Christian Mission – Part 2: The Christian

  • Read Ephesians 4:11-16 here.
  • Read Part 1 of this series here.
  • You can listen to this sermon here.

In many ways, separating the mission of the church and the individual is a false dichotomy.  The church only exists due to the presence of individuals.  The church only functions due to the actions of individuals. The church only speaks due to the words of individuals.  So is it possible for the church and individuals to have separate missions?

I believe it’s at least possible for the church and individual Christians to have different emphases to our mission.  I 100% believe that we all share the basic mission of “physically and tangibly representing the resurrected Christ to the world.”  In doing this the church shares with Christ a primary mission task of “seeking and saving the lost” (Lk 19:10). It’s important to realise that the “saving” in this statement is not a one-time event.  It includes a moment of salvation, but also encompasses the vital responsibility of preserving the saints. The church fails in its mission if it seeks the lost, saves the lost, and then loses them again. (Consider the parable of the soils in Lk 8:1-15.)

When I consider the primary mission focus of the individual Christian, it seems to me that first and foremost we have the goal of remaining in relationship with God.  However, that’s a minimum level goal. To word it more positively I would say that our basic mission as a disciple of Christ is to grow in our relationship with God. (2 Peter 3:17-18)  This sounds like a fairly selfish goal, because it is.  Every other possible mission falls apart if we stop growing, or worse yet, lose our relationship with God.

This brings me to an interesting contradiction.  The church represents Christ by seeking and saving the lost.  Yet, the individuals who make up the church represent Christ by (selfishly) growing in their relationship with Christ.  I reconcile this contradiction in my mind by recognising that all Christians are at different stages of maturity.  In each progressive stage of maturity the definition, or description, of “growing closer to Christ” increasingly turns outward until our personal faith in God is sufficiently strong that we can say our personal mission is to “seek and save the lost”.  However, if our faith regresses, our mission once again turns more “selfish”.

I’m not suggesting that every mature Christian must become a full-time evangelist.  According to an individual’s spiritual gifts, some will concentrate on seeking, while others will focus on saving.  Some individuals will also come to regard their primary mission as shepherding, teaching and preserving the faith of those who’ve decided to commit their lives and eternity to Christ. (The apostle Paul describes this diversity of gifts and ministries well in the passage from Ephesians 4 I reference at the opening of this post.)

Even the mission emphasis on seeking resists a one size fits all approach.  In my previous post I mentioned how the ministry of Christ could be summarised as “preaching, teaching, and healing”.  Recognising the uniqueness of each individual, some mature Christians will also represent Christ by finding their niche in the ministry of healing: emotional; physical; relational; and ultimately spiritual.  The mission of seeking and saving has many different looks to it.

  • Do you agree that it’s possible for the church and individual Christians to have divergent mission emphases? Or is that logic fatally flawed?
  • Do you agree that the individual Christian has a primary spiritual responsibility to “grow their relationship with Christ”?
  • The “how” of growing in our relationship with Christ is a huge topic.  Help me out by sharing some critical steps or stages in your faith journey.
Advertisements

3 comments

  1. masondan

    Great article, most definitely a good bit thought provoking. I would agree with you though, based on logic and observations. And yes…I completely agree; the individual Christian does indeed have a responsibility to “grow their relationship with Christ.”

    When I graduated high school, I realized that if I was going to stay friends with people, I would have to make a conscious effort to stay in contact with them. I knew it meant making time, even when it was so easy to let time slip. It is no different with the Lord, if we never take time to pray and read, etc, there won’t be much of a relationship. We must obey and and do His will, and I would also like to say that studying one my own has helped me out so much. Going to church is great, and I love my church an awful lot, but eventually found that hearing the word only once a month just wasn’t enough.

    I love your posts, keep ’em coming 🙂

  2. K. Rex Butts

    Have you ever noticed that the word “evangelism” never appears in the New Testament. Now that’s not to say that there is no biblical warrant for the ministry of evangelism. But it should make us pause a bit.

    Who’s work is evangelism? The picture of the church in the New Testament is one of many members with different spiritual gifts. Each member is to exercise his or her gift(s) as God has so ordained. When the church functions as such, the church is evangelistic. That places the work (ministry) of evangelism back in God’s hands who utilizes the church as an instrument with each member exercising their gifts to be an evangelistic church…whether that leads to the conversion of one or three-thousand plus. So rather than evangelism being another program to be managed by a few (like administrative or educational duties), evangelism is more a result of what happens when the church together does what it does.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s