Anybody who knows me very well knows I care deeply about church membership, church polity, the centrality of the gospel, doctrine, and community. I have devoted my life to serving the local church, and I strive to do that in a well-rounded way. However, though I love the bride of Christ, I also love the lost, and even more so I love Jesus and desire to see His glory displayed, proclaimed, worshipped, and enjoyed among all peoples.
That being said, throughout my time in ministry I have been told again and again that I care too much about evangelism, discipleship, and especially missions. I am currently the associate pastor of my church and the main focus of my job is evangelism, discipleship, and missions. So, I suppose it’s somewhat understandable that I’m perceived as someone who emphasizes these things too much because, in part, that’s my job. But, I don’t think it’s simply because people misunderstand my job that people think I care too much about these things; I believe it’s because they misunderstand the mission of the church that they feel this way.
The Old Testament tells us, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3)! “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations” (Malachi 1:11a).
The New Testament tells us, “You (Christians) are the light of the world [therefore] let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). “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” (Matthew 28:9). “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my (Jesus’) witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10)!
While there are so many more I could quote, looking at these verses it’s easy to see that God cares about His glory among the nations (people groups). And the way in which He has chosen to display His glory among the nations is through people; people who proclaim, worship, and enjoy the glory of God in Christ among all peoples. This is what Paul was getting at when He said, “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). In other words, God is making His glorious gospel of grace known to the world, even angels and demons, though the church.
That being the case, how does the church go about displaying God’s glory and making the gospel visible? Mark Dever says, “The proper ends for a local congregation’s life and actions are the worship of God, the edification of the church, and the evangelization of the world. These three purposes in turn serve the glory of God.” Pastors Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung say it like this, “[T]he 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 and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.”
So, though I only quoted a few verses and a few pastors (for times sake), I am arguing that biblically the mission of the church is to glorify God by spreading the gospel and making disciples of Christ among all the peoples of the world. The church does this by preaching the gospel, gathering disciples into the local church and helping them grow in the gospel, planting churches centered on the gospel, and equipping them to do the same. If I’m even close to being right—and the church doesn’t put a heavy emphasis on evangelism, discipleship, and missions then it has lost sight of the very purpose of its existence. Professor and author Andreas Köstenberger says, “The church ought to be focused in the understanding of its mission. Its activities should be constrained by what helps others come to believe that the Messiah, the Son of God, is Jesus.” If we aren’t doing this can we really say we are a church? No doubt, there are other things we have to do, but shouldn’t we emphasize the very mission of the church?
On the one hand I get the arguments for a church focusing inward. “If we keep giving towards missions we won’t be able to pay our bills… If we send our brightest and best to go plant churches we won’t have any leaders here…” But we must remember that God loves a cheerful giver, and that God blesses obedience. Now, I don’t mean that a church shouldn’t worry about their own health; that’s where discipleship comes in. And I’m not saying that if a church participates in missions by giving, going, and praying that God won’t allow that church to close the doors to its building and disband. But what I am saying is that the mission of the church will be accomplished.
Even if our churches aren’t successful the church will be. Jesus promised that, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). And as we saw earlier, the mission will be accomplished. John tells us, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10)! People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be saved. After disciples have been made of all nations then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). And when the end comes then Jesus will make all things new and we will live forever with Him in the New Heavens New Earth (see Revelation 20-21). And then, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
This will happen. The Lamb will receive the reward for His suffering. God’s glory will be made known among the nations. It’s a promise from God so it is as good as done. There is no question about it, the Great Commission will be fulfilled. The question is, will we take part in it? Will we be focused on the Kingdom of King Jesus or our own?
Get to Work
Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). In other words, Jesus has elect that have yet to repent and believe. They must first hear His voice; meaning they must hear the gospel. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:13-15)?
How will Jesus’ sheep hear his voice? We must give, we must send, we must pray, we must go, we must preach. We must emphasize evangelism, discipleship, and missions. We must preach the gospel. If we truly are a church, our only other option is to be disobedient. May we not grumble and disobey, but may we get to work. “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news’” (Romans 10:15b)!
Yes, we must be about the ordinary work of the church. Elders must lead and equip, deacons must serve, and the congregation must submit, learn, grow, and faithfully go about the work of ministry that God has called them to, namely being ever-growing disciples who make disciples who do the same. But we must realize that this all plays a role in our mission to glorify God by spreading the gospel and making disciples of Christ among all the peoples of the world. Everything the church does in someway should work towards evangelism, discipleship, and missions; if not, we are missing the point…
Christ will receive the reward for His suffering. God’s glory in Christ will be displayed, proclaimed, worshipped, and enjoyed among all peoples. One day there will no longer be people unreached by the gospel. God’s Word promises, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand” (Romans 15:21). So, while there is no guarantee that our church buildings will stay open, or that our churches won’t disband; one thing we no for sure is that God’s Kingdom will prevail. The Kingdom of Christ is far more important than our buildings and resources, even our very lives. So may we be willing to count all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus and sacrificially living for His glory among all peoples. Regardless of what happens, we’ll never regret doing that…
As for me, I will continue, Lord willing, to emphasize evangelism, discipleship, and missions. Lord willing, I will continue to preach gospel-centered expository sermons. Lord willing, I will continue to do my part in the everyday work of the local church. And Lord willing, God will pour out the lives of me, my family, and the church God has called me to—for the fame of Jesus among all peoples.
What about you?
 Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2012), 69.
 Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 241.
 Andreas J. Köstenberger, The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples according to the Fourth Gospel: With Implications for the Fourth Gospel’s Purpose and the Mission of the Contemporary Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 219.