What does Mennonite Brethren theology have in common with that of other Christian denominations? And what are the distinctive emphases of Mennonite Brethren theology? Our Confession of Faith is a short document, informed by Scripture, that names the perspectives through which we read God’s Word in order to live as Christ’s followers. This is the seventh article in a series by the Board of Faith and Life exploring the 18 articles of this formative document.
We may be talking about the mission of the church more than ever before. Perhaps you agree and are thinking, “Are you going to write about the mission again? I think we know well enough what it is.”
Your thoughts might continue, “The mission of the church is the Great Commandment and the Great Commission: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39, ESV) and ‘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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’” (Matthew 28:19–20).
You could say confidently, “It is very simple: the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus and send his disciples into the world. The Great Commission and Great Commandment together clarify what we do as individuals, local congregations, a conference (CCMBC); it is why we exist, the purpose we serve in life. Why should we tell each other about the mission of the church, and retell it again?”
I believe that we must tell each other about the mission of the church because the inclination of our hearts is to unlearn why we exist and what purpose we serve in life. Missiologist David Bosch warns that the church is always tempted to become a club of religious folklore. “The only remedy for this mortal danger lies in challenging herself unceasingly with the true biblical foundation of mission.”
Jesus spoke this mission message from the very outset of his ministry in Galilee, “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15).
Jesus’ mission was to bring the Kingdom of God – the sovereign rule of his Father over all creation and humanity – near to all people.
Jesus’ announcement is good news because in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection, the Father has come near to transform the broken human condition and reclaim all of creation for God’s purpose.
It might seem that in this day of conversation about the mission of the church, we need to choose between the proclamation of the gospel and the demonstration of the gospel – but this is not so!
The church does proclaim this good news, calling everyone to repent of a false devotion to other powers and to believe in the one true God, surrendered to Christ who is the supreme ruler of all creation, nations, and peoples.
The faithful followers of Christ demonstrate the Kingdom of God by our work for peace and justice.
We act out the love that took Jesus to the cross by serving the poor and broken whether they believe in Jesus or not.
John Stott summarized it succinctly: “The call of God is to share in his own mission in the world. First, he sent his Son. Then he sent his Spirit. Now he sends his church, that is, us. He sends us out by his Spirit into his world to announce his Son’s salvation. He works through his Son to achieve it; he works through us to make it known.”
So, church, as coworkers with God, let us tell each other again why we exist and what purpose we serve in life. God has called the church to participate in his mission to establish his Kingdom rule through the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and the demonstration of his love on the cross to make all things right in the world.
[Steve Berg is interim executive director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. He lives in B.C.