[featured_image]I’ve been reading Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. His aim in this book is to “describe what Christianity is all about, both to commend it to those outside the faith and to explain it to those inside.” (p. ix)
As he writes about the church, he asks these questions:
What is the church?
Who belongs to it, and how?
Equally to the point, what is the church for?
I particularly appreciate the pointedness of this question: What is the church for? In many secular minds the church is often known by what it is against! But, what are we for? And more importantly, why does the church exist? “It was brought into being through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus; it was energized by God’s Spirit; and it was called to bring the transformative news of God’s rescuing justice to the whole creation.” (p. 200)
In describing the church as the “Body of Christ,” he notes, “’The body’ is more than merely an image of unity-in-diversity; it’s a way of saying that the church is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world.”(p. 201)
“The church isn’t simply a collection of isolated individuals, all following their own pathways of spiritual growth without much reference to one another. According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination. Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the byproducts of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. This purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving and just creator; that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by His Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it.
“The church exists, in other words, for what we sometimes call ‘mission’: to announce to the world that Jesus is its Lord. This is the ‘good news,’ and when it’s announced it transforms people and societies. Mission, in its widest as well as its more focused senses, is wat the church is there for. God intends to put the world to rights; he has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting-to-rights purpose. The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin for ‘send’: ‘As the Father sent me,’ said Jesus after his resurrection, ‘so I am sending you’ (John 20:21).” (p. 203-204)
Wright answers the question: what is the church for? Once again, we see this same theme being stated – the church exists for mission. And that mission is to proclaim the gospel message. In Luke 4:43, Jesus states, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Jesus understood that His mission was to proclaim the Good News. As those whose lives have been transformed, we must now continue to proclaim the same Good News to others. “From the very beginning, in Jesus’ own teaching, it has been clear that people who are called to be agents of God’s healing love, putting the world to rights, are called also to be people whose own lives are put to rights by the same healing love. The messengers must model the message. That’s why, though the reason for God’s call of the church is mission, the missionaries – that is, all Christians – are themselves defined as people who have themselves been made whole.” (p. 204)
All Christians are missionaries
All Christians are sent to proclaim the message of life and hope and transformation that comes only through following Jesus.
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