What is the Mission of the Church? Part 5: Love God
April 15, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
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.
We have already explained that the Great Commission is the ultimate mission of the church institutional. The church fulfills this mission by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, calling people to put their faith in Christ, administering the sacraments, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded. While individual Christians (the church organic) can evangelize the lost and teach Bible studies, the full aspect of the Great Commission can only be fulfilled by the church institutional. The keys of the kingdom (the entrance into the kingdom people of God) are given to the church institutional, not individual Christians. The preservation of the Gospel and sound doctrine is given to the church institutional, not individual Christians. Therefore, the primary mission of the church institutional comes from the Great Commission.
But what about loving God and neighbor? Those are important and “great,” right?
The commands to love God and love neighbor primarily are commands for the church organic, individual Christians. The church institutional cannot love God for you. The church institutional cannot love your neighbor for you. The church institutional can provide us opportunities to love God with all of our hearts and minds and souls, but it cannot make us love God. The church institutional can provide us opportunities to love our neighbor (whether in the church or outside), but it cannot make us love our neighbors. The Gospel is the means for you and me to be transformed and grow in our love for God and neighbor. The primary mission of the church institutional is the proclamation of the Gospel.
Therefore, when the church institutional fulfills her mission well, the church organic grows and thrives in loving God and neighbor.
Why speak about the greatest commandments, then, in connection with the mission of the church? Two reasons:
- As the best summary of all that Jesus commanded, the two greatest commandments give focus for what the church institutional will teach in discipleship. The church cannot love God and neighbor for you, but the church can equip and help you to love God and neighbor through the Gospel.
- The two greatest commandments can serve as measures of the fruitfulness of the gospel proclamation of the church institutional. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. No one can love God and neighbor without the Spirit’s assistance. The Spirit assists believers through their lives of faith in Christ. That life of faith is sustained and empowered by the Gospel.