2. Evangelism should therefore not be equated with mission.
This statement is the obvious consequence of the first one. If mission is wider than evangelism, then the two are not synonymous.
People often speak of the mission of the church and the mission of God (missio Dei). It’s important to realize that our Triune God Himself has a mission, an eternal purpose (the Latin word for mission originates from the understanding of the Father sending the Son, and the Father and Son sending the Spirit). Only this provides an adequate context for the mission of the church.
The Mission of Christ- the Church Purchased and Produced
At the end of his gospel, John drives home his message by making three significant statements concerning 1) the identity of Jesus 2) our response to the gospel and 3) the result of our faith.
But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name. –John 20:31
Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. The title Christ bears the thought of mission.
The Recovery Version has an incredible footnote on this verse that unpacks these two titles:
The Christ is the title of the Lord according to His office, His mission. The Son of God is His title according to His person. His person is a matter of God’s life, and His mission is a matter of God’s work. He is the Son of God to be the Christ of God. He works for God by the life of God that man, by believing in Him, may have God’s life to become God’s many sons and work by God’s life to build the corporate Christ (1 Cor. 12:12), thus fulfilling God’s purpose concerning His eternal building.
In His earthly ministry, Jesus always took the position of a sent one (John 4:34). What was Jesus sent to do? What was His special commission?
During His three and a half year ministry, Jesus did many things. In fact, so many things that John estimates that the entire world couldn’t contain all the books that could be written about them. Luke 4:31-44 encapsulates the general structure of His earthly ministry as preaching, teaching, casting out demons, and healing.
Yet as important as all of these things were, none of them constitute the crux of His mission. What if Jesus had ascended after the Sermon on the Mount? What if Jesus had ascended after a few years of performing miraculous healings? Would He have fulfilled His mission? Hardly.
The only logical place for the ascension was after the cross. On the cross, Jesus indicated the completion of His earthly commission by crying out, “It is finished.” On the cross, Jesus fulfilled His earthly commission as the Christ by purchasing the church through His blood (Acts 20:28) and producing the church through His life (John 12:24). Thus, the goal of Christ’s mission was the church, redeemed and produced.
Essential Elements of the Mission of the Church
In the same way, there is something essential to the mission of the church apart from which, no matter what the church does, its commission is not fulfilled. If we only preach the gospel to save sinners, we will have numeric growth but no intrinsic growth. The mission of the church involves both. Paul indicates in Ephesians 4:16 that this growth IS the building up of the Body of Christ. Although Jesus purchased and produced the church, it still needs to be organically built up. Jesus prophesied in the Gospels that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18), but in the Epistles we see that He incorporates us into this action through our spiritual growth and function.
At least four actions then could be considered essential to the mission of the church:
- Preaching the gospel
- Nourishing believers for their spiritual growth
- Perfecting believers for their spiritual function
- Prophesying for the church’s building up
- Evangelism and Mission (lifeandbuilding.com)