In every age the Church of Jesus Christ has been confronted with the opportunity to proclaim the Hope of the world in terms that are relevant to the special needs of the age. For while man’s cultural and scientific discoveries have ever led him into new frontiers of learning and new levels of achievement, they also have ever lifted him to new heights of rebellion against God and new patterns of disobedience, so that the everlasting Gospel has again and again been challenged by new forms of humanism and materialism.
In the present age the everlasting Gospel is challenged not only from without, but tragically from within the household of faith. New forms of commitment are suggested which apparently have as their aim a radically new mission for the Church of Jesus Christ. One hears increasingly of a mission of evangelization, not of individual persons, but of the structures of society.
What is the true mission of the Church? As evangelical Christians we affirm that all truth is God’s truth and that every discovery of man but reveals in fuller and more glorious detail the wonders of a Maker’s wisdom, a Sovereign’s power and a Father’s love. But not all truth is saving truth. Knowledge brings power but power often reveals ethical weakness, moral corruption and spiritual depravity. We all have experienced, in our best accomplishments, the force of the Apostle’s testimony that the good we would do is not done while the evil that we do not intend often follows our best intentions. None of man’s achievements has made him more like his Maker in righteousness and holiness. None has brought him under his Lord’s obedience in humility and none has given him a son’s relation to a loving Father.
Thus we affirm that in this age, as in every age, man in the pride of his accomplishments, without Christ is an alien from the commonwealth of God’s household, a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. This moral and spiritual condition has been man’s natural heritage by reason of sin and shall remain his lot in any world he may create by the power of his own strength. For all man’s righteousness is as nothing and at the end awaits death and an eternity of separation from his Maker who originally created him in His own image.
For the evangelical Christian today, the commission of Jesus Christ is to confront both an increasingly secular man in an increasingly secular world, and a frequently secular church, with the everlasting Gospel. For God would have all men everywhere, even in an atomic age, to be saved.
The mandate for this Gospel is found in the unchanging needs of men, the unchanging destiny of man the unchanging Word of God, and the unchanging work of Jesus Christ.
In grateful response to the love of God and obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the evangelical Christian takes up the cross of personal involvement in the Great Commission which was his Lord’s final command: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to every creature.”
This mission the evangelical Christian recognizes as his own, even as it is the mission of Christ’s body the Church. It is the mission to evangelize the world by calling men from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, in order that they might receive remission of sins and acceptance as sons.
This mission, which we affirm to be the sole and sufficient preoccupation of the Church, is first a mission of evangelism to salvation, for God desires that none should perish but that all should come to acknowledge of Him whom to know is life eternal. Without Him men do perish and unless saved they are lost. It is the duty and privilege of the Church to minister the Word of truth, the sword of the Holy Spirit, in the testimony of faithful men, by grace through faith bringing many to salvation and to sonship. This includes the building up of the body of Christ in love.
This mission, we further affirm, is a mission of evangelism unto holiness. We have not been called to lawlessness, nor unchastity, nor any other form of man-devised morality. The law of love is in no wise less demanding than the moral law in all its implications. Our freedom under the Gospel is never license, but always a freedom from our former inability to obey God, and a freedom to yield our members wholly to Christ in purity, sanctity and honor.
This mission we also affirm to be a mission of evangelism supported by service in the name of Him who said, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” While giving primacy to the saving power of the Gospel in the life of the individual, evangelicals in their best tradition have a deep concern for social action and the amelioration of the ills of the community. They know that they are not only citizens of the Kingdom of God but they are also citizens of nation and of the world, and as such are obliged to serve in many capacities which their associates may call them. In such positions of trust and stewardship they serve with active compassion for the alleviation of human suffering and the correction of injustice wherever it may be found.