Ask anyone what the purpose of the church is, and you will get answers like “Making the world a better place,” or “Helping people ‘do life’ better,” or even “Introducing people to Jesus Christ.” These are all good, and all true; the purpose of the church includes all of this, and much more. But the most important thing we are meant to do, and which Jesus Himself identified as our “mission” or our “marching orders” is found in Matthew 28:
Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This is known as the Great Commission. And from this we get our “mission statement”, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Somehow, over the course of years, we have lost this sense of purpose. We have mistaken the method for the mission. We have continued to “do church” by doing programs and ministries which may or may not have been grounded in this mission, but over time we have substituted the programs for our singular mission, our commission, to “make disciples”. We have shifted the focus away from disciple-making to church-member-making. And it hasn’t served us well.
We must make disciple-making our highest priority. We must work on our own discipleship growth and we must invite others to consider following Jesus and to help them (mentor and train them )to grow in their discipleship.
The early Methodists got this right. We need to recover our heritage and begin (again) to make disciples. The early Methodists used Class Meetings and Band Meetings to accomplish this goal, coupled with Bible preaching and teaching. You’ll be hearing a lot more about these things in the coming months. I invite you to pray for God’s leading in recovering our disciple-making heritage, and thus, our purpose for existing!