What is the Mission of the Church? Part 9: Broad and Narrow Missions

May 13, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement


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. 

When Reeder says that the mission of the gathering church is narrow, he is speaking about the biblical mandate that the church institutional must prioritize. We considered this a few weeks ago when we studied the Great Commission. The mission of the church institutional to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them, is primarily a proclamation ministry. The church is to herald the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God. We must treasure and guard the Gospel-proclamation ministry of the church. The Gospel will transform lives, our lives, our neighbors’ lives, and conform them more and more to the image of Christ. 

The “church scattered” is another term for what DeYoung and Gilbert call the “church organic.” This term speaks about individual Christians. Not everything the Bible commands is directed to the church gathered. Many commands are given for individual followers of Christ. 

Therefore, Reeder says the mission of the church scattered is broad. I would add that it is diverse. We each have different giftings, passions, skills, opportunities, experiences, vocations, and personalities. How we fulfill the command of Galatians 6:10, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith,” will look different from one Christian to another. Some may give themselves more to technological good; others to social good; others to economic good; others to relational good; still others to development good. The list can go on and on. The point is understanding that the mission of individual Christians is broad and diverse. Out of Gospel-empowerment, what we give our energy to will be different from Christian to Christian. 

When we gather, let’s unify around the power of the Gospel to renew and transform us, so that when we scatter we are strengthened for the callings God has placed on our lives in a diversity of ways.


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