In a previous consideration of what it is that makes a Great Commission church, we directed our thinking toward a foundational understanding of God’s intent for The Church in the world today. I suggested that God’s intent for The Church is that it be a reliable channel of truth through the fearless and faithful proclamation of the Word of God, and its pointed, practical application to the issues of our world and the lives of the world’s people.
Whatever else it may be or do as part of The Church, each local church demonstrates its legitimacy or illegitimacy, first and foremost, by whether or not it is such a reliable channel of truth. Having established that foundation, there are other essential elements that must be carefully constructed upon it if the local church is to take its place among the ranks of Great Commission churches.
One of those essential elements is a unity of biblical purpose. It is one thing for a church to have a well crafted statement of biblical purpose on paper and even in the minds of its leadership. It is entirely another matter for the church to translate that into a finely honed corporate sense of purpose. The difference can spell the difference between an effective Great Commission church and a “wannabe” Great Commission church.
By corporate sense of biblical purpose is meant; “a unity of biblical purpose which is so deeply ingrained in the thinking of the church’s leadership and its people that it is naturally and practically demonstrated in both personal and corporate behavior.”
Using a touchstone to test the purity of metal is a practice that arose in Greece around 500 BC. It changed the Greek economic system by creating a real value for coined money since people could actually test its purity. As a result, the term “touchstone” began to acquire wider implications. That is why you may hear people referring to a means of judgment or measurement as a “touchstone.” Metaphorically, a touchstone refers to any physical or intellectual measure by which the validity or merit of a concept can be tested. It is similar to how we use “acid test”, or in politics, the “litmus test”.
The Great Commission church’s “purpose” serves as the touchstone by which everything the church does, in every aspect of its ministry, is tested. If a church is to be regarded as a Great Commission church that purpose must be biblical and it must be universally understood and owned by those who comprise that local church.
The following is an example of a statement of biblical purpose that can be adapted and built upon by churches that aspire to be Great Commission churches.
“The purpose/mission of this church is to disciple believers in authentic biblical Christian living and spiritual service so that the Church will be strengthened and the lost will be reached with the Gospel of Christ.”
“Disciple believers” – The phrase “disciple believers” refers to the process of teaching and nurturing those who have placed their trust in Christ as Savior. This is a lifelong process by which the individual is encouraged and assisted in spiritual growth and development and prepared to engage in discipleship relationships with other, sometimes less mature, believers.
“Authentic biblical Christian living” – The word “authentic” speaks of the quality of being the genuine article. The word “biblical” refers to the standard of measurement. The phrase “Christian living” speaks of a life which, in thought word and deed, bears the hallmark of being Christ-like. “Authentic biblical Christian living” therefore is a lifestyle which, in every respect, gives evidence of being governed by the principles of the Word of God when they are applied in a plain and balanced fashion.
“Spiritual Service” – The phrase “spiritual service” refers to the activity of the normal Christian life as it pertains to the understanding and the use of spiritual gifts in service to the Lord and His people.
“Church will be strengthened” – Recognizing the reality of wider circles of influence beyond the local community in which the church exists, the word “Church” here is intended to refer to the Body of Christ. It includes this church, but also draws within its circle any place in the world to which our people may go and continue in their service to the Lord and His people.
“Lost . . . reached with the Gospel of Christ” – This phrase refers to one of the natural results of “Christian living” and “spiritual service”. On the personal level it is the evangelistic work in which each believer, who is living the normal Christian life, is to be engaged as he shares the good news of the Gospel in his daily contact with the world for which Christ died. It also means, for the individual as well as for the church, involvement in the support and promotion of Great Commission activity both at home and abroad.
This is certainly not the last, nor is it the definitive, word on a biblical statement purpose but I believe it is a good one. I’d welcome the thoughts of our readers as they think about these things with me.