Ordination Questions: Nature & Mission of the Church

8.) Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

The Church is the global Body of Christ formed for the salvation of the world.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline helpfully reminds us of the nature of the local church as: 1.) a place of disciple-making, 2.) a community of true believers under the Lordship of Christ, 3.) the redemptive fellowship where the Word of God is proclaimed, and 4.) the place where the sacraments are administered to the people of God.[1]  The Discipline then breaks these tasks into three distinct activities: maintenance of worship, edification of believers, and the redemption of the world. 

One of the congregations I serve has been transformed by the answer to this question.   Over the last few years, we have been involved in not one, but two mission trips to Rio Bravo, Mexico.  Although this is a fairly common occurrence for some congregations around the Oklahoma Conference, it has been extremely significant for our congregation.  Not only had our congregation never been to Mexico on a mission trip, they had never participated in a Volunteer in Mission experience in the history of the congregation!  The difference in the congregation has been profound, and I believe the reason relates directly to the nature and mission of the Church.  As we participated in these two missions, we have received far more than we have given.  The mission experiences have been far more than simply going to build homes and serve others; they have been opportunities for deepened discipleship, a testimony to the Lordship of Christ, the very proclamation of God’s word, and active participation in the redemption of the world.

As we have been formed by God’s true story of creation, fall, and above all, redemption, we have been much more sensitive to God’s claim on our lives and our community.  Worship of the Living God is no longer simply “going to worship;” it is training for our missional life together as God’s people.  Christian formation becomes far more than simply memorizing Scripture and learning historical facts about a dry and dusty faith; it becomes learning about a living and active God that we have seen working in our midst.  Redeeming the world is no longer something we hope and pray for as though we are simply wishing for something impossible; it is something we have seen on the ground, incarnate in Christ, and lived in our experience. 

As we are caught up in the passionate pursuit of God in our lives and world, the community of faith becomes the primary place where we grow as disciples, challenging one another, encouraging one another, and learning to embrace God’s guidance and grace.  Although each of our Churches are imperfect and flawed, God has entrusted us with the call to carry out the mission of the Kingdom as God’s vision made known in our world.  We receive a picture of this vision in Luke when we hear how Jesus initiated his mission as he read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  As followers of Christ, we can expect no less than full participation in this mission and God’s vision: preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming release and recovery, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the Lord’s favor.  This vision and understanding of the nature and mission of the Church is profound. As we move from an understanding of Church as “the place we meet on Sundays” to “an essential means God has given for redemption and salvation,” we will begin to live a different way.  If live a life of faithful response to God’s call and vision for the Church, our congregations, our communities, and our world will never be the same.

[1] United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶201

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