Three men encountered the Lord Jesus Christ, and it changed not only their lives, but the world. Peter, James, and John, among others, are recognized as apostles—a unique and handpicked crew of Jesus’ disciples who personally encountered him, and afterwards, authored portions of the New Testament. Their writings endured the fall of the greatest world power (Rome) and are still, 2,000 years later, published by the millions and distributed worldwide.
How did they change the world? What was their mission? And as followers of Jesus and members of his Church, what is our mission?
What Is the Church’s Mission?
Some might answer that the Church’s mission is racial reconciliation, the pursuit of social justice, or the alleviation of poverty. Though these are all wonderful parts of the Church’s ministry, they are not it’s primary ministry. It was not a mantra for a political agenda that drove these men across the globe, but the memory of Christ’s words they had ringing in their ears:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Kevin DeYoung helpfully paraphrases this verse in his book, What is the Mission of the Church?: “We believe the church is sent into the world to witness to Jesus by proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations” (26).
15 Scriptures on the Church’s Mission
Proclaiming Jesus Christ is the clear and unchanging ministry that pervades the New Testament—and this ministry is given to the Church today. Here are 15 examples from Scripture to illustrate this truth.
1. In Damascus: “He proclaimed Jesus…saying, ‘He is the Son of God’”(Acts 9:20).
2. In Lystra: “They continued to preach the gospel”(Acts 14:7).
3. In Derbe: “They…preached the gospel…[and] made many disciples…”(Acts 14:21).
4. In Macedonia: “We sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them”(Acts 16:10).
5. In Thessalonica: “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ’” (Acts 17:2-3).
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6. In Athens: “He was preaching Jesus and the resurrection”(Acts 17:18).
7. In Rome: “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome”(Romans 1:15).
8. In Corinth: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). “What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
9. In Troas: “I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 2:12).
10. In Galatia: “[God] was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”(Galatians 1:16).
11. In Ephesus: “This grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…”(Ephesians 3:8).
12. In Philippi: “Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
13. In Colossae: “Him we proclaim…that we may present everyone mature in Christ”(Colossians 1:28).
This emphasis on proclaiming Christ was not only pervasive in the ministry of Paul. Peter, also, writing to the church, says that it is our ministry too.
14. In 1 Peter: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”(1 Peter 2:9).
And John, writing to the churches, says that the proclamation of this gospel is for every nation, tribe, language, and people.
15. In Revelation: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people”(Revelation 14:6).
How God’s Work Gets Done in the World
The apostles did not sit down and say, “Now what are the issues that need to be addressed in the Roman Empire?” The apostles did not set out to change the world—they set out to proclaim the Christ who had changed them. And through proclaiming Christ, lives were transformed, churches were planted, and the world was changed.
Here is how God’s work gets done in this world: We are the means. Christ is the message.
The work of God gets done by his chosen instruments who act in obedience—even when they are afraid—who are filled with the Spirit, who know and love the Bible, and are able to open it, and who point others to the Jesus who can change the world.