The Mission of the Church Is the Kingdom of God
Jesus came proclaiming the good news of God. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). In addition, he said to his disciples that "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world" (Matthew 24:14). It is clear then that the message of the kingdom was the good news that both Jesus and his followers were to proclaim.
What then is meant by the kingdom? How is it defined? It would seem obvious that in order to have a kingdom a king is implied. That king is Jesus. He acknowledged this before Pilate at his trial (Luke 23:3). He will be universally acclaimed "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" in the consummation (Revelation 19:16). The good news we are to proclaim will therefore always center around Jesus.
But in addition to a king, a kingdom also implies a dominion. It is more than a spiritual dominion for it touches the whole of his creation. The goal of God's kingdom is "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:10).
The church is the agent of the kingdom. The church is to both proclaim and model the good news that Christ is Lord of all of life. This is surely an evangelistic mission, but it will involve more than the message of personal repentance and forgiveness. It will also include the reconciling of all things to himself (Colossians 1:20). It will include proclaiming the reign of Christ over the earth and its resources, over the social and political systems that promote oppression, over the culture and its disregard for its Creator.
In order to help define clearly our mission, we have drafted an outlined description of the message of the kingdom as it is found in the text of Christ's first sermon at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth at the Sabbath worship (Luke 4:14-30). Without doubt there is a predominate evangelistic concern. There is a needed personal repentance and belief. There is a spiritual relationship that permeates the text quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2. But the message of the kingdom also includes the practical and visible realities of life in a fallen world. God's kingdom goal is to ultimately create shalom in the earth. Consequently, we see the mission of the church as including the following practical ministries.
1. Sabbath Observance (Luke 4:16)
Worship is not only for the nurture of God's people, it is to be the call to the society to have regard for the dual aspects of the Sabbath: creation with its sanctity and rest, and re-creation with its life and resurrection.
2. Evangelistic Invitation (Luke 4:18)
The "good news" begins with the message of repenting and believing (Mark 1:15-17). This is a process whose progress will involve variable increments of time. The church' s obligation is to invite individuals into the process of following Christ.
3. Economic Assistance (Luke 4:18)
Good news to the poor is, in practical terms, not a handout. It is the assistance that enables the poor to change their own condition.
4. Relational Intervention (Luke 4:18)
Proclaiming freedom for the prisoners requires relational and often legal intervention. This is the task of the peacemaker who seeks to settle disputes between those at enmity.
5. Physical Provision (Luke 4:18)
The recovery of sight for the blind is a reference to the need for physical help. The church's mission is to provide physical demonstration of its concern for the whole person, body as well as soul.
6. Institutional Justice (Luke 4:18)
The very mention of the oppressed is recognition that there is in force, a power that holds others down unjustly. This is the power of institutional injustice which must be addressed to gain release.
7. Ecological Preservation (Luke 4:19)
The year of the Lord's favor is a clear reference to the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25). Its main focus was to give proper care to the earth and its people by limiting economic greed.