The Church and Mission: Three Compelling Statements

Here are three statements that I have returned to recently in my thinking about the church and its mission. Each is saying similar things with distinct emphasis. What do you think about these statements? What do you think about the relationship between the church and its mission?

Vincent Donovan, a missionary to the Masai in Tanzania in the mid-twentieth century, in his book Christianity Rediscovered:

Mission is the meaning of the church….The church exists only insofar as it carries Christ to the world….The idea of church without mission is an absurdity.

William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury in the early twentieth century:

The church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

Paul Borden in his book, Direct Hit:

Healthy congregations are defined by sacrifice… They exist more for those who are currently not part of the group than for those who comprise the current congregation.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “The Church and Mission: Three Compelling Statements

  1. I do agree, that ought to be why Church exists , for the mission and non members. But it can’t be the only reason, Church is always also fellowship, so it’s there for members too, for us to walk together.

    • Great point, Emilly. We need to both walk together and reach out together. There is a tension here, but I believe it is a creative tension that helps build up the body both inwardly and outwardly.

  2. I think the second and third statements are right on point. I think that the first from Vincent Donovan makes some good points and is food for thought but to me his statement that “the church exists only insofar as it carries Christ to the world” is too confining of the church. Of course the intent of the body of Christ is to shine his light into the world, but it also exists in teaching, discipling and even disciplining of those who are a part of the church – all of which are integral to the life of the body. It exists in praise and worship, it exists in helping those who are struggling – and it exists in simple acts of love in a multi-faith environment. Certainly many of those acts also show Christ to the world, but to limit the church to that makes me uneasy.

    • Geof, I appreciate your comments. You made me think differently about Donovan’s quotation. I think you point out some really good points, particularly when you consider John Calvin’s statement that “Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence.” I wonder if Donovan is simply trying to help the church recover the importance of mission…and that without any sense of mission we may not be Christians or the church in the true sense of the word.

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