Developing a 2020 Vision for the Church:
The Christian Mission

by Dr. Bob Young
Thanksgiving 2017

Note: On the first Sunday of January 2000, I presented in a combined adult Bible class a list of items to be thoughtfully addressed if the church were to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand the list from that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles. Those articles are still available on this website: Foundations Series.
Almost 20 years later, it is definitely time for a rewrite. The question is still valid: how can the church be a viable voice in the contemporary world? What questions must we address? What understandings are essential for Christianity to survive and thrive in the world we know today? This new series is again being written as articles, but it is expected that the articles will also be useful as outlines for sermon series or seminar presentations.
In this new series, I write to set forth a 20/20 vision, so that we might see more clearly, and to set a goal to be accomplished by the year 2020. The next two years will fly by quickly. Will the church learn anything from what it has experienced? Can the apparent decline in Christianity be reversed? Will the church find renewed strength and resolve to present God's truth with boldness, daring, and sensitivity so that a new generations of Christians learn to live in the world without becoming worldly, to understand the call to unity and diversity, to renew the mission so the primary message is always one of eternal hope? Now is the time to begin working toward the reality God desires for his people.

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| Introduction | #1: Truth | #2: Bible Inspiration | #3: Bible Interpretation | #4: Church | #5: Unity | #6: Worldliness | #7: Christian Experience | #8: Mission | #9: Hope | #10: Human Nature | #11: Christian Living |

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In order to be effective in today's unchristian world, the church must address several practical matters related to the mission of the church. These must be addressed biblically, integrating the message of Scripture with appropriate actions in today's world. Among the matters to be addressed are those mentioned in the previous article--worship, gender roles, and ethnic and racial attitudes. These aspects of the Christian experience, improperly understood, can quickly ruin the mission of the church.

The church must also ask anew about the way the Bible describes the nature of the Christian mission effort. Toward the right end of the theological spectrum, toward conservativism or fundamentalism, the tendency is to understand the Christian mission almost exclusively in terms of evangelism. The mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel. Genuine missionary activity is overtly evangelistic. Such is often in reaction to the "social gospel" and wonders about the value and effectiveness of the various benevolent and educational endeavors which are undertaken under the guise of mission work, often with little or no apparent accompanying effort to meet spiritual needs. The conflict is especially obvious in many conservative churches--one thing is affirmed and another practiced.

We must ask whether it is possible to continue to affirm the priority of evangelism while at the same time feeling the burden of the social ills of the world and refusing to distance ourselves from our social responsibilities? If Jesus came into this world with mighty words and mighty works, both proclaiming and demonstrating, described by Matthew as "preaching, teaching, and healing," do not good news and good works supplement and reinforce one another? To separate them is as Carl Henry has described it "an embarrassing divorce."

The church must find the healthy marriage that links our abilities to help address physical concerns with our intense desire to address spiritual concerns. We must find the "both-and" that will effectively eliminate the "either-or" option. We must not become so enamored with the need for compassionate love that we forget that the ultimate expression of love demands addressing the needs of the whole person. If Jesus is our example, we have no option but do both. We must speak the truth in love, we must minister in love. Both dynamics are clearly visible in the early church described in the Bible, and both must characterize our understanding and practice of the Christian mission today.


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Last updated November 23, 2017