CHAPTER 9-THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
This is an important question and one upon which there is much disagreement. It is a question that needs to be prayerfully studied. I sincerely believe that the churches, generally speaking, in their cooperative work have become sidetracked. And the sidetrack leads into the wilderness of debt and confusion. As a result, the by products of Christianity have become the main thing. I am afraid that we have been seeking prestige with the world rather than power with God.
1. The Commissions of Christ. Christ told his people what they were to do while He was here. This ought to be of great help in defining our mission in a church capacity. These commissions are of two kinds. One kind is of a temporary character; the other is of perpetual obligation.
1a) The temporary commissions.
1a1) The first commission to the twelve. "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest" (#Mt 9:36-38); Read also #Mt 10:1-42 Mr 3:13-19 6:7-13 Lu 9:1-6. This commission was limited to the Jews. "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (#Mt 10:5,6). "It gave miraculous power to heal and to cast out evil spirits. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give" (#Mt 10:8). It provided for Spirit guidance in speech.
1a2) The commission to the seventy. #Lu 10:1-24. The same provisions as in the commission to the twelve. Both were of a temporary nature.
1b) The great and perpetual missionary commission to the apostles in church capacity. "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (#Mt 28:16-20). This is the commission under which the church is to work until the end of the age. It provides for a perpetual church; for a perpetual gospel; for perpetual ordinances; for a perpetual task; and for His perpetual presence.
1. The Missionary Program. The church is to perpetuate itself by making disciples. There can be no church perpetuity apart from missionary activity. Disciples can only be made by preaching the gospel. Without missionary endeavor churches are limited to a single generation. Disciples are to be made to the end of the age, and the making of disciples guarantees church perpetuity.
2. The Teaching Program. The church is to edify itself. This means the teaching of the Word of God, for it is teaching the disciples to observe all things commanded by Christ. No place for secular education either in the great commission or in the practice or the early church. The church is not responsible for the education of the world, but for the education of the saints in the Word of God.
3. The Ceremonial Program. The church is to guard the ordinances. The preservation of these ordinances in their original purity and simplicity will help to preserve the gospel in its purity. The perversion of the gospel had its beginning in the perversion of the ordinances. When men began to trifle with the ordinances the true gospel was perverted.
4. The Benevolent Program. The church is to care for its poor. The church at Jerusalem took steps to take care of its poor widows. Paul took offerings on the mission field for the poor saints at Jerusalem.
5. The Disciplinary Program. The church is to regulate itself. It is to keep itself pure and chaste by disciplinary measures. Christ gave the church the discipline commission in "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (#Mt 18:18). Paul commanded the church at Corinth to exclude the man guilty of incest. "But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (#1Co 5:13). He commanded the church at Thessalonica, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" (#2Th 3:6).
1. It is not the duty of the church as such to reform the world. Christ and the apostles were not reformers in the modern sense of that term. The church is not a world betterment society, but a missionary society with regenerating power. This power is in the preaching of the gospel in power and demonstration of the Spirit.
2. It is not the duty of the church to feed the world. The church is not commanded to look after the material interests of the world. Of course, as individual Christians, we should do good to all men, and relieve suffering wherever we come in contact with it. But to enter into an organized capacity looking to the material welfare of the world is to become sidetracked. No Scriptural command nor example for taking part in indiscriminate relief campaigns, such as are being put on from time to time. Paul took up a collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem.
3. It is not the duty of the church to educate the world. Here is a task beyond the power of the church. To the extent that the church joins in secular education to the same extent she loses her spiritual power. Secular education is an individual and state matter and not a work committed into the hands of the church, which is a spiritual institution. Schools have crippled the missionary program of Baptists as no other one thing has.
4. It is not the duty of the church to furnish lucrative positions for men and women. That is what the Baptists are doing as a denomination. The army of executives and secretaries and statistical and enlistment experts supported by so-called mission money is alarming.
5. It is not the duty of the church to provide entertainment for the world. Much of our organized work is in that direction. The wife of the pastor of one of my previous pastorates was putting on a swimming party for the young people at Disneyland. She told them she could not do it at home, for the former pastor had taught them that it is wrong.
6. It is not the duty of the church as such to build hospitals. This is a by product of Christianity, and may be done by individuals in a purely voluntary capacity, but to make it the program of all the saints is to become sidetracked. This is a work that can be and is being done by men who are not Christians. But the main task of the church is to do that which nobody else can do, namely to preach the gospel of Christ to the uttermost part of the earth.