The Church Mission
It has become vogue to talk about Church as a family. It is a family, but being a family is not the Church’s mission. It is not the mission of any family to keep to itself, but many churches do just that. We live as if our Church is ‘just’ for our entertainment. It is supposed to meet our needs, and we get very upset when the Church isn’t paying enough attention to us. The Church has a mission, and paying attention to us isn’t the mission.
Brethren, to me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him. So l ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fulness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.Ephesians 3.8-21
If we hear in our hearts what Saint Paul is telling us today, then we understand the mission of the Church. It is so the “manifold wisdom of God might now be made known” to everyone and everything. We fail the mission of the Church every time we keep the Church to ourselves. We fail in our obligations to be servants of God every time we do not share the Good News of Christ is someone.
You may be thinking, but what about feeding the poor and visiting the sick? Isn’t that the mission of the Church? No! Taking care of others isn’t our mission, it is our response to the Good News. How can we sit idle while others are suffering, especially when we have been made well by God.
We cannot take away sickness. We can’t eliminate poverty, no matter how we try. The “manifold wisdom of God” is what people need to bring them hope in their sickness and hunger. The hope that, despite the suffering in the world, God has come to rescue us, and bring us to heaven.
I understand the confusion. Since we all suffer with our ego, we tend to ‘personalize’ the Church to our needs. We ‘feel better’ knowing we visited the sick, etc. We ‘feel better’ knowing that we are known as Christians. Let’s face it. Most of us help so that we look good to sooth our guilty conscience.
This is where prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the sacramental life of the Church come to play. These are the things we ‘do’ as Orthodox Christians to ‘tune our hearts’ to God. We do them not to earn heaven, but to help us ‘think and love’ like God.
The Orthodox life helps us take the attention away from ourselves and onto God. Once we are paying more attention to God than ourselves, then and only then, can we help others see the joy that is the Gospel. Only then can we share the “manifold wisdom of God” with others. Only then are we fulfilling the mission of the Church.