The Nature and Mission of the Church

Thursday is for Discipleship

The following quote from Leslie Newbegin is, I think, brilliantly perceptive:

In discussions about the contemporary mission of the Church it is often said that the Church ought to address itself to the real questions people are asking. That is to misunderstand the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Church. The world’s questions are not the questions that lead to life. What really needs to be said is that where the Church is faithful to its Lord, there the powers of the kingdom are present and people begin to ask the questions to which the gospel is the answer. And that, I suppose, is why the letters of St. Paul contain so many exhortations to faithfulness but no exhortations to be active in mission.*

When I think of the nature and mission of the Church I think of the position of a herald. The Church is a community of the evangelized sent to evangelize. They have been shaped by the good news and they shape the world by telling and living out the good news. Her primary stance then, is not that of a persuader but that of a herald. She announces good news that is to be heeded. Her message is that in Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God has come near, and henceforth, all nations are to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:1, 14-15; Acts 19:4; 20:21). Faithfulness to her Lord requires an active fishing for men by announcing the good news to all nations. The nations are in desperate need of both the announcement of good news and the living out of good news because, as Leslie Newbegin (above) has insightfully written, “The world’s questions are not the questions that lead to life.”

Therefore, the nature of the Church, a people formed by the announcement of good news, forms the basis of her mission in the world. She is to announce (and defend) the coming of the Kingdom of God, and to commend to all men everywhere, by word and deed, the call of God that they repent and believe the gospel.

Does your discipleship process reflect the nature and mission of the church?

* Leslie Newbegin in “The Logic of Mission” New Directions in Mission & Evangelism: 2, edited by James A. Scherer and Stephen B. Bevans, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994), 19, bold emphasis added.


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