Simply Jesus, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the follow-up to that book, How God Became King.

In the meantime, I picked up a copy of a book he wrote several years ago specifically about worship. It’s called For All God’s Worth: True Worship And The Calling Of The Church, and it was definitely worth the read. I expected the book to be about musical worship, and a portion of its introduction was. In fact, he dedicated the book to the people involved in the music ministry at the cathedral he was pastoring at the time. But on the whole, the book was far more about larger expressions of worship – how as the church we are meant to reflect God’s radical grace to the world around us. There were a ton of things that were very applicable to me as a worship leader, but there were far more that were challenging and encouraging as I think about the church in general.

The best quote I read in the entire book, without a doubt, came in the last chapter. When I read this, I immediately thought of the “Christian” series we had been through as a church weeks prior. This, to me, is a perfect summation of who we want to be as a church, and what we can do in our culture.

So how can we do for our day what Paul was doing for his, translating the message and challenge of Jesus into categories and language appropriate for a different culture and place? Each church must, of course, labour at this in its own setting; but here are what I regard as the ground rules.

If we are addressing Gentiles, as we mostly will be, we are not called to remind people that they are Israel, the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We cannot assume that our hearers are already struggling to keep the Jewish law, and need to know how to keep it from the heart. We cannot assume that they already practise a piety which needs to be deepened and integrated. We cannot, that is, assume any of the things that Jesus could assume in his hearers. [Wow! That’s a new thought for me.]

But we can and must assume that our hearers are human beings, made in the image of God, designed to tremble at his word, to respond gladly to his love, and to reflect his wise care and justice into this world. We can and must assume that humans know in their bones that they are made, as Genesis insists, for relationship, stewardship, and worship. People don’t have to be told that they are made for these things; they know it deep within themselves, and they are puzzled, and often grieved, that it doesn’t work out like it should. Our task is to speak the language they speak, in symbol and story as well as in articulate theory; to offer them the revolution they know they need; and to urge and invite them to follow us as we move forward with the hope that God’s kingdom will come on earth as in heaven. At the same time, in so doing, we must tell them and show them that the revolution, the justice and peace, the restoration of creation, will come about only if we are worshipping the true God of heaven and earth, the one made known in Jesus Christ.

There are two signs that we will be more or less on the right track. The message must be so related to the actual needs and problems of the day that the rulers of this world will think we are being subversive. But it must be so grounded in the worship and love of God revealed in Jesus Christ that the normal revolutionaries will regard us as having sold the pass.

I feel like this quote sums up the mission of our church in an incredibly articulate way. And I love it! It also points to why some of the things we say and do garner so much criticism. Sounds to me like we’re right in the middle – as on track as a bunch of sinful humans can be. This fires me up, this is something I will sign up to be a part of for the rest of my life.

What about you – does this resonate with you? Do you agree or disagree? Does this reflect the mission of your church?

5 Responses to “The Mission Of The Church”

  • Great questions Eddie. I too am a big fan of Wright and recently finished his book Surprised by Hope from which I lifted a relevant paragraph:

    I hope I have said enough to make it clear that the mission of the church is nothing more or less than the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus’s bodily resurrection and thus the anticipation of the time when God will fill the earth with his glory, transform the old heavens and earth into the new, and raise his children from the dead to populate and rule over the redeemed world he has made.

    Wright, N. T. (2009-04-24). Surprised by Hope (pp. 264-265). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

    This book talks about “signposts” in this life that point to coming glory when Heaven comes back to earth. So, in the light of this post, the mission of today’s church is no different than it was for Paul and that is our individual and corporate worship be another “signpost” that points to the future worship we’ll have in glory.

  • Sounds like a fantastic book!
    Favorite quote: “Our task is to speak the language they speak, in symbol and story as well as in articulate theory. ” Reminds me of Acts 15:19…”therefore, let’s not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
    Love this!

    • That’s exactly what I thought of, too. I work in a church and I have Acts 15:19 posted next to my desk. It’s a great reminder everyday that Jesus’ message was simple and clear, and it’s our responsibility to communicate that message in the same way.

      This will definitely be the next book I read!

  • Sounds like a fantastic book!
    Favorite quote: “Our task is to speak the language they speak, in symbol and story as well as in articulate theory. ” Reminds me of Acts 15:19…”therefore, let’s not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
    Love this!

    Grgr

    • I apologize… two posts are unnecessary.
      And I am unsure what “Grgr” even means… it’s definitely not my signature.
      I suppose that’s what happens when attempting to use post on my Android—gotta get an iPhone asap! : )

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