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Confession of Faith - Article 10: The Church in Mission
We believe that the church is called to proclaim and to be a sign of the kingdom of God. Christ has commissioned the church to be his witnesses, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things he has commanded.1
In his mission of preaching, teaching, and healing, Jesus announced, "The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."2 After his death and resurrection, Jesus commissioned his disciples, saying, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit."3 Empowered by that Spirit, we continue Jesus' ministry of gathering the new people of God, who acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior.
The church is called to witness to the reign of Christ by embodying Jesus' way in its own life and patterning itself after the reign of God. Thus it shows the world a sample of life under the lordship of Christ. By its life, the church is to be a city on a hill, a light to the nations,4 testifying to the power of the resurrection by a way of life different from the societies around it.
The church is also to give witness by proclaiming the reign of God in word and deed. The church is to seek the lost, call for repentance, announce salvation from sin, proclaim the gospel of peace, set free the oppressed, pray for righteousness and justice, serve as Jesus did, and without coercion urge all people to become part of the people of God. The church is called to be a channel of God's healing, which may include anointing with oil.5 Even at the risk of suffering and death, the love of Christ compels faithful witnesses to testify for their Savior.6
Such witness is a response to Jesus' call to make disciples. As they are welcomed and incorporated into the church, new Christians learn to participate in the church's worship, in its fellowship, education, mutual aid, decision making, service, and continuing mission.7 New believers also help the church to learn new dimensions of its mission.8
God calls the church to direct its mission to people from all nations and ethnic backgrounds. Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses in "Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."9 The apostle Paul preached to the Gentile nations. The church today is also called to witness to people of every culture, ethnicity, or nationality. The mission of the church does not require the protection of any nation or empire. Christians are strangers and aliens within all cultures. Yet the church itself is God's nation, encompassing people who have come from every tribe and nation. Indeed, its mission is to reconcile differing groups, creating one new humanity10 and providing a preview of that day when all the nations shall stream to the mountain of the Lord and be at peace.11
Christ has commissioned the church to continue his mission. Missionaries and others with the gift of evangelism do not function independently, but as representatives of Christ and the church. The commissions by Jesus to his disciples (recorded in Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-22; and Acts 1:8) are given through the apostles to the community as a whole.
The mission of the church involves both word and deed, evangelism and service, proclaiming Christ's message and demonstrating, by the life of the church, the nature of the new creation in Christ. Neither word alone nor deed alone is sufficient for mission. Word explains deed, and deed authenticates word.
In the ministry of Jesus, healing (in body and in spirit) and salvation are closely related. The same Greek word is used in the New Testament for healing and salvation. Jesus' words both to those whose sins were forgiven and to those who were healed were, "Your faith has saved you [made you well]; go in peace." (Compare Luke 7:50 and 8:48, where the same Greek words are used, but the NIV and NRSV use different English words.) The church continues Jesus' ministry of healing. The church may be a channel for healing through the service of prayer and anointing with oil.
Mission includes peace and evangelism. Peace is an integral part of the content of the church's message (Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:17; 6:15). Peace also describes the context of evangelism (John 20:21-22). The power of gospel is so strong and God's mercy is so wide that it is possible for any person to repent and be saved. No enemy is so evil as to be beyond God's love. The church lives and preaches reconciliation boldly, yet without coercion. The missionary church chooses to suffer rather than to force its way. In the language of the New Testament, the word for witness is the same as the word for martyr.
The church is called to live as an alternative culture within the surrounding society. Thus, the church is involved in cross-cultural mission whether it reaches out to people of the majority culture, to people of minority cultures within the society, or to various cultural groups in other countries. The church lives within the dominant culture, yet is called to challenge that culture's myths and assumptions when they conflict with Christian faith. Those cultural myths include individualism, materialism, militarism, nationalism, racism, sexism, and a world view which denies the reality of anything beyond the grasp of the five senses and reason.
In its mission, the church claims Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the world (Acts 4:12). Some people feel that all ways to God are equally valid and that mission work by its very nature is intolerant and coercive. However, faithful witness to Christ is non coercive; it does not force our point of view on anyone. It recognizes that God is not left without a witness anywhere (Acts 10:35; 14:17; 17:22-31; Romans 1:19-20; 2:14-16). It testifies to Christ's work in our lives and invites others to know him, follow him, and become part of his body. We engage in mission because of our love and concern for people and because the love of Christ urges us on. We understand also that mission helps us grow in our understanding of the gospel, just as the early church's mission to the Gentiles helped it understand the gospel in new ways.
- Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19-20.
- Mark 1:15.
- John 20:21-22; Acts 10:36.
- Matthew 5:13-16; Isaiah 42:6.
- Mark 6:13; James 5:14-15.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14.
- Acts 2:41-47.
- Acts 10; 15.
- Acts 1:8.
- Ephesians 2:15-16.
- Isaiah 2:2-4.