I wrote in “Participation” on February 17, 2014, that God’s work is not intended to be done by paid professionals. The wall in Nehemiah’s day wasn’t built by gifted wall-builders but by ordinary people from many other walks of life. Therefore, what is the mission of the church?
One answer is that since the church is composed of its people, then the church’s mission is the people’s mission: “make disciples.” Note, however, that when Jesus gave the “Great Commission,” he didn’t give it to an organized church. And when he told them in Matthew 28, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” the disciples’ understanding of how to do that wasn’t an organized church model. Jesus had chosen 12 that they might be “with him and that he might send them out…” (Mark 3.13).
I propose that the mission of the church is in Ephesians 4.11, 12: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,…” To say that the church’s mission is to make disciples is like saying that the mission of a trade school is to build houses. Instead, the mission of the trade school is to train, equip and empower plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, etc. so that they can build houses.
When pastors misunderstand their mission, they try to do all the work themselves or mistakenly feel that they are the only ones who can do the work. When the people in the congregation misunderstand, thinking it’s the “church’s” job to make disciples in some magical way, they don’t actively participate other than to invite people to meetings. The result is that Jesus must still be saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.“