One Sunday morning a man approached me in the church parking lot and demanded that I sell him a car. I informed the man that the church didn’t sell cars. He said, “Nonsense! This parking lot is full of cars, and I demand that you sell me one!” I tried to explain that these vehicles were simply parked at this location while the vehicle’s owners gathered inside to see and savor the supernatural, and scandalous, stories of Scripture. The man said, “You have hurt me deeply by refusing to sell me a car. My entire life I have been deprived of a car. My parents forbid me from ever owning a car, they forced my sister and I to travel by horse & buggy our entire lives. You cannot fathom the shame we felt as people cruised by us in their luxury sedans, laughing and scoffing at us, and threatening to run us off the road!” The man’s face was red, and his breathing was heavy. He had worked himself into a frenzy, and he paused to regather himself. He leveled squinted eyes at me and jabbed me with his index finger in the chest while asking, “Do you know how I got here?” As he finished this question he redirected his finger to point at a badly maintained bicycle. The man’s shrill sentiments returned full force as he shouted, “I came here on that piece of trash (but he used a different word than “trash”)! Do you see it!? That’s what you’re making me ride around on!? Look at it! It’s garbage (but he used a different word than “garbage”). It’s got flat tires, no reflectors, and no brakes. I live in a constant state of fear that I will be hit by a motorist …and you refuse to encourage and support me by simply selling me a car!” The man began to sob and simultaneously shout at me that I had failed him and consigned him to complete ruin.

This experience forced me to thoroughly review the question, “What is the mission of the church?” As I conducted this review I explored the following options:

  1. The church offers people delicious chicken sandwiches? The Holy Spirit clarified that I was confusing the church with Chick-fil-A (common mistake). God said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”
  2. The church offers people theological correctness and the opportunity to be wise in our own sight? But God rebuked me for thinking this saying, “Never be wise in your own sight.”
  3. The church offers people the opportunity to avenge those who have been oppressed? The Holy Spirit offered the correction, “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink …Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
  4. The church offers professing Christians a place to quarrel with one another? But God said, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
  5. The church offers felt comfort and healing? The Holy Spirit showed me Jesus healing many people who were sick with various diseases, and casting out many demons; but then rising very early the next morning (while it was still dark), and departing and going to a desolate place to pray. While Jesus was praying, His disciples found Him and said, “Everyone is looking for you!” And Jesus responded by saying, “Let us go to the next towns, that I may preach, for that is why I came.”
  6. The church offers in depth, intensive, care for people in comprehensive fragile conditions (physical, emotional, psychological)? God told me about a scenario where a complaint arose from a particular ethnic group against another particular ethnic group – because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And God compelled the leadership of the church to respond to this extremely dramatic and difficult situation by saying, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.”

I continued to explore, and after exhausting all the options – I emerged with the following clarification:

The primary work of the church is to steward the supernatural, and scandalous, stories of Scripture.

There are all kinds of good things that the various members of the body of Christ need to be involved and invested in throughout the week (healthcare, education, brain surgery, counseling, homemaking, carpentry, horse breeding, farming, bee keeping, art, etc.); but the main mission of the church (and specifically, the lane that church leadership MUST maintain) is Stewarding the supernatural, and scandalous, stories of Scripture.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells a story about a rich man who died and went to hell (having foolishly committed himself to the passionate pursuit of luxuries and accolades in his life on earth). While in hell the rich man cried out to father Abraham in heaven to send a miraculous sign (a resurrected man) to his 5 brothers – so that they might be warned against making the same error as him, and escape the consequence of suffering condemnation in the place of torment alongside their brother. But father Abraham responds, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The man in hell persists saying, “No! …If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Father Abraham replies, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” …at the end of Luke’s Gospel Jesus chastises us with the Words, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

The primary work of the church is to steward the supernatural, and scandalous, stories of Scripture.

And the epicenter of all the stories of Scripture is a slain lamb/a crucified King! In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes, “When I came to you I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. …I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” The primary mission of the church is to invite, exhort, and encourage everyone to fix their eyes on Jesus Christ, as the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.