Model or Mission?

by Jefferson David Tant

The assembly of people that began on the Pentecost following Christ's resurrection serves as a model for us, even in the 21st Century. We follow the patterns that were set up by the early church in that we respect the way they understood the authority that governed them. We observe how the early church worshipped, and follow the pattern of a cappella singing and remembering our Lord's death and resurrection each first day of the week. We seek to follow the words given to Timothy and Titus in that we want the fullness of the gospel proclaimed in ways that befit sound doctrine. And of course there are other things that define us as imitators of what was practiced by the early church — the appointment of elders, the funding of the work by the first day collections, the work of deacons, etc. It is therefore good that we follow the model of that church. I believe this is what God wants.

Now consider an illustration.

Suppose some years ago a couple of men put together a plan for a sales organization. These entrepreneurs had the idea of gathering together groups of people, having regular meetings, introducing them to the products they had for sale, and then sending them out into the marketplace — neighborhoods.

So — let us suppose that they were able to set up local chapters that had regular meetings so that the members could learn about the products, understand their organizational structure, discuss various ways of spreading the news about their products, and be informed about the benefits of their organization.

They faithfully met every week, had some good discussions, got to know one another, and thus developed a close relationship. After each meeting, they would go home and go about their normal routines, and then meet again the next week, on and on.

Guess what. They had the model down, and profited from their times together, as they learned more and more about their company and their products, and enjoyed their friendships, but they rarely sold any of the products. Their mission was to get new customers and sell products.

The company had both a method and a mission, but was only carrying out the method. Do you see a connection? Can we apply that to the church today? It is possible that we have the model pretty well down pat, but what are we doing about the mission of the church? Just like the  company, we have a product to sell — the good news of the gospel!  

I have known people who had a driving passion to sell some health product that would produce amazing results. If you have a goal of helping people improve their health, or if you work to produce an income to provide for yourself or your family, then a driving passion is the road to achievement.

Let's now make the application to God's "company," his church. In multiplied congregations that I have visited through the years, I see multitudes that have the model down pat. They meet regularly to worship, to study together, to remember our Savior's death and resurrection, etc. They want sound teaching, and enjoy the company of other Christians. After assembling, they go home, and out into the world. They live godly lives, and treat others with kindness. Yes, they have the model down, but do we see the mission carried out?

And just what is the mission of the church? To spread the good news of the gospel of Christ! Some may counter, "Yes, our church is active in this. We support several preachers in the U.S. and overseas. We have gospel meetings, and a VBS every summer." All very good, but why then do we see so many churches that are barely growing, if at all, or are even declining in membership, or just "holding their own?"

Could it be that we are satisfied that we have the model well in place, but that we are not carrying out the mission? I'm not talking about the mission of the church, as a body, but the mission of individual Christians. Please understand, the carrying out of the Great Commission is primarily given to individuals. Note the Great Commission instructs the apostles to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…"

Notice — the apostles were to go "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…(then) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…" (Mathew 19:19-20). What had he commanded the apostles? To teach the disciples to go make disciples! That then makes it the mission of every Christian to do what they can to spread the news. That contributed to the fantastic growth of the early church, and will do much for the growth of the kingdom today. It takes the mission as well as the model. One without the other is not very productive. How many people have you talked to about the gospel lately?