What is the Mission of the Church?

A brief survey of some literature & documents (compiled and summarised by Jacob Haasnoot)

I. Cardinal Avery Dulles’ Six Models of the Church (2002, expanded)
1. Mystical Communion: community that is related by Spirit – we are connected to each other not just by what we say and do but by God. Warm and welcoming. Mystical Communion, not just friendly fellowship.
2. Sacrament: Church is a visible sign of Christ still in the world today. A sign and instrument of Grace in the world. Connects with our Catholic way of looking at the world but it is hard to explain.
3. Servant: Emphasizes the Church’s commitment to social justice. Includes the action which goes along with the words of the Herald. Doing what Jesus did – we are living our faith.
4. Herald: Church announces the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Constantly calling everyone to renewal and reform. Calls us to look to the Gospels.
5. Institution: Emphasizes the structure and order of the Church. Clear roles and guidelines for living.
6. Community of Disciples: community of people that follow Jesus, trying to be like Jesus in everything they do, say, pray, knowing that following Jesus may include suffering. A strong connection to Jesus but with this model we may lose sight of the universal church

II. Lausanne Covenant (1974)
‘We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. [-] In the Church’s mission of sacrificial service, evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The Church is at the very centre of God’s cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel. But a church which preaches the cross must itself be marked by the cross. It becomes a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the gospel or lacks a living faith in God, a genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things including promotion and finance. The church is the community of God’s people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology’.

III. The Manilla Manifesto (Lausanne Movement, 1989)
#8. The Local Church
• ‘Every Christian congregation is a local expression of the body of Christ and has the same responsibilities. [-] The church is thus both a worshipping and a witnessing community gathered and scattered, called and sent. Worship and witness are inseparable.
• We believe that the local church bears a primary responsibility for the spread of the gospel. [-] Each local church must evangelize the district in which it is situated, and has the resources to do so.
• [-] A church which sends out missionaries must not neglect its own locality, and a church which evangelizes its neighbourhood must not ignore the rest of the world.
• In all this each congregation and denomination should, where possible, work with others, seeking to turn any spirit of competition into one of cooperation. [-]
• The church is intended by God to be a sign of his kingdom, that is, an indication of what human community looks like when it comes under his rule of righteousness and peace. [-] It is through our love for one another that the invisible God reveals himself today, especially when our fellowship is expressed in small groups, and when it transcends the barriers of race, rank, sex, and age which divide other communities.
• We deeply regret that many of our congregations are inward-looking, organized for maintenance rather than mission, or preoccupied with church-based activities at the expense of witness’.

IV. The Cape Town Commitment (Lausanne Movement, 2010)
Part I, #9. We love the people of God
‘The people of God are those from all ages and all nations whom God in Christ has loved, chosen, called, saved and sanctified as a people for his own possession, to share in the glory of Christ as citizens of the new creation. As those, then, whom God has loved from eternity to eternity and throughout all our turbulent and rebellious history, we are commanded to love one another. [-] Such love is the first evidence of obedience to the gospel, the necessary expression of our submission to Christ’s Lordship, and a potent engine of world mission’.
Part II: For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action
A. Bearing witness to the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world
B. Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world
C. Living the love of Christ among people of other faiths
D. Discerning the will of Christ for world evangelization
E. Calling the Church of Christ back to humility, integrity and simplicity
F. Partnering in the body of Christ for unity in mission

V. Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People (2010)
Who are we and what are we here for?
It’s all about people who … (i.e. Biblical theology, not systematic)
• know the story they are part of (being part of the story of God’s mission in this world)
• care for creation
• are a blessing to the nations
• walk in God’s way (obedience)
• are redeemed for redemptive living
• respresent God to the world
• attract others to God
• know the one living God and Saviour
• bear witness to the living God
• proclaim the Gospel of Christ
• send and are sent
• live & work in the public square
• praise and pray
The church needs to ‘repent & return’, to ‘go & make disciples’, to realize the urgency that all peoples should hear the Gospel and to do all these things for the glory of God.

VI. James Kennedy, Stad op een berg (2010)
Churches in a secularised society should focus on the quality of their congregational life and the strength of their own identity. For society as a whole, it is important to have contrasting communities that challenge the status quo and offer a view of a transcendent reality (p. 135).
So what does such a contrasting community look like? It is a community…
• of care & love (inward & outward looking)
• of discipline (imitation, virtues, moral boundaries)
• that carries the rich, Christian tradition
• that can engage in critical dialogue with the world around them.

VI. Van den Brink & Van der Kooi, Christelijke Dogmatiek (2012, pp. 518-526)
The church as an eschatological community

• Addresses pneumatology: the Spirit bridges from us to the Son and the Father. Church is defined by communion with its living Lord. Access to that communion through the Holy Spirit.
– Origin lies in God’s own action. Church is a (first, visible) eschatological community around Christ already gathered as a harvest for God. Believers participate in salvation, as recipients.
– Characteristic of  the church is an inward movement (communio) and an outward movement (missio). Inward: we become children of God, members of His body. The christological & pneumatological always go together. There are gifts of grace in the church. Outward: Immediately, the second, outward movement also arises. Disciples are sent out. Again, grace gifts that enable the outward movement in the form of witnessing, celebration and diaconia.

VII. Samuel Waje Kunhiyop, African Christian Theology (2012, pp. 145-170)
• The Church as the community of God: ‘it includes all believers worldwide and each local community (church) and is also connected to the past [-] and the future…’.
Biblical metaphors for the church: people of God, body of Christ, bride of Christ, temple of God, family of God, flock of God. They show that the church has a communal nature which is absolutely essential to its true being.
Four key features of the Church: one, holy, catholic & apostolic.
Functions of the church: worship, evangelism, discipling, prayer.
• In reaching out to the world, the church must be prophetic, speaking out against evil structures, living examplary lives, and gettting involved in both human and social development.

VIII. Michael W. Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today (2014)
The mission of God and the missional nature of the church (p. 73)
Mission is not simply a task of the church but it defines the very identity of the church. One of the problems with the old model of mission: mission societies were doing missions and the church supported it. Mission and church were separated.
The mission of the church is rooted in the mission of the tri-une God. The church takes its role in the loving mission of the Father to restore the creation as it is accomplished in the kingdom mission of the Son and realized to the ends of the earth in the power of the Spirit.

Ecclesiology (p. 101): we are not only receivers of salvation but also channels. If we only talk about the institution and the pastoral role of the church, we will become an introverted church. So (1) the communal life of the church is important to empower its members to be missional and (2) they are as much the church throughout the week (as they work in all sectors of society) as when they gather for worship on Sunday.

IX. Stefan Paas, Vreemdelingen en priesters (2015, pp. 217-243)
The image of the church as a priestly community has the following features:
1. It is by definition a minority community. That is its ‘natural state’. Fits in post-Christian context. Church is called out of the world, but is not opposed to it. More emphasis on centre, than outer limits.
2. This model has rich biblical content and is ecumenically sensitive (in touch with the church worldwide)
3. Church as community prioritises deep human relationships. Vision of God’s mission grows (not imposed) from ‘dwelling in the Word’ & ‘dwelling in the World’.
4. Mission is linked to our vocation as priests. We are priests on behalf of the residents of our street. The concept of ‘representation’ has eluded us (because of individualisation). Community thinking needs to regain its place in our theology. Praise & intercession in the church service are always also for the benefit of the world. This model of priestly church is much more responsive to mission in culture where Christians are no longer morally or otherwise superior. It is not so much about quantitative growth as it is about the multi-coloured nature of the community. Evangelisation is about diversity because in it the fullness of Christ becomes visible. Motivation for evangelisation is primarily doxological.
5. The church is on earth to glorify God, in every tone. This becomes especially visible in the liturgy, the eucharistic heart: that is looking back to remember the Lord’s death, looking around to become aware of one another and looking ahead to expect the Lord.

X. Ecclesiology: Imagining a theology of youth ministry for the church (Fuller Theological Seminary, USA)
Anderson & Guernsey suggest a helpful paradigm for a theology of church using the metaphor of ‘the family of God.’ Two foundational notions:
First: God’s covenant with humanity, beginning with Israel, establishes a precedent of covenant relationship for all of God’s people. God is committed to God’s people, even when they do not live up to their end of the deal. Our relationships as Christians are covenantal; we are called to remain completely committed to God and other Christians.
Yet as we think of the church as a family, the notion of covenant defies the idea that we have simply chosen to become family to one another. Simply put, God has chosen us to be his children.
Second: the parent-child relationship. Our human, parent-child relationships image the Fatherhood of God. Our calling as a church family is rooted in the family God has established.
So at the crux of it, we’re invited to think of the church as a ‘family of families.’

XI. The Five Marks of Mission (Anglican Communion)
The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ:
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth