In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's God's plan for the church?

As a follow up to my post about What makes Church relevant?, I want to hear your thoughts on what is God's plan for the church?

I'll start by sharing my thoughts, then you can share yours.

When I think about God's plan for the church, there are 2 scriptures that come to my mind:

The first one is Matthew 28:18-20:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Before He left this earth, Jesus gave His disciples some direction as to what he wanted from them. It's often referred to as "the Great Commission". I see Jesus telling His disciples to do 4 things:

Go (to all nations)
Make disciples of all nations
Baptize these disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Teach these disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded of His followers

What's the "Go" about?
I think the big deal here is that Jesus was saying that the gospel is for all (Luke 24:47, Galatians 3:28)-so they will want to go tell everyone about it. Prior to Jesus, there was the Law of Moses that had been given just to the Jews. Even during the personal ministry of Jesus, the focus was always on "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5,6). But both the Law and the ministry of Jesus were preparing mankind for the universal gospel (John 10:16, Isaiah 56:6-8). The Law had showed mankind their need for a Savior but was, in a sense, a barrier to gospel. But through Jesus' work on the cross, the Law was removed (Ephesians 2:13-18). The prophet Isaiah told in advance how it would be when he said: "And all the nations shall stream into it." (Isaiah 2:2). Jesus, in the "Great Commission," announced that the time of which Isaiah had spoken seven centuries before had now arrived (Acts 10:34,35, Colossians 1:23).


What is it that we're going to all nations with?
I think it's safe to conclude that the implication is that we are to go to all nations, or to every place, with the gospel. I think it's important to recognize in this discussion that there are many other gospels, but to preach them makes us enemies of God (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel's message is not pop culture, or psychology, left or right wing social and/or political agendas; it is about convicting of sin, and leading people to embrace Jesus as their Savior and put Him first in their life (Romans 3:22-24,Matthew 16:24-25). It means proclaiming the love and grace of God by which we were redeemed. It means a call to repentance and obedience.

What's a disciple?
Putting one's trust in what Jesus did on the cross and letting Him pay for our sins, and choosing to follow after Jesus, is only the beginning. A disciple is one who follows after another; so as disciples of Jesus, we are people who both believe in Him and follow after Him. Both believing and following require learning some things , experiencing some things, and doing some things. Jesus instructed His disciples to help others in this process of learning, experiencing, and doing.

Baptizing
I almost don't want to touch this one because there's so much disagreement regarding this in today's church. I'll just make it simple; Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:21-22) and God said He was pleased. When Jesus was baptized it looks to me like He was consecrating Himself for His ministry. Then in this Matthew 28:18-20 passage He tells His disciples to go baptize others. I do not see where it says that baptism is necessary to enter into salvation, but that it's part of being a disciple, a follower after Jesus. It's a public proclamation of the fact that a person is choosing to die to himself and his sin (symbolized by the going under water) and rise up (symbolized by the coming out of the water) to a new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:1-10 ).

Teach
Now we're back to the whole process of learning, experiencing, and doing. We're even given the curriculum - everything Jesus commanded of His followers. Because of this I see the main thrust of disciple-making to be to teach about Jesus, who He is and what He did, what He commands of His followers, and to engage in what we see Jesus doing.

The second scripture about what is God's plan for the church 1 Corinthians 12:1-26:, specifically verses 7, 12, & 26:

7 - Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

12 - The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

26 - If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

I find this scripture passage significant because it emphasizes inter-connectedness. That Christ's disciples are to be in the process of following Christ together. That God gives each of them gifts that will be for the group's good. That we hurt and rejoice with one another.

These 2 scriptures, Matthew 28:18-20 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-26 lead me to conclude that God's plan for the church is for His followers to be going out telling others the gospel, baptizing those who embrace the gospel, teaching those who accept the gospel how to be disciples, and participating in life together, helping one another out and sharing in one another's sorrows and joys.

These are just my thoughts on what I see in scripture, what about you - What do you believe is God's plan for the church?

7 comments:

RCUBEs said...

I agree with your thoughts about what the church's purpose is for the Lord. We are also to minister to those in need. Not only sharing the Good News but physical needs. We are to be His hands, mouths, feet, His ambassadors.

God bless you sister Tracy.

Michelle said...

I agree with your thoughts that we are to share the gospel and RCUBEs comment about ministering to the needs of others.

Deborah Ann said...

One plan for the church is that we are to share the good news. To me, that means loving and helping people. If we're too abrasive in our approach, we could do more damage than good. The answer is love!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

One thing He didn't say:

Go and argue amongst yourselves about what I said or meant to say and re-interpret my Words so that they cause division amongst you instead of unity.

JD Curtis said...

T,

Check out this article when you get the chance. I think that it's quite timely given what you have been blogging about recently.

Take care!

Tracy said...

JD - Thanks for the link, this article addresses the very kinds of things that concern me. For me, looking at what the church is, and what God's plan is for the church, helps to form a lens through which to look at this issue of what is the best WAY for the church to do things. For me, as I look in this context I can understand some of the intrinsic pitfalls in being "seeker friendly" to the point of watering down the gospel, because it's Jesus that we're supposed to be putting forth to the world. I don't believe our call is to be overly concerned with ensuring that we're appealing enough.

David-FireAndGrace said...

God job, Tracy.

The plan for the church is to make disciples and reach the lost for Christ. There have been many attempts to do this over the centuries... and only faith and repentance actually work. ;o)

I read the article. Sad that our messages either "turn or burn", "God loves you and graces you into heaven - don't worry", or "others are having a crappy week, let's be grateful for what we have". Which, I suppose are true if we receive all of them. However; there is a significant trend to minimize sin and the miraculous. Both are exceedingly dangerous, because both are required for saving faith.

Certainly the Great Commission is important... it was God's intention in Gen 1:26.

As evangelicals, many of us have tried to find ways to spread that Gospel. Some is ineffective. We cannot lover look sin and repentance simply because they are culturally unpopular.

In addition to our love, some churches overlook the supernatural; which is one of the many ways that God backs up his Word.

It seems as if the supernatural is alos unpopular.

Hebrews 2:4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

For those of us with faith, not only will they know us by our love, but they will know God by His signs.

Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

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