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With the CDC’s announcement last week that fully vaccinated people can return to normal, pre-covid activities, it feels like the end of the pandemic is within sight. Yes, more still needs to be done to officially say the pandemic is over. And yes, covid-19 still is a serious disease. But there is tangible progress in the battle that has us thinking ahead to a world “post-covid.” I want to use this space over the next few weeks to think about the implications for the church. One challenge the church faces coming out of covid is the need for unity among believers. This last year has been filled with contentious debates over how to respond to the pandemic, politics, and racial tensions. The devil has been having a field day by exacerbating divisions among believers. The Bible tells us plainly that Satan is waging war against the church (Rev. 12:17; Eph. 6:12). Among his many, faith-destroying tactics, he loves to disrupt the unity Christ has created among believers (Eph. 2:14). ... Keep Reading

One of my aims in writing about the mission of the church these past few weeks is to provide clarity for Oak Hills about our mission. For what is Oak Hills here, in Shawnee? The elders read several years ago What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. It is extremely helpful on this subject and has informed some of my writing these weeks. I want to conclude this series by returning to a distinction made early on, but from another angle. I heard Harry Reader, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, say last week, “the mission of the church gathered is narrow; the mission of the church scattered is broad.” Let me unpack that statement. The “church gathered” is another term for what DeYoung and Gilbert call the “church institutional.” Oak Hills Presbyterian Church is one manifestation of the church gathered. We are an entity with a specified confession of faith, form of government, rules of discipline, and directory for worship. Other churches are separate entities with similar guidelines that distinguish who they are and how they operate. ... Keep Reading

It is very clear in Scripture that God cares for the poor and wants his followers to care for the poor. Take for example Proverbs 14:31, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him;” and Galatians 2:10, “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” In light of God’s heart for the poor, Jesus makes an intriguing statement in John 12:8, “The poor you always have with you.” This is in the context of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet as an act of worship and gratitude for Jesus raising her brother from the dead. John tells us that Judas considered this act to be wasteful, that the perfume could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Matthew tells us that Judas’ attitude was shared by the other disciples as well (Matt. 26:8). Why would Jesus respond this way? Wouldn’t Jesus want to see poverty irradicated? What do we learn from Jesus’ response about the poor always being with us? ... Keep Reading

In the discussion about the mission of the church the topic of justice inevitably comes up. In our current cultural moment, justice is a hot topic. And we know from Scripture that God cares about justice. So, how do these three things intersect? Let’s start with Scripture. The oft-quoted verse about justice is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In chapter 6, the prophet asks, “with what shall I come before the Lord?” (v. 6). As a means of exhorting Judah, the prophet uses this rhetorical question to call the people of God to covenant faithfulness toward God. God is not pleased with “burnt offerings,” “rivers of oil,” or “my firstborn for my transgression.” As Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah has the same exhortation, God is not pleased with superficial religious activity (see Isaiah 58). God desires his people to be transformed by his covenant love and faithfulness into the sort of people who do justice and are gracious and humble. ... Keep Reading

Last week we considered how the first and second greatest commandments (love God and neighbor) impact the discussion about the mission of the church. Ultimately, the first and second greatest commandments are for the church organic; the church institutional* cannot obey or fulfill these commands for individual Christians. When the church institutional is fulfilling her mission, primarily summarized in the Great Commission, the church organic is equipped and empowered to fulfill her mission. Let’s look more closely at the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It features prominently in a discussion between Jesus and a lawyer in Luke 10:25-37. The lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” (v. 29). Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ point is that the command is not about identifying worthy neighbors to serve but about becoming a loving neighbor to the people you come in contact with. The Samaritan, crossing cultural and ethnic divisions, out of compassion, meets the man’s needs. Jesus concludes by saying, “Go, and do likewise” (v. 37). A few observations about this parable: 1. We do not evaluate who we love and serve based upon ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, educational level, or even morality. Such divisions do not honor God, nor do they fulfill this commandment. 2. Compassion is integral to loving your neighbor. Compassion is seeing the need of another and, out of love, seeking to meet that need. 3. There is a limit in the application of this command, however. We are not obligated, individually or corporately, to meet the needs of every single human in the world. So, how would we know whose needs we are obligated to meet? ... Keep Reading

Often in the discussion around the mission of the church, the greatest and second greatest commandments are mentioned. Jesus draws attention to these two commands as the first and second greatest in Matthew 22:37-39, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Even in our Getting Acquainted with Oak Hills material we mention these commands in the discussion of the mission of the church. We mention the three dynamics of our mission: Upreach (fulfilling the call to love God); Inreach (fulfilling the call to love neighbor); and Outreach (fulfilling the Great Commission). When it comes to the mission of the institutional church, however, the great commandments play a different role than the great commission. Let me try to draw out this difference.... Keep Reading

While thinking and speaking about the mission of the church, the concept of kingdom often comes up. Language such as “establish the kingdom,” “build the kingdom,” or “grow the kingdom” is often used in the context of the mission of the church. And the concept of the kingdom is applied to all sorts of areas, including the environment, social needs, and politics. Some clarity on what the Bible teaches on kingdom is beneficial for our discussion on the mission of the church. ... Keep Reading

Over these few weeks in Touchpoint articles, I am seeking to provide clarity about the mission of the church. My aim and prayer is joyful and unifying clarity. If we, as members of this body, clearly understand what God calls us to do as a church, I believe we will be blessed with joyful unity around that mission. I also pray that such clarity will serve the fruitfulness of our gospel ministry. So far, I highlighted the distinction between the church organic and the church institutional. There are commands in Scripture that individual followers of Christ must obey (church organic). There are commands in Scripture that the church as an institution must obey. One of the clearest commands for the church institutional is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. Last week I said that in order to make disciples the church must proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? If the mission of the church is to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel, we must be very clear on what the gospel is. ... Keep Reading

Over these few weeks in Touchpoint articles, I am seeking to provide clarity about the mission of the church. My aim and prayer is joyful and unifying clarity. If we, as members of this body, clearly understand what God calls us to do as a church, I believe we will be blessed with joyful unity around that mission. I also pray that such clarity will serve the fruitfulness of our gospel ministry. Last week, I highlighted the distinction between the church organic and the church institutional. There are commands in Scripture that individual followers of Christ must obey (church organic). There are commands in Scripture that the church as an institution must obey. Sometimes those commands overlap the distinction; sometimes they do not. In these articles I want to clarify the mission of the church institutional. Today, let’s consider a command that most Christians can unify around: the Great Commission. It’s found in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Let me make some observations about the Great Commission. ... Keep Reading

I have served on the staff of a local church in some capacity for 25 years now. Large churches. Small churches. Suburban churches. Rural churches. Urban churches. Non-denominational churches. Baptist churches. Presbyterian churches. I have witnessed God work in the lives of hundreds of people. The power and hope of the Gospel binds up the broken-hearted, brings joy to the downcast, empowers courageous ministry, chastises the proud, and inspires great sacrifice. The wonder and joy of knowing Christ has compelled me to preach. Over these years, however, I have witnessed a common struggle in every church. This struggle is often expressed in moments of frustration and disappointment. “Why doesn’t the church do more ________?” “I wish the church offered ________.” “Doesn’t the church care about _________?” “The church should be doing _______.” At the root of such frustrations is the struggle over what is the mission of the church. What should the church be doing? I would like to address this struggle for the church I love, Oak Hills, over the next few weeks in Touchpoint. My aim and prayer is joyful and unifying clarity. If we, as members of this body, clearly understand what God calls us to do as a church, I believe we will be blessed with joyful unity around that mission. I also pray that such clarity will serve the fruitfulness of our gospel ministry.... Keep Reading

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