THE CHURCH AND MISSION

Dr. David Bauer and Dr. Denny Wayman

The recent tendency to use the word “missional” to divide the church’s inward and outward responsibilities is true neither to the Church’s nature nor its God-given mission. Mission is the very essence of the Church’s existence. Mission is not something the Church does. Mission is what the Church is. Mission encapsulates the Church’s entire life. This Church’s existence — its mission — is made possible by the calling of God. Indeed, God’s calling brings the Church into existence and directs its life. The Church’s mission is its response to the calling of God.

The Church lives out its mission first in relation to God. Its primary stance toward God is vital relationship with God, expressed especially through worship and submission. Yet the Church’s relationship to God inevitably involves its relation to itself and to the world. In its relation to itself, the Church cares for its own; it lovingly embraces and nurtures those within its fold. In its relation to the world, the Church —by the Holy Spirit’s power — witnesses to God’s end-time rule that has come in Jesus Christ and is about to be consummated by Christ at His appearing. This witness is active proclamation, which will be expressed through sacrificial service in Jesus Christ’s name to the needs of all those within the world. This witness will be formally expressed through the verbal announcement of the gospel of Jesus Christ in preaching and teaching.

All the Church does expresses mission. Although a local congregation may not be expressing this mission in full, it is not helpful to describe one local church as being missional while another is not. Each congregation is responding to the call of Jesus Christ in ways that may be different, incomplete or unduly focused on only one aspect of the mission, but the mission is broadly defined and uniquely applied. The tendency of some to discount one method of mission as not being missional creates division within the Church rather than protecting the unity Jesus makes a part of the mission of the Church. Similarly for a local church to be satisfied with a partial fulfillment of the mission is damaging both to that local congregation and to the community in which God has placed it.

A holistic understanding of mission provides a profound unity to the Church’s life. This mission belongs to the Church universal. Yet the specific manifestations of the Church’s mission are expressed in somewhat distinct ways by the Church’s several great branches and their many denominations and Christian communities, including the Free Methodist Church.

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