The mission of the church is to make disciples.
That’s basically what Greg Gilbert and I take 250 pages to say in What Is the Mission of the Church? We believe our answer to the question is clear from the Great Commission, from the record of the early church in Acts, from Paul’s own missionary example, and from piecing together theological themes like Kingdom and shalom. God sends the church into the world to bear witness to Jesus Christ, win people to Christ, build them up in Christ, and establish them in Christian churches.
There are any number of reasons why someone might not agree with our thesis or like our book. But at the level of gut-reaction I think many people are uncomfortable saying the mission of the church is to make disciples because they feel like this makes most of our lives for most of us rather irrelevant. “I want all of life to matter to God” is what I often hear. Most Christians, especially young ones with a lot of life and a lot of dreams in front of them, want to do something that really counts. They want to know that teaching botany or being a vet or running an ad agency isn’t a distraction from what really matters in life.
And yet, insisting that the mission of the church is the proclamation of the gospel or making disciples makes some Christians feel second-rate. I am sorry for this perception (let alone reality). It’s easy for churches to communicate, wittingly or unwittingly, that evangelism is far more important than anything else. After that, getting involved in church ministries is the next best thing. But the day to day stuff of life in your community, in your family, and in your career–these are, at best, only means to the end of making money so you can support your church or send out missionaries.
This line of thinking is muddled and unfortunate. Creating beautiful parks or elegant symphonies or funny movies, cleaning up our streets and our schools, mastering Russian literature or C++, taking care of your kids and taking care of dying cancer patients–these things matter to God. He cares about beauty, truth, and love. He wants us to grow in excellence and do all things for his glory. So yes, yes, a thousands times yes, being a good, God-pleasing, faithful Christian involves a whole lot more than sharing your faith or leading a Bible study.
But, as Mike Horton reminds us, we don’t have to fold all this in to the mission of the church to make our Christian lives worthwhile. We don’t have to think we are partnering with God in re-ordering the cosmos or ushering in the kingdom. And we don’t have get the organized church caught up in planting trees or lowering unemployment. You can get to “all of life matters to God” without going through missional transformationalism. You can get there with a Reformation doctrine of vocation, a careful two kingdoms theology, and an appreciation for common grace.
The doctrines of incarnation, resurrection, and creation will help too.