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The Mission Of The Church:

The Mission Of The Church
The mission of the church is often misunderstood by many and can be the reason for the change of focus from the church of Acts to the modern day church.  In order to examine the paradigm shift, the writer is going to define “Christian Ministry” in accordance with Matthew 20: 28 and John 13: 1-17 and other extra biblical sources.  “Mission of the Church” will be defined along Luke 4:11-19, Matthew 22:37-39 and Matthew 28:19-20.
 The word ministry comes from the Greek word diakoneo meaning “to serve” or douleuo meaning “to serve as a slave”. Christian ministry is composed of believers and followers of Christ’s values who are committed to serve God in love and humility out of devotion to believers and non-believers. In Christianity, Jesus is the measurement rod for ministry which he demonstrates as a service to God and to others in his name (The GotQuestions.org Network). 
 In Math 20:28, Jesus briefly explains his ministry as that of service and not being served.  In John 13: 1-17, Jesus again explains the meaning of his ministry by a practical demonstration of serving when after supper he washed the feet of his disciples which presumably were smelly and soaked with sweat and dust of the desert.  He then commanded them to do the same to one another’s feet. 
The New Dictionary for Pastoral studies edited by Carr (2002) defines the early church as heavily influenced by synagogue practise.  It was a gathering in houses or synagogues of people who held in common the experience of faith and baptism in Jesus Christ and would offer prayers, read scriptures, receive scriptural teachings, share food and celebrate the Eucharist. 
The mission of the church according to Luke 4:18-19 is fivefold namely to preach the gospel, heal the broken hearted, proclaim liberty for the captives, recovering sight for the blind and free the oppressed.  Mathew 22:37-39 give us a two dimension mission which is worshiping God with heart, soul and mind and Love of neighbours.  
The apostles who were the foundation of the church were given parting instructions by Jesus to go and teach, evangelize and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to all nations (Mathew 28: 19-20).  These three captions form the mission of the church which can be summarised as worshiping and glorifying God, edification of the church and evangelizing the world.
According to Boer (1976: 17- 18), the early church of Acts took a universal approach as opposed to being just for the Israelites.  The council of apostles and elders of Acts: 15 signified the end of conversion to Judaism with special mention of circumcision as no longer a requirement for baptism.  Christianity as a religion was opened to all irrespective of culture. Kuiper (1997:5-6) support this universality by further adding that members were united by spirit of one accord and love. 
This was demonstrated in their sharing of material goods and their concern of welfare of fellow members and they were of one heart and one soul.  Acts 2:44-47 and 4:33-35 confirms this by goods and possessions which were sold and proceeds divided among all according to need and people fellowshipping, praying and praising God daily in one accord.
Preaching in the early church of Acts was simple and the apostles’ main message in their teaching was repentance for salvation of sins, the death and resurrection of Christ but with strong emphasis on resurrection and baptism (Boer, 1976:17-18). In Acts 2:29-42, Peter proclaims that what they were seeing and hearing was manifestation of the Holy Spirit of the resurrected Christ whom they crucified and was raised by God from the dead. 
He calls them to be baptized for remission of sins and receipt of Holy Spirit.  In Acts 17:16 -17, Paul in Athens reasons in the synagogue  and market place with Jews and Gentiles daily but in verse 30 he commands that every man repent.  We see Paul again in Acts 19:1–10 preaching for two years in Asia about repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and receipt of the Holy Spirit.
The church of Acts was obedient to the great commission of Mathew 28:19 -20 which according to Gonzalez (2005:18–21) and also Renwick and Harman (1999:21 -23), we find Philip preaching repentance and baptism to the Ethiopian Eunuch along the road to Gaza (Acts 8:26-40).
  We also read of Peter preaching the same gospel in villages of Samaria (Acts 8:25), Lydda (Acts 9:32), Joppa (9:36-43) and Caesarea (9:24-48).  Paul and Barnabas started their missionary journey in Antioch (Acts 13) preaching the gospel of repentance, baptism and the ressurectional Jesus.  The remainder of Acts from chapter 16 is mainly Paul’s missionary journeys. Many more disciples like Barnabas, Silas and more preached in synagogues and people’s houses.
According to Renwick and Harman (1999:21-23), the authority of the early church lied in the apostles first and latter to the prophets. Boer (1976:17 -18) reaffirms the apostolic authority when he says the Church of Jerusalem exercised supervision over the preaching of the gospel as evidenced by Jerusalem Council held after Peter had baptised Cornelius and family and Paul had baptized Gentiles in Antioch and outlying arrears (Acts 15). The appointment of seven elders to oversee the distribution of food is another example of apostolic authority (Acts 6:1-4).
According to Boer (1979:17-18) the early church, proclamations were accompanied by signs and wonders and power of the Holy Spirit resulting in many conversions even among priest, healing and deliverance. Examples of these are found in Acts 2:1-4; 2:37-38; 4:4; 4:23-31 and 5:12-16.
The early church of Acts to a great extend met the content of ministry work. According to The GotQuestion.org which was ministering in spiritual things, sharing the Gospel of Christ and also ministering to the physical, emotional, mental, vocational and financial needs of others in love and humility.
The early church took a universal approach disregarding geographical, economic and cultural boundaries when it came to matters of preaching, worshiping and distribution of food and property being guided by apostolic doctrine(Acts 1:42, 2:44-47, 4:33-35 and 6:1-3). The modern day Church has been divided along denominational and doctrinal lines and hence the emergence of many churches.
 However the emergence of the world Council of Churches in 1910 has tried to unify denominations under a common calling to the glory of one God father, Son and Holy Spirit.  However universalism still has not been achieved because the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic did not take part and are still not participants following doctrinal differences.
The Church of Acts reserved authority in the Apostolic Council of the twelve and elders to settle all disputes and doctrinal issues(Acts 6:1-3 and 15:1-25). Christian churches scattered in the world operated independently but would always refer matters of contention to the apostolic council in Jerusalem.  The churches of today are independent in operations and authority hence the rise of protestant churches.
The early church’s gospel was of repentance, baptism and receipt of Holy Spirit and crucification and resurrection of Jesus.  Proclamation of the word was followed by signs and wonders, and power of the Holy Spirit resulting in conversions, healing and deliverance. 
According to Renwick and Harman(1999:21-23) there were no manuals for devotion which kill informal demonstrative approach to religious worship and priesthood of all believers was a reality unlike in modern day church were the priest or pastor is responsible for everything.  The modern day church’s teachings have become more doctrinal than scriptural as signs and wonders and power of the Holy Spirit rarely manifest. Then the question that is often asked by unbelievers is of whether the Jesus being proclaimed today is the same with the Jesus that was proclaimed in Acts by apostles.
Acts 4:33-35 talk of no one lacking in the church, for all with properties disposed them and surrendered the proceeds to the apostles who distributed among them according to need.  The church of today rarely takes matters of welfare seriously and re-distribution of wealth is only heard in the circular world through Government tax regimes. Disparities in standard of living among church members best explain this.
The apostles of Acts did not view themselves as masters after being endowed with the Holy Spirit. Most ministers of religion of today take ministry as a vocation forgetting their main call of evangelizing, teaching and baptism to the world and they spend much of their time on the pulpit and most do not put effort to train evangelists in their churches nor budget for such programmes.  In essence most are stalling the mission of the church in Mathew 28:19-20
The modern day church has not done enough to resemble the church of Acts which demonstrated universality in all respects.  Denominational doctrines have taken centre stage instead of the crucified and risen Christ in whose name baptism is done for the remission of sins and receipt of the Holy Spirit.
 Some pastors in ministry appear to use their positions for vocation instead of serving God in love and humility out of devotion to believers and non-believers. However The World Council of Churches have tried though with little success to resuscitate the universal church that was in Acts by seeking to fulfil together their common calling to the Glory of one God, Father , Son and Holy Spirit though with little success.


REFERENCE LIST
Boer, H.R. 1976.                                                A  Short History of the Early Church:  W.B, Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids.
Carr, W. 2002.                                                     The New dictionary of Pastoral Studies:  WB Eerdmans Grand Rapids.
Gonzalez, J. L. 2005.                                        The Story of Christianity: Hendrickson Publishers. Peabody, Massachusetts.
Kuiper, B, K. 1997.                                             The Church in History: WM.B, Eerdmans Publishing Grand Rapids.
Renwick, A, M and Harman, A, M 1999.        The Story of the Church, Third Edition: Intervarsity Press. Leicester.
The GotQuestions.org Network                       Accessed 31/10/2014.


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