Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is the mission of the church?

I recently posted a portion of Mark Galli's "Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders." That column has recieved some polite pushback and here Galli responds, explaining what he believes the mission of the Church is and why he is not attracted to the "missional" approach:
.... The one New Testament letter that spells out the purpose and function of the church is Ephesians. And Ephesians is about nothing if it is not about worship, “to the praise of his glory.” The mission of the church there is to worship.  And this, of course, accords with the ultimate “mission” and destination of the church: worship in heaven (Rev. 4, for example).  The mission of the church on earth—if it is to have integrity--must reflect its ultimate “mission” and destination, otherwise what in the world are we evangelizing people for?  Merely to become evangelists?  No, we evangelize people so that they might join the heavenly throng and worship—forever and now.

The other mission of the church in Ephesians, of course, is bringing to maturity the members of the church, to the full stature of Christ, so that everyone in the church will live in the unity of love.  There is, in fact, very little missional language in Ephesians as we use the term missional today.  The only time that happens, (like in chapter 3) is when Paul talks about his unique calling.  But nowhere does he suggest that his calling is to be adopted by everyone.  He understands his calling as unique. But when it comes to talking about the church’s general calling, things missional are hardly to be found.

Now let me be clear: ONE of the callings of the church is to send certain people out in mission!  Thus the gifts of apostleship and evangelism.  But only some members have these gifts.  It’s not the way the entire church’s purpose is ever talked about.  I would even argue that the Great Commission is the commission to apostles (those like the original 12 who are “sent out”), but not such to each and every member of the church.  It is only the church’s commission because apostles are identified and supported by the church.  The church, as such, has a fuller, more complete “mission”: worship of the living God and bringing people to maturity and unity in Christ.  As noted, this is a fuller vision because this is what we will do for eternity.  To worship and grow together in unity is our reason for existence, from beginning to end (Eph. 1).  ....

.... I have deep admiration for the motives and passion of those committed to the missional movement, in its varied forms. So much of what goes on in the name of missional is right and good and frankly inspiring (albeit intimidating: the commitment of some missional leaders is amazing). I just happen to think this model makes unrealistic demands on most church members, creates needless guilt, inculcates pride, and in the long run leads to despair. .... Okay, I’m being dramatic.  But I still think the missional model has pastoral and theological problems. I want what missional leaders want: a healthy church that displays the love of Christ to the world. I just think the missional approach, as I understand it, will backfire soon enough, because it traffics too much in contemporary cultural assumptions about what is important, useful, effective, and so forth.

I think there is a reason the early church, when it thought about what it meant to be a church, put the emphasis on worship, catechesis, and the presbyter/overseer as shepherd and teacher of the flock, not the general of an army. .... [more]
It Takes A Church...: Mark Galli Responds: Pastors in a changing world--Leaders or Chaplains?