What is the mission of the church? If you are reading this, you probably know the answer in some form. Jesus gave us that mission in Matthew 28:19 – 20:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Yet, we have consistently seen a decline in the growth of the Christian church, particularly in the last several decades. The Pew Research Center found that, in the United States, protestant “affiliation” declined from 51% to 43% between 2009 and 2019. They found a decline from 23% to 20% among Catholics in the same time period. Thom Rainer’s research revealed that 74% of churches were declining in 2019. I won’t bore you with more statistics…
Overall, we are not doing well in terms of fulfilling our mission.
This depends on who you ask. Some suggest the church is stuck in a by-gone era and refuses to modernize its methods. Others say the church has modernized too far and has lost its message. Still others report that American society has simply lost faith in the church, though many still hold to their faith in God. My opinion on the matter is…yes.
If you examine the early church, they seemed to lead people to faith in Christ despite being in an adversarial society. By the way, since that is a well-documented fact (read Acts of the Apostles), we can scratch society’s depravity off of our list of reasons (excuses).
That same early church was an active, committed church. No, not everyone was a missionary or evangelist. However, it is evident their faith was important to them (Acts 2:43-47). One, perhaps astonishing, statement in that passage is that believers had favor with God and the people (verse 47). The American church spends far too much energy being antagonistic to unsaved persons. These believers seemed to be able to form relationships with people and this verse tells us they had favor and the Lord added to the church daily.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His followers,
You will receive power when the Holy Ghost comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses…
We see the early church being just that – witnesses of Christ. Today, few Christians share their faith. Few Christians even invite others to church services or small group meetings. Instead, we are comfortable consuming the services of pastors and worship teams. If we attend, we attend to be “fed” and entertained. What we see in Acts of the Apostles is a church filled with people who were transformed into witnesses of Christ.
On the Day of Pentecost, we find Apostle Peter addressing a crowd. He did so quite boldly. It was only 50 or so days before that he denied even knowing Jesus. Yet, it was on the Day of Pentecost that Peter testified that he not only knew Jesus, but proclaimed the truth that Jesus rose from the dead. This was a dangerous move for him.
What made the difference? He had just experienced being filled with the Holy Ghost. A spiritual transformation took place and he was transformed into a witness of Christ.
In Acts 9, you will find a man named Saul – better known to many of us as Apostle Paul. He was transformed into a witness of Christ. He became a missionary and evangelist who planted churches and guided even more.
Be real for just a moment. Ask yourself if you have been transformed into a witness of Christ? Are you actively engaged in the mission that Jesus gave the church? Does your faith in Christ extend beyond your church attendance? Only you can answer those questions for yourself.
In our time, the world needs a church that is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. I believe it’s time for the church to realize the world needs it to:
1. Preach the Gospel and teach the Bible instead of pop-psychology and clichés
2. Recognize that entertainment is exciting, but not life-changing
3. Stop being a politically-driven machine
4. Commit to the mission that Jesus gave
5. Receive the power of transformation that comes with the Holy Spirit
If we want to bring revival to the church, it must begin with repentance. We talk about 2 Chronicles 7:14 a lot:
If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We often pay attention to the pray, seek, and heal parts of this verse. The church must begin with humility. If we are the people of God as we claim to be, we must first humble ourselves. Pray and seek a relationship with God – His face). The next part says repent – turn from wicked ways. THEN the Lord will hear and heal.
The world needs the church to humble itself before God. The world needs the church to repent of its own wickedness. That is, our failure to do the works of God. Our failure to be focused on the mission that Jesus gave us. I sincerely believe these two things will come when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us. He will transform us into witnesses and empower us to reach the world with the Gospel.
We need the power of Pentecost in the church. To quote Dr. Tim Hill:
Pentecost looks like one brother going to another brother and saying, “I said something about you I shouldn’t have but I want you to forgive me.” He embraces him and he hugs him. Pentecost looks like a white man going to a black man and saying, “Let’s join hands and let’s walk together.” Pentecost looks like feeding the hungry. Pentecost looks like drying the tears of a weeping child. That’s what Pentecost looks like. Pentecost looks like a church on its face before God in prayer and humility. This world needs to see Pentecost again.
Well said, Bishop!