Why did Jesus build His Church? What is it supposed to do? What is our part in the mission of the Church? What should our involvement in the Church produce?
God always has a reason for everything He does. Why did He establish His Church? Was the Church just to be a place where people can get together to pray and fellowship? Or is there a greater purpose—a great commission—God had in mind for His Church?
What is the Church? What is the purpose of the Church?
In our article “What Is the Church?” we show what the Church is and what it isn’t. As that article shows, the Bible teaches that the Church isn’t a building. It is a group of people called out of this society by God in order to accomplish a specific purpose—His purpose.
What is that purpose? What is the mission of the Church? Is it just for giving encouragement to Church members? Providing social activities? Personal salvation? Or is there more to it than that?
Jesus Christ said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). He built it and remains the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15). So what jobs did He give His followers who would become His Church?
Jesus explains the Church’s mission in His great commission
Jesus Christ’s instructions to the Church are often called the great commission.
After His death and resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples these marching orders: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus also gave His followers the job of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the whole world (Mark 16:15; Matthew 24:14).
Our booklet Welcome to the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, explains:
“This twofold responsibility of preaching the ‘good news’ (the gospel) of the Kingdom of God and of spiritually caring for the called-out disciples (students) of Jesus—teaching them to practice the same authentic truths He delivered to His first disciples—remains the commission of His Church. This foundational guidance gives direction to the work of the Church and identifies those involved as a continuation of the Church He founded.”
Preaching the gospel: what is the gospel?
Jesus Christ’s message was the gospel—from the Greek word euangelion, which means “good news”—of the Kingdom of God. This whole world is currently suffering the results of being “under the sway of the wicked one”—Satan (1 John 5:19). He “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9) and is even called the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Look around and you will see the evil effects of Satan’s way on our families, cities, nations and world. In fact, the intractable problems of this age are bringing humanity to the brink of self-destruction.
But Jesus Christ promised to intervene! He will save us from annihilation, remove Satan and set up a refreshingly new government—the Kingdom of God. As the King of Kings, Jesus will stop all wars and teach the way of peace. The Kingdom of God will bring prosperity, health, positive relationships—all the good things humanity has always longed for.
This is truly good news—the best news possible! And the Church of God has the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming this gospel to the world now.
Jesus Christ promised to intervene! He will save us from annihilation, remove Satan and set up a refreshingly new government—the Kingdom of God.But does the Bible say that everyone will respond? That the peoples and nations of the world will see the error of their ways and welcome Jesus back to the earth?
In fact, the majority will, under the influence of Satan, ignore or ridicule the good news and even fight against Jesus at His return (Revelation 19:19)!
Does this mean the Church will have failed?
Again, the answer is no.
The Church is not called to save the whole world now
Many have been taught or assumed that the mission of the Church is to save the whole world now. This is a logical assumption based on the teachings of many churches—but is it taught in the Bible?
If this were the purpose of the Church, you would have to admit the Church, no matter how broadly you define it, has failed. Only a fraction of people alive today even claim to be Christians. And looking back through history, the percentages look even worse! (See “Are Most People Eternally Lost?”)
The biblical truth is that only God can call people into His Church, and He is calling humanity in stages, at the right time for each person (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Revelation 20:4-5. 12). And His plan of salvation is not limited to this age! God’s plan includes giving all people a full chance to respond to His offer of salvation—even if He has to raise them from the dead to give them their one chance! Read more about this surprising truth in the article “Second Resurrection: A Second Chance?”
This biblical teaching about God’s love and timing does not diminish the urgency of preaching the gospel. God has not told us how many He will call in this age, so the Church must fulfill His assignment by trying wholeheartedly to reach the entire world with the message of good news, warning and hope.
Then Christ tells the Church to be ready to receive all those God calls to be disciples.
Making disciples of all nations: what is a disciple?
Often when we think of disciples, we think of the 12 men in Jesus’ inner circle. These were the ones who went on to become apostles. But there were many more disciples than 12. By the time described in Acts 6, there were thousands of disciples, and “the number of the disciples multiplied greatly” (verse 7).
The word “disciple” can be used of all Christians, since it is from the Greek word mathetes, which means “a learner.” According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “A ‘disciple’ was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher; cf. John 8:31; 15:8.”
So as God calls more learners, the Church has the mission to teach them “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This, too, is a challenging and rewarding task.
Other responsibilities and benefits of the Church
As members support the mission of preaching the good news and spiritually caring for the called-out disciples, they help accomplish many other things as well. These bring benefits to each disciple, to the Church and eventually to the whole world.
By serving, members of the Church grow to think and act more like God. They “grow in grace and knowledge” (2 Peter 3:18), resist Satan (James 4:7) and develop godly character.
However, the messages to members of the Church in the New Testament make it abundantly clear that the Church is not perfect (1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 John 1:8, 10). Members of the Church are to recognize their own weaknesses, repent and work on overcoming them (1 John 1:9; Revelation 2:7).
Thankfully, God provides the power of the Holy Spirit to baptized members of His Church to help them overcome, change and be converted. (See our free booklet Change Your Life! for more about this essential process.)
Working together as the Body of Christ
The Bible also compares the Church of God to a human body, showing the vital connectedness Church members need to have. God calls people from widely varied backgrounds and gives them different gifts, but He wants them all to learn to work together and care for each other and for the children God has given them.
“But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27).
God gives different roles, responsibilities and gifts to different ones in the Church for a purpose:
“For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:12-16).
The Church prepares us to serve with Christ in the Kingdom of God
All of this prepares members of the Church—the Body of Christ—to serve with Christ at His second coming. In a sense, the Church is like a teacher’s college and training program for leaders to help serve in the Kingdom of God.
The Bible calls all true Christians saints. Daniel prophesied that when the Kingdom of God is set up on earth, “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18).
The apostle John adds that this fulfillment of the gospel begins with a Millennium of peace: “They lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4). (For more on this, see our article “How to Become a Saint.”)
Looking for the church behind Life, Hope & Truth? See our “Who We Are” page.
How can you contribute to the mission of the Church?
Study the scriptures and additional resources in this article and prove for yourself what the job of the Church is.
Are you part of a church that is teaching “all things” that Jesus Christ commanded? Are you an integral part of a church that is actively working to fulfill the mission of preaching the good news of the literal Kingdom of God?
God’s plan is for Christians to be actively involved in the Church of God, serving and growing together as they support the preaching of the gospel and the making of disciples of all the nations.
We encourage you to learn more about the Church Jesus founded by reading these related resources: