The first session of our discussion on the mission and pupose of the local church last Wednesday night began with a question about who’s in charge. Who gets to make the big decisions at First Baptist Church? Is it the pastor? (I was kind of hoping the answer would be yes, but it wasn’t).
No, it’s the congregation.
The cherished Baptist principle of local church autonomy, exercised through a congregational form of government, means that we get to determine our own mission and ministry, but that doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want. We are the body of Christ, as Paul might say, and individually members of it, but Christ is still the head, and in the same way your own head gets to determine what you will do and where you will go Christ gets to determine the mission and purpose of the local church. So instead of doing whatever we want, we try to do whatever he wants.
But what does he want? On Wednesday night I asked each table to take one of the four Gospels–Mathew, Mark, Luke, or John–and search through it for the clear commands of Christ. After twenty minutes of diligent searching I asked each table to report, and by the end of those reports we had written twenty five clear commands of Christ on the flip chart. Yes, he wants us to go into all the world and make disciples. Yes, he wants us to love God and love our neighbors. But he also wants us to wash one another’s feet, love our enemies, and abide in him.
And that was just the beginning.
When our staff did this exercise a few months ago we talked about all those clear commands of Christ and eventually determined that when you put them all together you get a picture of what “life in the Kingdom” looks like. In the Kingdom people make disciples of every nation. In the Kingdom people love God and love their neighbors. In the Kingdom people wash one another’s feet, love their enemies, and abide in Christ. And so the first answer to the question “What’s a Body to Do?” is to live the Kingdom life.
Next Wednesday night we’ll try to find the second answer. If you think you already know what it is, please click on the word “comments” below and tell me. I’d love to have your input.