I find my heart being tugged perpetually to tackle the question of the role of the church in the world. In my own Christian sojourn, short as it may be, I have found the common placement of evangelism as the primary role of the church to miss the mark, breeding anemia, irrelevance and escapism.
A clear miss
Any time one misses the mark in such a crucial conceptual area, for example the vision of an organization or the primary goal of a project, the implications can be quite disheartening downstream; as success seems to enter the realm of the unattainable. Indeed, one cannot even aim to achieve what they do not know and cannot see, they languish in despair and perish who lack vision. It stands to reason that the extent to which the vision is myopic and partial, cutting out large segments of the true vision, is the extent to which the people and the mission perish. To speak plainly, evangelism and the preaching of the gospel of salvation is a subset of the entire mission of the church but not the entire mission itself. It results in beautiful birth, but no one should be satisfied with simply being born. Surely creation groans and waits expectantly not for a flood of babes, but the uprising of mature sons and daughters; the kind of maturity which evangelism is powerless to spawn
What is the purpose of the church?
If you were to search for a biblical teaching on the reason for the existence of the church, the ultimate reason why believers are not zapped into heaven at the moment of salvation, one must examine Ephesians chapter 3 verse 10 – “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Here the Lord, through Paul, in absolute focus on the purpose of the church notes that it exists to reveal to spiritual forces in heavenly places, the multifaceted wisdom of God. This is an act of teaching to angelic forces and an act of war with respect to demonic forces, who we wrestle against (Ephesians chapter 6 verse 10). It may be shocking to some that evangelism isn’t even mentioned! Jesus, analogizing the church, seemed to describe it as a battering ram when He said “the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. The battle of the church is against demonic forces in high places, and they will not win.
What does the church do?
The work of revealing God’s manifold wisdom naturally means demolishing its opposite, the lies of the enemy (See 2Corinthains10:4-6). In many ways the lies of the enemy are his greatest tools, from Eve to the current generation. The purpose of Jesus’ arrival on earth in the flesh is not only found in John chapter 3 verse 16 but also in First John chapter 3 verse 8, where it states that Jesus came “to destroy the devil’s work” and in John chapter 18 where Jesus says, “I was born and came into the world for this reason:to testifyto thetruth”. Jesus was equally clear that in the same way He was sent, He is sending us (John chapter 20 verse 21). As followers of Christ, we too are here to destroy the devil’s work and to testify to the truth, which stretches the believer’s role far beyond evangelism. When it comes down to it, we are expected to be on the battlefield, warring against lies, wrestling against principalities and powers and demolishing demonic arguments which seek to corrupt this world. In a world drowning in lies, we, the sons and daughters of the King, are peculiar, alien and revolutionary; crying “Thy Kingdom Come”. When the kingdom is at war, the princes must also be at war. We are intended to be dangerous to every aspect of the devil’s work, in any and every form; we join with the Lord in crushing the head of the serpent until his final and ultimate end.
A route for secularism to thrive
When we elevate evangelism to the position of sole role of the church, we relinquish our responsibility to engage in all aspects of the culture, dulling the mind of Christ in us. We transfer ourselves from the battlefield to the spectator stands; where the lamp tells itself to thrive under a bowl. If the believer’s role is solely evangelism, we dare not touch politics or science or law or anything contentious at all. There is a grand switch from testifying to the truth and destroying the devil’s work to only telling people about how to get saved. This concept of the church is neither true nor adequate! In this arrangement the overarching kingdom principles which speak to our identity, history and purpose are lost and as nature abhors a vacuum, this believer is at risk for contracting the deadly virus of secularism. He is vulnerable to consciously or unconsciously adopting the sly ideology that the church should be separate from the state, in the sense that Christian voices should be silenced, simply because they are. The believer is tricked into silence and voluntarily giving up our authority.
The chief sin of the secularist is idolatry, as he interprets the entire Perfect Word of God through this puny man-made philosophy of how governance and the Church should operate. He is at risk of experiencing the grave pronouncement that adjoins the declaration that we are the salt of the Earth, for this philosophy results in a significant loss of anti-degradation power, the salt certainly loses its saltiness and becomes good for nothing but only to be thrown out and trampled by men.
Dr. Daniel Thomas is a medical doctor and Christian Advocate who loves the Lord deeply. He is married to Grace-ann Thomas the love of his life and currently leads a youth organization called the Love March Movement; which is committed to empowering the youth to fight for sexual purity and the family in Jamaica.