The Church's Mission
What is a Mission?
A mission is an activity that a person or group of people is driven to accomplish. Most organizations have mission statements to help people both within and outside understand what the organization is trying to accomplish. These help to motivate people to a certain end, and can be a measure against which success can be assessed.
It is important for us to think about what the mission of the church is, because, as members of the church, it is our personal mission as well. In thinking about music for the church, it is good for us to turn to Scripture and discover what it says our lives should be focused on. Understanding this plays an integral role in defining what texts and genres of music the Christian ought to sing congregationally.
The mission of the church is something that has been debated over the millennia of church history. I believe that this mission is to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Personally, I’m not pursuing a career as a missionary, but I am convinced of this goal for the life of every Christ follower. In Acts 1:6-11 Jesus leaves His disciples with one final command: “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
Therefore, the mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel. This is something that we do individually, but I would argue that we will be much more effective in sharing this message as a group. When an unsaved person sees a group of individuals working together and caring for each other and the outsider, it makes a much larger impact than just one person. While there are several accounts of singular missions, Philip for example, the New Testament is rich with examples of men and women working together to share the Gospel.
Our Response to the Mission
In light of this, the leaders of the church must view it as their mission, to equip the congregation to share the message of the Gospel. This equipping is accomplished by feeding the church Gospel truth. This feeding can be done through music, reading and preaching of Scripture, prayer, conversations, and living a life defined by Gospel truths.
This feeding of truth should result in a believer who is full of God’s message. Our prayer ought to be that, as people leave the sanctuary, they are so saturated with the Gospel that it pours out of them. We must encourage our congregations to share the truths that they have heard. This also should serve as a reminder that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves, because we must be filled in order to pour into others. We also must be sure that we have an accurate understanding of the Gospel ourselves.
If we are truly passionate about being witnesses, then our music, teaching, prayer, reading, and interactions will be Christ-centered, Biblically rich, and distinctly Christian (even more specifically–salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone). Leaders must also encourage others to think deeply and correctly about God the Father’s plan for Salvation; God the Son’s work on the Cross, tomb, and throne; and God the Holy Spirit’s ministry and empowerment. They must also allow the knowledge of the God Head’s work to affect their affections and encourage the congregation to feel deeply.
Keeping this perspective will change much of the way we live our lives. We must be honest about the fact that following Christ is not merely a set of rules we live by or a country club we attend once or twice a week. Walking with our Savior is not a walk in the garden. Jesus says this about His way, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13&14) This path is one of promised persecution and trials, yet future rewards and abundant opportunities to serve and trust in God. If you believe that this life you signed up for will be full of financial prosperity and leisure on earth, then you are sadly mistaken. However, this life is ultimately far superior to any way the world has to offer. Becoming a follower of Christ must be something that defines everything you do. That is what we see in the example of the early church.
What this Means for Our Music
In the next few posts we will explore in greater depth how the early church carried out this mission through the four activities of the Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Though music is not among these categories, it certainly plays a part in how we reenforce the teaching that happens in church, our fellowship activities, sometimes when we eat together and take communion, and we can’t forget that music often channels our prayer.
Already though, we can begin to think about our music through this briefly described lens of the church’s mission. Are the songs that you sing going to prepare your church to share the Gospel of Christ? Would an unbeliever visiting your church learn of the Gospel through the songs that you sing? Do people leave church filled with the Gospel and excited to share it, in part, because of the songs that have been sung?
All Scripture is quoted from the ESV.