The Work And Mission Of the Church

(based upon a sermon by NB. Hardeman)

 

8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; 10to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  Ephesians 3:8-11

 

In this text we find a good foundation for our subject  "The Work and Mission of The Church"  To these verses, I read to you Mark 4:26-29

26And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth; 27and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. 28The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29But when the fruit is ripe, straightway he putteth forth the sickle, because the harvest is come.

 

The church of Christ has been in existence from the depths of the eternal past. It first existed in purpose in the mind of our Heavenly Father. It next existed in promise to Abraham namely in words of Genesis 12:3   3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”.   It next existed in  prophecy, in preparation and on the day of Pentecost it existed in perfection. Acts 2:41-47.

 

This marvelous institution was represented by the Christ  in Mark 4 as the seed unplanted, the seed committed to the soil, the blade, the ear, and finally the full corn in the ear. From it’s completion it has been God's great missionary society  through which the wisdom  of God may  be made known unto the sons and daughters of men. Every organization necessarily has a purpose likewise a work to be done.  That is true of every organization and association of man. Where I used to work, each work team has a mission statement.,  our  began something like this "To meet or exceed Customer's Expectations"

 

This is no less true of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I must know just what the church is.  Paul said to Christians everywhere, "Ye are the body of Christ" thus we must not view the Lord’s church as some cold-blooded corporation, but a company of men and women who have had their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.  The church therefore is made up of men and women, and is no stronger than the sum total of those who compose it.  It has no more influence in the world, than the sum total of all its members.  Beloved, its has no more money to carry on it work that that given by the different members.

 

That the church has a work, and purpose in the world goes without saying.  Surely God would not send His Son, on such an important mission, bleed and die in order to establish a church, become its' head if it had no intentions or plans, no purposes for it to accomplish.

 

God appointed work in the church because He wanted all members to be happy in this world.   Happiness depends upon having something to do.  What good is a person who has no purpose, no plans no work to accomplish?   When God created man and put him in the Garden, He could have fixed it so man could have been idle all day long, but God wanted man to flourish and be happy, so He gave man work to be done, namely dress and keep the garden.  God imposed upon man from the beginning an obligation and a responsibility.

 

I would hate to claim membership in the church or any organization and have no part in its work. I certainly do not want to be a parasite.  I wish I had the ability to establish first in all members a burning desire to find out what the will of the Lord is , then have a firm resolution to be about the Father's business.  A working church is a happy church, and free from troubles. Dad had a favorite saying, “Remember a mule cannot kick while pulling, neither can it pull while kicking”.  Neither can a church accomplish its work while the members are striving one with another..

 

Now the amount of service to be rendered is like every obligation imposed upon us, according to our several abilities.  I must study, preach, pray, sing, and give according to this principle.  Concerning my giving the Bible speaks in no uncertain terms.  1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him   1 Corinthians 16:1-2.  

Again 2 Corinthians 8:2

2For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not ¾  Jesus truly said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

 

 Now may I ask, what is the purpose of the church of the Lord?   Please allow me to discuss the negative side first. 

 

I do not consider it a part of the work of the church to try to run the government.  I am taught in the Bible to be subject unto the powers that be, just so far as I think them not to be in conflict with the laws of God.  

 

Again, I say to you with some degree of caution and thought that it is not the work of the church to furnish entertainment for the members, yet there are many churches that have drifted into such efforts. They enlarge their basement, put in gymnastic apparatus, and make every sort of an appeal to the young people. I have never read in all of God's word, where such was a work God has given unto His church.

 

Further more it is not the work of the church to try to adjust labor troubles…. or supervise social conditions. We see this today.

 

It is not the work of the church to accumulate large sums of money.  The church should not be in the banking business.

 

Money should be given as we prosper, but  it must not be laid up in treasury for long periods of time. Money needs to be used. When money is accumulated members will began to slack off on giving.

 

Success in life ought not to be determined by our accumulations   but by contributions.   Each one ought to ask , "What have I done in the name of the Lord and as a member of the church to advance the spiritual welfare of humanity?  What have I done to lift men and women to higher heights? Is the world better as a result of my life?"  I have an idea that the sweetest joys that may come to any of us is knowing we have pluck thorns and planted flowers in someone's way here in this life.  When we measure successes in life by our contributions  our only regret at the end will be  that we have not been able to contribute more,  time money, and talents  to the advancement of God's kingdom.

 

The work of the church can be stated under 3 heads ¾  First - The building up of its membership Secondly-Benevolence and,  third, the business of the great commission  Now to the first of these, the building up of the membership.  Charity begins at home, and as we begin this study, put it down  self edification

 

If you have been around the brotherhood as much as I have and your eyes were open, you have observed that about 25% of the average church assumes its whole responsibility. I have thought many times that if just a few of its members were to move away, the doors of that congregation will be closed altogether. There are only a few on the front line of battle.

 

We enter the church as newborn babes, regardless of our years, our furrowed cheeks or silver hair. The natural law is to grow and develop. There are some fundament facts that must be observed in order to promote physical growth, and the same is true concerning our spiritual growth.

 

Let me name some of these essentials.  If a child is to grow and develop as he should,  right food, proper exercise, and be kept free from disease. 

 

Beloved these things are so simple all know them.  When we first entered the church, we were babes in Christ, have experienced the new birth. Hence we need to grow and develop¾   therefore there is a need for food, What shall it be?   Shall they be fed with the words of man?   This Peter answers with no uncertain sound. Hear it ¾   1 Peter 2:1-2

1Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”

 

Milk belongs to the very young and God's order is to feed them with the pure milk of His word. That is the purpose of many of the elementary sermons and classes you hear, we want to teach the young in Christ. 

 

 I stated that a child must be kept free from diseases . These hinder growth. Beloved the world is full of spiritual diseases that appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  Remember our children spend an hour or so in services a week,  (sit in a 30 minute class, hear a 25 minute sermons), then go out into the world where this is rivaled by six days of counter teachings, and we wonder why there is not more growth in our young.

 

 There has never been a strong Christian ignorant of the word of God, there may have been some beginning zeal, but the word must be presented for growth.  Thus Paul spoke to the elders of Ephesus ¾       Acts 20:32

32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

 

Let us ever remember that our youth are babes in Christ, it takes time for them to grow and develop, Feed them with milk that they may grow up in our Lord's church.

To build up every member, I conceive to be one work of the church.   In 1 Cor 14:12 Paul states

12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

 

Now here are two thoughts exactly the opposite.  Brethren you are quite zealous when it comes to receiving. Now, seek to excel in building up the church. And upon this our ambitions ought to be centered. Let us personally grow that we might give.

 

In Col.  2:6-7 Paul writes to these ¾

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” This ought to be characteristic of every child of God on earth.  

 

But again, I said to you there is a benevolent work to be done.   In Ephesians 4:28 Paul said 

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth”.

 

It is surely a false conception for any member to fancy that he is too good to use his hands in doing that which is honorable and needs be done. This letter was written to the church at Ephesus and to all the faithful in Christ Jesus. It therefore includes preachers, elders, and all members.  So long as I am mentally and physically able to work,

 

I do not want to be an object of charity.  A motto  all of us ought to adopt , yea a commandment            Gal 6:9-10

9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith

 

Again  James 1:27 ¾

27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

But enough on this.

 

I have reserved for the last the discussion of what I consider the supreme work of the church. To teach God's Word and preach the gospel to dying humanity.  This is the noblest work on earth. 

 

Beloved we may feed and clothe humanity and provide for all their physical needs, but if we fail to preach the gospel to them, they will die and like the rich man we read about in Luke Chapter 16, “lift up their eyes in hell”. There are many who would reduce the church to the Red Cross or some other charitable organization, simply caring for temporal needs

 

But the church is God's great missionary agency for proclaiming to a lost and ruined generation the hope of eternal life, only in Christ Jesus. Any church therefore, that is not interested is not active in saving the souls of mankind is not imitating  the church Christ died to establish.

 

The church will attract the attention of the world in proportion to its efforts to preach the gospel and save mankind. The last words of our Savior you remember ¾15Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  Do not add, nor take from, nor substitute for it. Just be content to preach the word. Know nothing save and Him crucified.   16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16).

 

There are many hungering and thirsting for the Bread of Life. Now I ask "upon whom does the responsibility to preach the gospel rest?" Certainly no political party is expected to undertake this task. The President of the United States will not put this in next year's budget. No human fraternity considers this their business, and no denomination will preach a full old Jerusalem gospel.  The obligation rests squarely upon the church of Christ. Such responsibility belongs to members of the body of Christ, and if we will not do it, we fail in the Lord’s personal mission which must be the mission of His church.   Note  Luke 19:10  10For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.  Can we do less?

 

From the Sermon on the Mount  Matt.  5:13-16

13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

 

Hence the church (I must) be about the business of my Master. The commission was given to the 12 but  before they passed away,  Paul said to Timothy ¾ “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”.  

 2 Timothy 2:1-2     This explains how the gospel is to be perpetuated and it also name the two qualifications for a gospel preacher. He must have the ability to teach, and be faithful to God's word.

 

Brethren a congregation of God's people exists to serve the community of which it is a part. The community does not exist to  serve the church.  Put it down we must imitate our Perfect Example  Jesus Christ who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and give His life a ransom   ¾What a privilege to serve the God of Heaven¾

 

contact:

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658