Here are some interesting facts: according to Barna, 20% of Americans claim no faith (no religion). 1% were not sure if they had faith or not. 6% were something other than Christian. 73% identified as Christian Faith. Out of those who identified as Christian, only 31% claim to be “practicing Christians.” The question is, how can you be a non-practicing Christian?
I don’t know, but reaching non-practicing Christians should be a part of the mission of the Church.
Here is the mission statement from the Nazarene World Headquarters website.
The mission of the Church of the Nazarene is to make Christlike disciples in the nations
I. What is the Church and What is our purpose?
The best place to find the purpose of the church is to look in the Bible. If we look at the book of Acts, chapter 1, verses 6-9:
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
One can see the semblance between these verses and the mission statement of the Church of the Nazarene. The Nazarene Church doesn’t mention Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria, but does mention the nations.
I could simply say that those verses are the mission of the Church and dismiss us. But that is not sufficient. The tension in the church today rests not in the mission, but in how it is implemented. Let me give you an example: At Christian colleges and universities, there are three routes that students can follow: 1) Study Theology and History of Theology; 2) Study to work in the mission field, whether at home and abroad; 3) Study arts or sciences and take only the required minimum number of religious courses. Why is that a problem?
Because nowhere in the Bible does God say that the Mission of the Church should only apply to a CHOICE few.
If so, Acts would read like this:
Then they gathered around him and the Simon called Peter asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority, so why don’t you stick to just leading the church and leave the prophesying to John. John, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and so I want you to be a theologian who specializes in eschatology; Matthias, Andrew, Nathaniel, Stephen, you guys just don’t have what it takes to be a preacher and don’t have the capacity that John does, so you will work secular jobs and be my witnesses by the way you act. Oh, and if anyone asks you why you act differently, then feel free to tell them about me. But only if you are not imposing, and only IF they ask first. And whatever you do, don’t sound preachy.”
After he said this, he was taken up a cloud and within a few years they wondered if what they had seen was real or a mass delusion.
The problem doesn’t lie solely in Christian Colleges. Theologians rarely think about how to spread the Gospel. Missionaries and pastors in the field rarely think deeply about theology. The rest of us, don’t realize – or don’t want to admit – that we too are supposed to carry out the Mission of the Church. Yet, a theologian who doesn’t care about missions is about as useful as the G in Lasagna. A missionary or a pastor with no theological grounding is nothing more than a community organizer.
That is a little of the problem with the way the Mission of the Church is carried out. We will look deeper into the situation tomorrow.