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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Discipleship and Church Mission Statements

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

That is why everything we do as Christians must be in reference to Jesus Christ, His words, and His example. That is why pastors and priests must not fail to make known Jesus' true identity as the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners who turn to Him.

Alice C. Linsley

Most churches have a mission statement; an explanation of the reason the congregation exists and which serves to guide decisions about priorities, actions, and responsibilities. These statements focus attention on what the church regards as essential to its existence as a Christian community. Some are quite brief and others are longer and more detailed. Here are some examples:

Loving Jesus, our neighbors, & each other (New Hope Anglican Church in Oakville, Connecticut)

Knowing Jesus and Making Jesus Known (City on a Hill in Melbourne, Australia)

Loving Our Lord, Living His Gospel, and Making Disciples (St. Peter's Anglican Church in Frankfort, Kentucky)

To present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that turns non-Christians into converts, converts into disciples, and disciples into mature, fruitful leaders, who will in turn go into the world and reach others for Christ (New Hope on the island of Oahu, Hawaii)

As Christ’s disciples, we strive to remain true to the Bible, seeking to honor Him by expressing His purpose and presence as we worship Him, care for His people, reach out to those who do not know Him here and abroad and respond to the needs of our community and region. Our Vision Statement: We strive to follow Christ’s call to advance His Kingdom in northern New Hampshire and desire to introduce local people to Him, one heart at a time, by building relationships with those that we work with, call neighbors and pray for. (Faith Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, New Hampshire)

Some statements define the community's focus and motivation as a denomination. Consider this mission statement of First Assembly of God in Jacksboro, Tennessee:

To present the life changing Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in a clear and convincing message.

To demonstrate the love that Christ has for hurting people.

To convey the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives as evidenced by the gifts and operations.

To proclaim Jesus as Saviour, Healer, Holy Spirit baptizer and soon coming King.

To be a loving, caring church to the hurting people that we come into contact with.

A common emphasis of church mission statements is discipleship and making disciples. The two can never be separated. This is evident in the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

And Jesus came and said to them,"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in (into) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commended you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Disciples of Jesus Christ are made by disciples who have received Christ's authority and by that authority live a different life. The late professor of Philosophy, Dallas Willard, described a disciple as an apprentice to Jesus. He wrote in The Divine Conspiracy. HarperOne, 1998:

A disciple or apprentice is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.

A disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do.

A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus.

To do what Jesus said, what our Lord commanded, gives shape to the best mission statement ever: His Last Command - Our First Concern.

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