Why are we here? Ok, maybe that’s too existential for this humble blog post.
Let’s refine the question: why does the church exist? This question is very important because if we can answer it, we know what the church should be doing…and not doing.
Just as you’d look to the words of the Founding Fathers to see why our country exists, we need to look to the words of the founder and head of the church, Jesus Christ. Too many churches substitute their own idea of why the church exists – to raise money, to make us feel good, to bring about social change, or to influence politics. But what does Jesus say?
“…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
It’s pretty simple. There are three parts to Jesus’ command. Number one, go and make disciples. A disciple is a student or follower. We often talk about “discipleship” as a process for Christians to mature in their faith. That use of the word distorts our understanding of passages like this. Making disciples means conversion. We are commanded to turn people from rebellious sinners to repentant sinners who make Jesus their Lord. This means we need to preach the gospel! We need to tell people the good news so that they can become a disciple.
Number two, baptize them. Water baptism is a symbol of the regenerating work of Christ in your life through the gospel. It is a proclamation that you have died with Christ and been risen to life anew. You are now washed clean in God’s sight. This is the process of bringing people into God’s family. Baptism normally occurs immediately after conversion. This is the step when someone joins the Body of Christ and becomes a member of God’s family.
Number three, teach them to obey everything. Now that’s an amazing task! Everything? Really? You might say, “But that’s going to take a long time!” Yes, you’re right! This is the process of growing in Christ-likeness through your life. We are commanded to train people to obey Jesus.
When you put these three tasks together, the reason why the church exists is simple: To preach the gospel, bring people into the family, and grow them to maturity in Christ. Or more simply put, the church exists to convert, immerse, and obey.
Here’s why this is important – everything we do in the church must be filtered through this mission. If there are ministries, tasks, or activities that don’t help us accomplish the mission of conversion, immersion, and obedience, then get rid of them! There are so many people that need the gospel, we don’t have time to waste. If one of our activities doesn’t preach the gospel, bring people into the family, or teach people to obey, then don’t waste the money, time, people, and resources of the church doing it. It’s time we think clearly about what the task of the church is – to be the engine for proclaiming the gospel to the world.