God’s Vision and Mission for the Living Church

From The Living Church: Convictions of A Lifelong Pastor by John R. W. Stott (1921 – 2011):

The Mission of the Church

We believe that the church has a double identity. On the one hand we are called out of the world to belong to God, and on the other we are sent back into the world to witness and to serve. Moreover, the mission of the church is modeled on the mission of Christ. He himself said so. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). His mission meant for him the incarnation. He did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven. Instead, he emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. He actually entered our world. He took our nature, lived our life, and died our death. He could not have identified with us more closely than he did. It was total identifacation, though without any loss of identity, for he became one of us without ceasing to be himself. He became human without ceasing to be God.

And now he calls us to enter other people’s worlds, as he entered ours. All authentic mission is incarnational mission. We are called to enter other people’s social and cultural realit: into their thought-world, struggling to understand their misunderstandings of the gospel, and into the pain of their alienation, weeping with those who weep. And all this without compromising our Christian beliefs, values and standards.

The Vision of the Church (Acts 2:41-47)

So what did the early church look like? What evidence did it give of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit?

A Learning Church

The first characteristic Luke selects is very surprising; I do not think we would have chosen it. It is that a living church is a learning church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42)

A Caring Church

If the first mark of a living church is study, the second is fellowship. “The devoted themselves…to the fellowship.”

A Worshiping Church

The devoted themselves (literally) “to the breaking of the bread” (surely a reference to the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, though probably with a fellowship meal included) “and to the prayers,” meaning not private prayer, but prayer meetings and prayer services.

An Evangelizing Church

First, the Lord himself (that is, the Lord Jesus) [added to their number] … through the preaching of the apostles, the everyday witness of church members, and their common life of love

Second, the Lord did two things together. He “added to their number…those who were being saved.” He didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church. Salvation and church membership went together; they still do.

Third, the Lord did both these things “daily,” or day by da. Those early Christians did not regard evangelism as an occasional activity.

These excerpts from Stott’s first chapter entitled “Essentials: God’s Vision for His Church” are an appropriate addition to the thoughts I’ve been sharing on this blog about Jesus’ mission for the Church. Stott has given us a wonderful resource for a Biblical ecclessiology with this book.

What is the stated mission and vision of your church? What do you like or dislike about Stott’s articulation of the mission and vision based on John 20 and Acts 2? What other books and resources by the late John Stott do you recommend?

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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