Three Convictions Behind Our Mission
As Gospel Life Church has been gathering with our launch team and friends for prayer, worship, and community over the course of these last few months, one of the primary areas for discussion and teaching has been our mission statement:
Rooting all of life in the good news of Jesus for his glory and the city’s good.
This is what we want to be doing together at Gospel Life Church because this is how we believe the Bible describes what it looks like for the church to make disciples. In other words, we believe that this is just another way of summarizing how the Scriptures talk when it comes to what we should primarily be about as a church in Southeast Minneapolis. We also believe that this mission is timely for the church and for the city. Here are three reasons why (and three convictions that serve as the foundation for our mission):
1. The Transformative Power of the Gospel
“Rooting all of life in the good news of Jesus…”
Behind this first part of our mission is the conviction that the gospel is what everyone in our church needs. In other words, regardless of someone’s background—whether they have never set foot in a church or grew up attending church—whether they are skeptical of the claims of Christianity or have believed as long as they can remember—what we all need to hear, believe, understand, and apply is the good news of Jesus.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus, written from one church planter to another, he writes,
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:11-12).
This is the normative way that the work of the gospel is described in the New Testament. Paul writes that the work that the grace of God in Jesus accomplishes in the life of a believer is absolutely to save us (“bringing salvation”) but also to sanctify us (“training us”). When the gospel is believed, it of course brings salvation for people, but it also brings transformation. It changes us.
So when a non-believer comes into the context of our community, whether it’s in the form of a worship gathering, community group, or some kind of an event for the surrounding community, what they need to hear is more of the gospel so that they can come to believe in what Christ has accomplished for salvation. And when a believer comes into the context of our community in those same places, what they need to hear is more of the gospel so that they can come to believe in what Christ has accomplished in the areas of life where it seems to be doubted and isn’t being applied. This is the simplest form of a “disciple-making pathway,” because the greatest need for every person at every stage is more of the gospel of Jesus.
2. The Glory of God
“…for his glory…”
I think some people might wonder whether talking about “God’s glory” is somehow mandatory for all church mission statements. But this is not throwaway language that we put in the statement just to make sure we have it in there. This is, truly, essential for us.
As James K.A. Smith makes clear in his important book, You Are What You Love, we ought to think of ourselves as being shaped primarily by what we love, as our behaviors flow out of our desire. He unpacks the work of Augustine, in part, to make his argument. Augustine begins with a claim about how human beings were designed: Namely, that we were made by and for the Creator who is known in Jesus Christ. Smith writes,
“To be human is to be on the move, pursuing something, after something. We are like existential sharks: we have to move to live. We are not just static containers for ideas; we are dynamic creatures directed toward some end.”
But as Augustine describes for us, what drives us along is the pursuit of our loves. The problem is that sin in the human life (dethroning God and seeking our own glory and the glory of other things) has disordered our loves, and now our disordered loves wreak all kinds of havoc in the human life. The Apostle Paul speaks to the far-reaching implications of this in Romans 3. As a result of our disordered loves, which he describes in detail in the first chapter, now “no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12).
In other words, the question for Augustine is not whether you will worship, but rather what you worship. It’s never whether you will live for the glory of something, but rather what you are seeking to glorify. And because “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” as a result of sin (Jeremiah 17:9), and because that is true of everyone, our loves are leading us into destruction rather than peace. The good news, though, is that the work of Jesus has now made a way for our loves to be properly “re-ordered.” Jesus loved us too much to watch our sinful hearts deceive and destroy us. He lovingly stepped into our place, taking what we deserve (wrath and judgment) so that we can get what he deserved (life, joy, and peace with the Father). His resurrection not only points us forward to our future hope, but raises us up from our former lives, as we now have new desires. Now, because of our love for Jesus Christ and our all-consuming desire that he is glorified as our precious and satisfying savior, we want to repent and believe the gospel in all of life. Our hearts are turned toward him. We have communion with him. And we want to glorify him.
3. The Good of People
“…and the city’s good.”
We believe that when we root all of life in the good news of Jesus together for the glory of God, it will be for the good of people. We believe that while the visions of the good life that the surrounding culture holds out to us seem to make sense to the human heart, they end up producing the opposite of what they promise—and it seems counter-intuitive to us. (How could this device that promises to connect me with people leave me feeling more isolated? Why does all of this busyness at work leave me more empty?) Similarly, the gospel is also counter-intuitive to the human heart. In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes,
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, but Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
In the same way that the visions of the good life held out by the world tend to lead to the opposite in a counter-intuitive way, the gospel of Jesus Christ, though seen as foolishness in our world, is truly for its good. And it doesn’t just offer something for the world right now, but holds out an eternal hope. The gospel is for the good of people and will be for the good of the Marcy Holmes neighborhood.
We are so thankful to be in community with other believers who desire to be about this mission together: Rooting all of life in the good news of Jesus for his glory and the city’s good. Learning to speak the gospel well to others and one another, learning to apply that gospel even in the hard places, being driven on together by a shared passion for the name of Jesus, and investing in our neighborhood together. Would you pray for us as we seek to share the gospel in Southeast Minneapolis?