GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 643 • May 19, 2021
SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Number 10
THE TENFOLD MISSION OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The first requirement for carrying out our mission is a proper understanding of the mission. We must know what it is before we can determine how or when to do it. The second requirement, if we are to win God’s approval, is to avoid the temptation to oversimplify – most Christians cannot explain the usual definition of our threefold mission as “evangelism, edification, and benevolence.” We must not over-complicate it, so as to make it seem impossible. At the risk of making it sound more complex and complicated than it really is, I am presenting for consideration The Tenfold Mission of the Church. This is not new or different – hopefully it will be meaningful.
FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT: THE SPIRITUAL MISSION.
Spiritual means of or pertaining to the spirit. We can understand spiritual as meaning from, as taught by or directed by the Holy Spirit. This is the way the word is used in 1 Corinthians 2:13ff. Bu it is also valid to speak of it as referring to the eternal aspect of man’s being – not the body, not the life, but the non-physical spirit of man that exists (or can and will exist) independently, apart from the living body. Eccl. 12:7
Since only the spirit is eternal, that is the part we must try to save. All aspects of man’s being have some impact upon the spirit, or provide a way to reach the spirit. All genuine needs of a person must be addressed, even if they cannot be met fully. But we should remember to put the spirit first, above everything else.
What we usually call “evangelism” is an effort to save the spirit/soul of a person. Preaching the gospel is an effort to get the hearer to respond actively and appropriately so that he will be “saved” from sin and guilt (Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:38). Every New Testament writer makes reference to this somehow. For example: 1 Peter 2:22-25, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.
THE THREEFOLD NON-SPIRITUAL MISSION OF THE CHURCH.
PHYSICAL (PART OF WHAT IS USUALLY BUT INAPPROPRIATELY CALLED “BENEVOLENCE”). Good will (benevolence) should show in everything we do. This may be a matter of feeding the hungry, or clothing and sheltering those who need such things (Matthew 25:31-46, James 2:15-16). There are some things that do not really classify as food, clothing, and shelter but are just as important: medicine, nursing care, visiting the sick and the “afflicted.” Who can estimate the importance and value of such things? Just do not think that you can do one thing or the other, and choose to do the easy thing (physical benevolence) instead of teaching the gospel.
MENTAL/EMOTIONAL (WHAT MIGHT BE CALLED COUNSELING). Talk is cheap. Good advice and valid counsel are difficult to find. It is easy to tell someone else what to do, to tell him what is right or wrong (especially what is wrong) with him, but never to apply it to oneself. Like Job’s miserable comforters/counselors (Job 16:1-4 “If I were in your place and you were in mine I could heap up words against you and shake my head at you,” Job said). Some are not willing to give advice, for fear it may be wrong. Some are not willing to comfort and console others — they don’t want to get involved in somebody’s trouble. As one person said, “Talking to people who feel bad makes me feel bad, and I’d just rather not be involved.” However, scripture makes it clear that we should be counselors and comforters, that we should share in the emotional situations of others. When someone is blaming God for some bad thing in his life, someone who knows the truth should point it out. “The truth shall make (all of us) free” (John 8:32). “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). When we have come through some trouble or trial with the help of God, we are able to comfort, counsel and console others in the same situation (2 Corinthians1:3-5).
SOCIAL – TEACHING PEOPLE TO GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER, IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD. Racial and ethnic considerations. The longest-lasting ethnic conflict has been between Jews and Gentiles. Outstanding examples are Russian pogroms and Hitler’s attempted genocide. Slavery has taken away racial and social rights which civilization is slow to restore. The conflict in the some European and African countries is an attempt at ethnic cleansing of territories. Economic, educational, and other “status” considerations are common. The rich may despise the poor and feel no obligation or desire to help them. The educated may despise uneducated and ignorant people and feel no obligation to teach them – those who attend prestige schools (whether or not they get a real education) look down upon those at “lesser schools,” no matter how good the education received there. Equity and equality are talked about but seldom applied or practiced.
Moral and humane considerations. The helpless, weak, sick, old and unborn are victimized by the strong and the ruthless. Inhumane treatment of others and demand for special privileges for oneself are hallmarks of modern society. In every case it is easy to see that the underlying cause of social stress and strife is the lack of a valid spiritual foundation, a right relationship with God.
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH TO THE CHURCH, TO ITS OWN MEMBERS AND FAMILIES – SOMETIMES CALLED “EDIFICATION”).
Build them up in the faith (Jude 20-21, Ephesians 4:15-16). There must be an in-depth study of scripture. Those who know and understand more of the truth must teach it to those who are still “babes in Christ” ( 2 Timothy 2:2, 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:2). Shallow preaching and teaching result in shallow and superficial faith. Pep-talk devotionals may be popular but do not produce deep and abiding faith or faithfulness. Sermonettes are for Christianettes.
To parents:. Parents should “Bring children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The church is to teach parents about the meaning of parenting, and supply them with intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual support for their task.
To children. Children need to be taught how to relate to parents, to the church, to other children, – and to God (Ephesians 6:1-4). The church reinforces proper parental teaching and nurture, and tries to correct or alleviate the effects of improper parental nurture, neglect, and abuse.
THE MISSION TO THE RELIGIOUSLY WRONG TO THE UNCHURCHED AND THE WRONG CHURCHED
EVANGELISM – the spiritual mission. We have an obligation to prove that undenominational (unified and undivided) Christianity is possible and desirable, and that it is actually essential – demanded by God, with no indication that anything less is acceptable to Him. 1 Corinthians 1:10ff). It is unlikely that religious people (in the denominations and people from non-Christian religions or cults) will attend our services and listen to teaching about the invalidity of their religion. We need to understand that we have an obligation – a mission – to our friends and acquaintances on an individual and personal basis.
SOCIAL MISSION to the body, the mind, and the social aspect. We may have lost sight of the fact that we can improve the physical, mental and emotional, and social aspects of all mankind – and should try to do so, even for those who do not obey the gospel for salvation. Mt. 7:12
THE MISSION TO THE WHOLE WORLD, TO EVERY PERSON AND GROUP EVERYWHERE.
You can find both Christians and non-Christians everywhere. The most obvious, and easiest, part of our mission is in your own COMMUNITY – to people on your block, on your street, and those who share the broader environs of your village, town, or city. You could include other demographic divisions such as county and state as the broader community.
To the NATION. It is easy to be patriotic, to think that it is my homeland, my nation. So whatever it is or does, I must approve it and defend it. But think about this: “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). Consider also that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). We have a long way to go before we can say that the Lord is our God, that we are clean in His sight, or that we have a right to pray, “God, bless America; God bless our nation.”
To the whole WORLD. There is no limit to the extent of our mission, no boundaries placed upon our efforts by God. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature…Make disciples in every nation…teach them to observe everything I have commanded” (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-20 0. As the songs say, “Say not, ‘The heathen are at home; beyond we have no call.’ For why should we be blessed alone? The gospel is for all.” Be prepared to “Ring (the message) out…until the sinful world is won for Jehovah’s mighty Son.”
THE DURATION OF THE MISSION TO THE CHURCH AND THOSE NOT IN THE CHURCH, TO THE COMMUNITY, THE NATION, THE WORLD.
Each of us has a LIFETIME commitment to the mission of the church – since each of us has a lifetime commitment to Christ as his people, pledged to serving him in the way he directs and requires. We can subdivide our lifetime mission into short term and long term efforts. SHORT TERM efforts are now and then, here and there. Gospel meetings are short term mission efforts in which someone is brought in to preach on special topics which will evangelize the community and edify the church. That means preachers must be willing to go to other congregations and preach the gospel there for a limited time. Campaigns, usually a group effort for a limited time, to unchurched or unevangelized areas in which dedicated Christians try to reach out to others with the gospel of God that is able to save their souls and enrich every aspect of their lives and relationships. LONG TERM efforts are when some go to places where the true gospel and true religion of Christ are not known, or perhaps weak, and stay there for an extended period, often for many years. We rightly honor such people for their self-sacrificing commitment to others, as part of their personal commitment to Christ. It is unusual for anyone to go to a foreign place and spend his life as a missionary to that place, but it does occasionally happen – these may deserve double honor. I know a few such missionaries and they have my deepest respect and gratitude.
AS YOU HAVE OPPORTUNITY (Galatians 6:9-10) you too can participate at some level in the God-given mission of the church and its members.
Though we may prefer to think of these things as the church’s mission and work rather than the individual Christian’s responsibility. But each person, according to his own abilities and opportunities, is required to participate in the tenfold mission of the church and its members (parable of the talents applies (Matthew. 25:14-31) – talents for which the church must account to the Lord.
The tenth part of the tenfold mission (we’ve only mentioned nine) is individual: THE CHRISTIAN’S OWN MISSION TO AND RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONESELF, PERSONALLY (2 Timothy. 2:15, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Corinthians 11:28, 31; “Save yourself…” (Acts 2:40, Philippians.2:12-13). The final chapter in this essay will address the need to be faithful unto death, so the Lord can give you the crown of life (Revelation. 2:10, 2 Timothy 4:7-8).