What is the main business of a local church? Providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants? Evangelizing non-believers? Holding worship services? Providing a venue for musical groups? Preaching the gospel? Hosting the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? Providing a Sunday morning place for friends to meet? Being an advocate for social justice? Making beautiful weddings happen. Ministering to the needs of the poorest people in the community? Providing a safe place for teenagers to meet? Comforting grieving families by serving a repast after funerals? Making beautiful music during worship? Being a premier disaster-response team?
Church members have passionately lobbied for each of these as the main mission of the church in my experience as a pastor. So how does a church decide? We turn to the Gospels and the teachings of Rabbi Jesus. Jesus was tested with the question, “What is the greatest commandment in the Torah?”
He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Jesus taught that the teachings in his Bible (our Old Testament) literally “hang” on obeying these two commands. In the Sermon on the Mount, Rabbi Jesus also taught, “You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) The two Great Commandments and the Golden Rule guide local churches and individual Christians in fulfilling the mission of Christ. Anything else?
What about the Great Commission? Matthew concludes his gospel with it. The last thing Jesus says to his disciples, “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Shouldn’t this be at the heart of what a church does?
As a result, the Church Council of First Church, Sarasota, recently approved the mission statement: Love God. Love People. Make disciples of Jesus Christ. Moving forward, we want all of our programs and ministries to be rooted in these three.