I hear and read of so many young evangelicals talk about what the church should be doing. The church should be “making sure our city flourish” or “bringing shalom to our world” or “eradicating injustice, oppression and poverty”. This is all couched in such language that if your church isn’t doing these things your church is not truly living as salt and light in out world or your church doesn’t have a kingdom mentality.
But the question is “What is the mission of the church?” Is the mission of the church narrowly defined or broadly defined? Is everything mission or are only a few things mission?
What does Jesus say that the mission of the church is? In Matthew 28 Jesus says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
For Jesus, and therefore for us, the mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel to a dying world so that people escape the wrath to come and to grow Christians in their knowledge, love and service of Jesus. Now does this means that doing social justice is a bad or unbiblical thing? Not at all, in fact the bible says a lot about caring and loving the poor. But we need to be clear and say social justice might be what a church does but it is not the primary thing a church does. Preaching the gospel is the primary thing the church does. Gresham Machen nails what the primary thing a church does is in this quote:
“The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life–no, all the length of human history–is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth–no, all the wonders of the starry heavens–area as the dust of the street.
“An unpopular message it is–an impractical message, we are told. But it is the message of the Christian church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life” Gresham Machen in Selected Shorter Writings: J. Gresham Machen, edited by D.G. Hart, 376