Nature, mission, and function
The Church is a worldwide movement of all Christ followers who are unified to see the Gospel message penetrate every people group, thus continuing Jesus’ ministry of establishing His Kingdom on earth. The church not only establishes this kingdom, but it does so by being the expression of God’s Kingdom. Jesus (Matt. 5:14) described his followers as a “city set on a hill [that] cannot be hidden.” bringing gospel renewal to a city by being ministers of reconciliation in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, civic arenas, social projects, etc. Jesus’ Church, on the local level, is a unique kind of community within their community. When the Christian life is more than just life on Sunday, but is a part of every aspect of life, and our love for our neighbors exudes from us on a day to day basis, and thus the entire social makeup of a city can be shifted. This is the power of the gospel working through the life of the church not only in individual lives and in the church, but outward. Therefore, the church’s mission of spreading the Gospel is both promiscuous in daily life and organized through the continual planting of new churches locally and world-wide. Through this kind of existence and action, the church is used by God to both bring in his Kingdom on earth in redeeming a lost world, and to be a taste or reflection of the coming Kingdom for those who are a part of it.
Holistic & Unified Ministry
The Gospel motivates the church to a ministry outside of Sunday morning in a sanctuary. Ministry integrates into the entire life of a Christ-follower (Rom. 12:1ff; Matt. 22:37) because the Gospel renews not only the individual, but it moves the church as a unified whole to seek renewal in its context. It unifies where the effects of sin have divided because the love and grace of Jesus sets up a new kind of social economy. Jesus said that loving God with all that you have and are (the greatest commandment) is related to loving one’s neighbor (the second greatest commandment). When we encounter this kind of holistic transformation in our own lives, we are moved to see the same kind of change happen in our neighbors. We desire to meet their emotional, spiritual, physical well-being and we engage and resource them in a way that we can not only meet their needs, but that they literally experience spiritual transformation because Christians represent Jesus to them. The Gospel, as Jesus both taught and lived it, “is the good news to the poor” (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18). When we experience Him ministering to us both spiritually and physically, it moves us to carry out his ministry to those who experience spiritual and physical disadvantage.
God intends for a local church to be comprised of three levels of human leadership: elders, deacons, and members (Phil. 1:1). Elders are chosen to govern and shepherd the church, equipping the deacons and members to do ministry through their leadership, oversight, and teaching (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 5:17-19). Jesus is the head, or “High Priest” of the church (Heb. 3:1; Eph. 1:19-23; 5:23), and the church and its leaders submit to his lead. Qualifications of elders and deacons are found in, but not limited to Acts 6:1-7, 1 Tim 3:1-8, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-11.
Preaching of the Gospel
Through words and deeds, the church is charged with the responsibility of preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:1-11, Matt. 28:18-20). Through Christians opening their mouths and speaking the message of the Gospel, the elect receive the opportunity to hear and respond to Jesus with faith. If there is nobody sent to preach the word, they will not hear, and will not be saved. In this, the church finds its missional purpose (Rom. 10:13-15).
The practice of the sacraments are one of the marks of a true Christian church. These sacraments of baptism and communion are practices ordained by Jesus, himself (Matt. 26:26-29), as an experience of grace and a proclamation of the Gospel. Baptism is a commencement and initiation into the Christian faith and family (Rom. 6:4) practiced by those believing Christians who are of an age of understanding. Communion is a commitment to being renewed in the new covenant (Mark 14:24). While these sacraments do not save (Eph. 2:8-9), through them, God does offer us his commitment and promise to restore all things through Jesus death, resurrection, and the hope of his return (Acts 8:12; 1 Cor. 11:26).