What is church fundamentally about?

What is the purpose of the church? If Jesus is to be believed, according to the Great Commission, it is to be a group of disciples who make disciples. Fundamentally, the church is a disciple-making organisation aiming to glorify God as his people.

How is the church to make disciples? By equipping its disciples for works of service. The church is called to make disciples and then equip those disciples to make disciples who will then make disciples and equip them to make disciples. The church is in the business of making disciples and equipping those disciples for the purposes of making and equipping disciples.

Why is the church to make disciples? For the glory of God, the cause of the gospel and kingdom of Christ. It brings glory to God to grow his kingdom. It brings glory to God when his kingdom grows through his specified means. HIs specified means is to send his church, in the power of his Spirit, to make disciples who make disciples. The Lord calls his church to be the means of making disciples in the world because he is glorified as they grow personally in their faith, in their love for him and in works of service. He is glorified as he confounds the wisdom of the world by using broken people as his agents of change in the world. He is glorified as his kingdom grows through the faith and service of his people. He is glorified as his people rightly worship and obey him as he has called them to do.

At heart, then, all churches ought to have the same essential goal. To make disciples who make disciples to the glory of God. To make disciple-making disciples, we have to equip those disciples to be able to make disciples and disciple other disciples. All churches ought to be about that business.

If our goal is to make disciple-making disciples, we have to think how far and wide we are to do that. Again, if we look at the Great Commission, Jesus tells his first disciples to go into all the world and make disciples. Part of the world is where the Lord has placed us locally, so we have to think about how we will make and equip disciples locally. But part of the world is much further away than we can reach on our own from where we are, so we have to think about how we will make and equip disciples who are much further away than us.

On top of where we will make and equip disciples, we have to think about how we do it. In Mark’s version of the Great Commission, Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel. So, the means of making disciples has to centre on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elsewhere, in Paul’s letter to Timothy, we find that scripture has come from God and is useful for a whole bunch of things involved in the process of disciple-making. So, however we make and equip disciples, the gospel has to be the message we proclaim to them and the Word has to be the grounds of our equipping.

So, our churches ought to be aiming to be disciples that make and equip disciples to be disciples of Jesus Christ who make and equip disciples locally, and across the world, centring what we do on the Word and the gospel message it contains. But Jesus is also clear that the work is fundamentally a work of God. It is God’s message, as given to us in scripture, and he applies its truth to us by his Spirit, without whom nobody will become a disciple. So, not only must we centre on the Word of God – as his message – but also on the Spirit of God as the one who will apply it to the hearts of those we are reaching.

Taken in the round, our church has as its vision the following:

We are a local church of disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ by allowing God’s Word to do God’s work by God’s Spirit that aims to plant, support and partner with local churches in the making and training of disciples throughout the UK and across the world.

We recognise that the church is essentially local. Healthy local churches are a group of disciples who are seeking to make disciples by letting God do his own work by his Word and Spirit. We also recognise that, though we are called to make disciples locally where the Lord has put us, we must seek to make and equip disciples further afield. We believe the church is God’s vehicle for doing this and so want to partner with churches, and plant churches, so that they can locally make and equip disciples of Jesus Christ where they are, whether in the UK or further afield.

I don’t presume everyone must have an identical vision to us. But I do think there is enough in our vision – and believe it is effectively a biblical vision for what our church ought to be doing – that others may could take it, perhaps adjust it for the specifics of their context, and express clearly what they believe the Lord would have them do locally too.

I used to be very sniffy of church visions. I still don’t think you need one on your website. I don’t think your church will crumble without one. I don’t think it is vital to express it publicly nor to have one like we do. But I do think it is helpful to simply and clearly state what your church is about and what you are aiming to do. Once you know what it is you are trying to do, it can help determine how best to do it and what sort of things you could, and should, be doing.