Article 01 | Mission
If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organize the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide boundless ocean.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What is the Mission God has given the Church?
What do we want our church to be about?
The New Testament is clear that Jesus determines the mission of the church. There are many examples of this found throughout the New Testament text, the clearest of which is located at the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry as recorded in The Gospel of Matthew.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20
As disciples of Jesus, we are commanded to make disciples in the way he taught his own, now that the kingdom of God is present and available in Jesus Christ. If we go off in a direction other than this we’re missing the point, or to paraphrase Dallas Willard, “we’re not going to improve upon the command to make disciples, no matter how good our intentions”.
With that understanding, here’s a brief summary of thoughts from a handful of authors, theologians and pastors who are also convinced the mission of the church is discipleship.
1. “My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing – by following him in the overall style of life that he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live.”
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
2. “Spirituality, the real stuff of genuine spirituality, invariably boils down to some kind of practice or apprenticeship in living that we call discipleship.” -David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship
3. “Disciples do not live for themselves. Jesus commissions this group of disciples to form a worldwide mission community of Jewish and Gentile disciples that live out Jesus’ teaching. To do so is to be an alternative community with commitments and practices that are antithetical to Rome’s values and practices.” -The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Matthew 28:19-20
4. “The mission of post modernity, I suggest, has to do with bringing about not only new conditions of experience, but a new shape of living, to use David Ford’s phrase. Now the shape of life – the habitual patterns of thinking, of speech and action – constitute the ‘spirit’ of an individual or a culture. To the extent that culture and society are always exercising influence over the shape of our lives…Thus, Christians have an interest in promoting a particular shape of life, a particular spirituality, because they know something about the true end of humanity. They know it not because they discovered it but because they were told.” -Kevin Vanhoozer, Postmodern Theology Oxford Companion
5. “It is Christ who determines our purpose and mission in the world (discipleship), and then it is our mission that must drive our search for modes of being-in-the-world.” -Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping Of Things To Come
6. “Our assessment: we had not been successful at the task of making disciples, and therefore we were not fruitful in mission.” -Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways
Recommended Reading: Divine Conspiracy, The Spirit of the Disciplines and The Great Omission by Dallas Willard, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Dissident Discipleship, David Augsburger.