“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
If you’re a United Methodist, then you probably recognize this as our mission statement. As a denomination, we proclaim these words make up our missional identity in how we exist as the church.
We crafted these words as our denominational mission statement over the last 20+ years and, in the process, we’ve worked on perfecting the language, teaching the biblical basis for the statement, and ensuring that no United Methodist forgets those important words.
We’ve plastered these words on letter-head, banners, websites, flashy ads, and church signs.
We’ve used this statement to justify just about every change and argument against change that comes our way.
We use this statement to set our goals, cast our vision, and critique those who may fall short of our desired outcomes.
If you know your Scripture (and if you’re reading this blog I’m assuming you at least know some Scripture), then you know this mission statement is based on Jesus’ Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel:
“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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20)
I’ve been a Methodist pastor for 3 years now. And I’ve been raised as a United Methodist for my entire life. But it’s only been recently that I’ve noticed something missing from our mission statement and how it aligns to Jesus’ words in The Great Commission. Maybe you’ve heard it explained how important the verbs are in this statement: We’re called to make disciples by teaching and baptizing.
The only problem is, we tend to forget one very important verb when we talk about the mission of the Church…
As we grow into a more heightened awareness of what ails the church, we naturally search for solutions. It’s only normal that when there’s a problem, we look to find the solution. But why is it that so many of the resources out there on how to “make disciples” says so very little on the church’s need to go? We talk a lot about what we need to do but so much of it seems to be confined to what happens within the walls the church buildings and program calendars.
I know what you’re thinking: “We have more and more out there on how to attract people who are outside of our church walls.”
Yes, but how much of that involves the church leaving its walls to go and find and be with those who are outside? Too much of our mindset is geared around attracting people to us when we ought to be following the Spirit’s call to go and leave the comforts of our buildings and programs and agendas.
Theologian, Marva Dawn, puts it this way:
“When we say we go to church on Sunday mornings, we’re exercising a bad theology. We don’t go to church. We participate in worship so we can be church everyday of our lives.”
We measure things like membership and worship numbers in order to gauge the health of a congregation. And these are important things to measure…to a degree. But too often we forget how easy it is to sit in a pew and never be a true follower of Jesus. And we fail recognize that what we need most are not more studies, meetings, circles, and small groups. What we need most are people who have the guts and inspiration to try to live like Jesus in their normal, everyday lives. And we pray that we learn to do that with some sense of community as the Body of Christ.
If we want to find our missional identity as the church, then it means confessing and asking forgiveness for the sin of self-preoccupation and narcissism. It means being willing to seek out real and authentic relationships with people for no other reason than because they are children made in the image of God. And it means learning to worry a little less about opening our doors, so that we can worry a little more about closing our doors behind us so we can go into the world where God is active and alive and at work in surprising ways.
This short (3 mins) video says this even better: