The Mission of the Church Summarized by N.T. Wright
Here are some summary statements that N.T. Wright shares about the mission of the church in his recent book – Surprised by Hope.
“The mission of the church must therefore reflect, and be shaped by the future hope as the New Testament presents it. I believe that if we take these three areas – justice, beauty, and evangelism – in terms of the anticipation of God’s eventual setting to rights of the world world, we will find that they dovetail together and in fact that they are all part of the same larger whole, which is the message of hope and new life that comes with the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.” (Wright 2008:230)
“Part of the task of the church must be to take up that sense of injustice, to bring it to speech, to help people articulate it and, when they are ready to do so, to turn it into prayer. And the task then continues with the church’s work with the whole local community, to foster programs for better housing, schools, and community facilities, to encourage new job opportunities, to campaign and cajole and work with local government and councils, and, in short, to foster hope at any and every level.” (Wright 2008:231)
“…the message of new creation, of the beauty of the present world taken up and transcended in the beauty of the world that is yet to be – with part of that beauty being precisely the healing of the present anquish – comes as a surprising hope. Part of the role of the church in the past was – and could and should be again – to foster and sustain lives of beauty and aesthetic meaning at every level, from music making in the village pub to drama in the local primary school, from artists’ and photographers’ workshops to still-life painting classes, from symphony concerts to driftwood sculptures. The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for new creation, should be the place in every town and village where new creation bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, always comes as a surprise.” (Wright 2008:231,2)
And of course, evangelism, which will flourish best if the church is giving itself to works of justice (putting things to rights in the community) and works of beauty (highlighting the glory of creation and the glory yet to be revealed): evangelism will always come as a surprise. You mean there is more? There is a new world, and it has already begun, and it works by healing and forgiveness and new starts and fresh energy? Yes, answers the church, and it comes about as people worship the God in whose image they are made, as they follow the Lord who bore their sins and rose from the dead, as they are indwelt by his Spirit and thereby given new life, a new way of life, a new zest for life.” (Wright 2008:232)
“Jesus is risen, therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen, therefore Israel and the world have been reedemed. Jesus is risen, therefore his followers have a new job to do. And what is that new job? To bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical, earthly reality… Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of Gods new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” (Wright 2008:293)