How the Church’s Mission is Accomplished
In the last post we discussed the church’s mission. Jesus left His disciples on earth with the task to go to all the world and preach the Gospel and make disciples. That is the same mission that we, even over 2000 years later, are still about. This mission was accomplished by the early church through the four activities of the Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. This week we’ll take a look at how the mission is accomplished through the Apostle’s teaching.
God is faithful and sovereign, therefore we can trust that He will provide us with everything we need to accomplish the mission. This mission is accomplished through the four activities previously mentioned. These are simple actions that are super-cultural (meaning that they are not just some part of the existing culture, but something that God uniquely and supernaturally creates within the Body). They are also activities that ought to be practiced by all congregations and have been throughout history and in every corner of the earth. These actions result in the growth of the church, unity, and the praising of God. We see these described in Acts 2:42-47:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The early church devoted themselves to the teachings of the Apostles. We have access to much of this teaching through the Epistles of the New Testament. It is wise of us and helpful to us to study this teaching for ourselves, and it is helpful for us to study these things as a congregation. This teaching has been given to believers from years ago and miles removed from our current circumstances, but, like the Body of Christ, this message is super-cultural, so it presents itself, through the Spirit, to be applicable to the modern church. The teaching of the Apostles is an essential part in understanding the Gospel message that we are to share. Language in the first chapter of Colossians used to describe preaching is similarly used in the third chapter to describe our singing.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
It would seem then that singing is a way to teach what the Apostles taught. We can learn a lot from our songs, and it is notable that what we sing has a tendency to stick with us for longer and more wholly than preaching does.
The Spirit’s Role
It is also important to remember that this teaching done by the Apostles was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that He would leave behind a Helper for them, and it is through this ministry of the Spirit that we have the writings of the Apostles.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
The Holy Spirit who inspired the authors of this teaching now even gives understanding of it to its readers. We are to be transformed by this teaching into the image of Christ and live, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as beacons of Christ in the sinful world. Our songs play a large role in this teaching process, and their power to bring about this change must not be overlooked or ignored.
The songs that we sing teach us, but the question remains as to what they are teaching. This is why it is imperative that the songs that are sung by our congregations are full of the inspired words of Scripture; that is what has the power to transform people into the image of Jesus. We need to ask ourselves if the songs that we sing are effectively helping the church accomplish its mission by enforcing the Apostle’s teaching.