What is the mission of the church? Edmund Clowney in his book The Church provides a helpful and more importantly biblical answer to that vital question. Clowney orders the mission of the church into three categories of ministry: the church serves God in worship, the church serves the saints in nurture, and the church serves the world through witness (199). In all three of these ministries, the mission is spiritual in nature and it is guided by the Word of God. So we worship according to God’s Word; we are nurtured as disciples by the Word; and the Word is what the church proclaims to the nations.
1. The worship of the true God. Clowney reminds us that it is God’s glory which attracts sincere worship, not programs or styles of worship. The glory of God as Creator and Redeemer draws the renewed heart to worship in reverence and awe. If God’s glory is the primary goal of our worship, it will be the governing motive of all we do in worship. And what better way to glorify God in worship than to worship according to his Word? Graciously, God has given direction for how we are to worship, and the church should not do anything in worship except what God directly calls for. God summons us to worship on his terms, not our own. He prescribes what he wants us to do in worship. While such an idea might seem restrictive, it is actually liberating. When we worship God God’s way, we can come with a clear conscience, coming in the name of his beloved Son who shed his own blood for his Bride, and worship the Lord with all our heart and mind.
2. The nurture of the saints. The aim of the ministry to the saints aims to see them grow to maturity in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 14:20). Church nurture aims for growth in grace, fruitfulness, and holiness. These are necessary pursuits for Christians, not to make them Christians but because they are Christians by God’s grace. Union with Christ entails both forensic and renovative benefits which therefore compels the building up of the body of Christ through the nurturing ministry of the church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The goal of nurture, writes Clowney, is, “to know the Lord, to do the Lord’s will, and to be like the Lord” (143). We must know the true God through Jesus Christ, and knowing the true God cannot be separated from the rest of the Christian's life. We live out this new life in Christ knowing that it is the Spirit who sanctifies us, conforming us to the likeness of Christ.
3. The Great Commission. What is the mission of the church relative to the world? The mission of the church is the mission Jesus. Christ came into the world to bring good news, to call people to faith and repentance, to gather his people, and to form them into a body of believers. The church continues to carry on the mission of Christ in the world. Clowney makes this striking statement: “Mission is not an optional activity for Christ’s disciples. If they are not gatherers, they are scatterers” (159). He further explains, “The congregation that ignores mission will atrophy…It will inevitably begin to lose its own young people, disillusioned by hearing the gospel trumpet sounded every Sunday for those who never march” (160). Jesus came into the world on a mission to bring good news, and he has given his church the mission to take that news to the world.
I appreciate the biblical clarity Clowney provides for this important question. What is the mission of Trinity Presbyterian Church? To worship God, to nurture the saints, and to take the gospel to the world.