The Identity and Mission of the New Testament Church by Ronald D. Bryant

     The redeemed are to be a distinct people.  They are to be distinct from the world and from those who are merely religious.

     The New Testament sets forth the true nature of Christian conduct and character.  One must go to it to discover the ethical and value system that imitates and honors Christ, and to obtain guidelines for holy relationships and God-honoring worship and service.

     Christ and His values are central to life in the kingdom.  The life of a disciple is fully human, yet it is ruled by the will and purpose of God revealed in Christ (Hebrews 5:8-9; 12:1-2).

     If the people of a congregation are to live out their God-appointed roles, certain conditions must be met.  First, they must understand who they are, and why they exist.  They must yield to the high and holy view God has regarding the church.  It is imperative that God’s order and government for the local congregation be respected (Philippians 1:1ff).  It is vital that they be able to articulate the message (the gospel) correctly, consistently, and convincingly.  Finally, they must actually be what they claim to be – that which God has called them to be in their life, service, and worship together.

     Some congregations hold to a distorted view regarding their identity and purpose.  Some see themselves as simply a social club with a few religious overtones.  They do religious things, but their focus is upon their social agenda, and they gauge success on the basis of their social interaction. They go to the same clubhouse, pay their dues, and give themselves to their agenda.  They welcome visitors, especially those that “fit-in” and are viewed as potential contributors to the contented state of their club.

     While the people of God are members of one another, and are directed to honor their “one-another” relationship, that relationship is far more than social.  Primarily, they delight in being one in Christ.  They love, serve, encourage, and honor one another, but their focus is upon knowing, honoring, worshipping, and serving God.  They are convinced that they exist to proclaim and personify Christ, and that their mission to the world is to convince and convict their neighbors and friends regarding Christ and their need of Him.  Yes, they care for people; but even more, they care for their eternal well-being, being convinced that through the very word taught, God is calling souls to Himself (2 Timothy 2:1-2; Romans 1:16-17).

     Some congregations seek to accommodate the people around them.  They focus upon the “felt needs” and the interests of the people of the world, even asking them what they desire to find and what they will accept by way of religious emphasis and activity.

     The divine standard is set aside and the dictate of the market-place is pursued.  To inquire of the people of the world as to that which they want in matters of religion may have its place, yet such is finally counter-productive.  It is apparent that “felt-needs” and personal preferences are ever in transition.  That which the people of the world may desire today, will change on the morrow, if not sooner.

     God’s people exist to advance His kingdom.  The local congregation is an outpost of the kingdom.   God’s people are “salt” and “light” (Matthew 5:13ff).  They work to be “examples” (2 Timothy 4:12).

     God’s people are not selling a product; they are upholding the words of the gospel to immortal souls.  They are not seeking to accommodate the latest religious fad, nor are they trying to accommodate people into the kingdom, but they are working to convince immortal souls to live for God.

     Being convinced of the truth of the gospel, they have something to say – something that is vital!  They are convinced that they exist to serve their Lord, not the world, or any of its programs.  Those who set aside God’s will in an attempt to please men are deceived!

     Two traits mark out God’s people. They are called of God to be “holy” and to “serve.”  God called them out of the world to be one with Him; to be holy even as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  To be holy is to be like God, and separate from the world.  In worship and service they are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5-9).

     Secondly, they have a mission.  They serve a high and holy purpose, one that is in full accord with Jesus.

     The Lord came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  The church exists to turn men to Him (Mark 16:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:7-10).  Christians are called of God to proclaim His word – to touch human hearts with the words of life, to speak the truth in love, and to teach and warn every person to the end that they might be saved (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:28).  This is God’s program.  Woe unto those who only pay lip-service to it!

     The people of God have words of faith, hope, and love to proclaim.  They care for souls and about eternity.

     Being called of God, they are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  They remain, “His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (1Peter 2:9).