“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
The vision that unites us is God’s vision for the church, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. We may have many good ideas among ourselves, but the church belongs to Christ and it is His vision that is compelling and unifying.
The purpose of the local church is to bring glory to God. Ephesians 1:11-12 says, “In him we were also chosen…in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” We are each trophies of His grace, won through the mercies of Christ. We are to be like hungry beggars who have found food telling others where they can find it also.
The way we bring glory to God is through functioning the way He has commanded churches to function:
· Through worshipping God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
· Through sharing Christ with others: “…Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).
· Through discipling believers in the Christian faith: “…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20)
· Through fellowshipping and caring for one another: “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)
· Through ministering in the name of Christ to the needs in the world: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
Notice that these five functions come from two passages in Matthew’s gospel that we normally call the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The reason that Matthew’s gospel is placed first in the New Testament is because of its organization, because through it we see the priorities Christ gave for His people. As we see the history of the church unfold in the book of Acts we see these five functions acted out. These commands represent Christ’s priorities for every church.
The New Testament church worshipped God enthusiastically and was united with one heart and one mind (Acts 2:46-47). They shared Christ boldly with the lost world (Acts 4:12). They taught one another that they might mature in the faith (Acts 2:42, Acts 13:1). They cared deeply for one another (Acts 2:44-45) and united with Christ and with one another through public baptism (Acts 2:41,47). They ministered to the needs of the world around them in the name of Christ (Acts 4:9-10).
These are to be the priorities of every local church. Christ is with us to guide us to understand and fulfill these priorities: we are on mission with Him. He calls us to pray to Him asking for His enabling power and clear guidance to fulfill each of these priorities. As we seek to bring honor and glory to Christ through our worship and witness, we will find unity and peace in the congregation. More importantly, however, we will find that our church will be fulfilling its God-given purpose.
How does your church reflect the glory of God? What is it about you and your church that someone might see and praise God for? What can only be understood in your life and in your church as evidence of God working within you?
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Lord, lead us to a united vision and mission. Lead us to be committed to Your purpose for the church, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Amen.