The Christian church that we see around us- in all cultures, languages and eras is not a product of clever human invention. God has intentionally chosen a people for himself in Christ, and these people are collectively called the bride of Christ, his church. Jesus build this church on the foundation of “the apostle and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).
Realizing that the church is not a manmade invention, but God’s creation, we must ask the question: what is its purpose? If God created the church them he must have given it a mission in this world.
This mission is clearly stated in all four gospels: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28).
The text is undoubtedly clear. As a church we should primarily focus our efforts on taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost people in this world. As we gain new believers, we are to baptize them and disciple them through the scriptures; leading them to grow into the image of Christ. The church that does not care about the lost people in this world, and places no effort into reaching them with the gospel is disobedient to the clear command of Christ.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that so many churches are blind to the spiritual need of this world, and don’t preach the gospel to lost souls. This stream of life, which is the gospel, flows through the heart of the church and is meant to overflow and water the dead, parched desert all around. Yet, we are so often hesitant to open the life-giving floodgates to the dying world.
In addition, many churches focus on secondary issues like caring for the poor and feeding the hungry, and in the process push away the primary mission of evangelism. It is noble and good for the church to care for the physical needs of people around us; in fact God commands this. Yet, we should not confuse the “mercy ministries” with “evangelism”. Zane Pratt, the vice president of the International Mission Board emphatically states that “If there is no evangelism it is not missions”. We need to keep the primary- primary, and the secondary issues will follow. As we focus on spreading the gospel, we cannot help but be sensitive to their physical needs as well.
On the other hand, some place emphasis on standing for justice, and creating a better world. It is true that Christian teaching transforms this dark world. Truth shapes the culture and the way people relate to one another. Yet, this is not our primary “mission”. Our primary goal as the church is to preach the gospel to the people so that their hearts might be transformed, so that their souls might be saved, because this is way more important than anything else in this world.
To summarize, the central purpose of the church is to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the neighbor and the nations. Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, in their book “What Is the Mission of the Church?” elaborate: “The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his command now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father” (p 62).
The gospel was never meant to be hidden in a dungeon; by it’s nature it must be proclaimed and shared. The church is the bearer of this gospel. The most loving thing that the church can do is to proclaim this message, the good news that God saves sinners.