“Your mission, should you choose to accept it …”

You know what happens next in the movies. The secret agent accepts the challenging mission, defeats the sinister nemesis, saves the planet, and sets up the sequel.

But what if the agent declines the mission? Neglecting the mission would lead to devastating consequences in the movie plot. Defeating the nemesis, saving the planet, and promoting the upcoming sequel all begins with accepting the mission.

More than a single statement or slogan, the mission clearly defines what is to be accomplished.

Jesus assigned the church with His mission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a, CSB). The church’s mission is clear and unquestionable: Make disciples of all nations.

However, what are the consequences of a church that neglects its mission?

  1. Idolatry

Exodus 32 illustrates the dangers of God’s people neglecting the mission. God delivered His people from bondage for the purpose of worshiping Him in the wilderness (Exo. 7:16). As Moses was on the mountain with God, Moses delayed. The people of God demanded the creation of a visible idol, a golden calf, to worship. They pursued worshiping a created image rather than honoring the One who created them in His image.

While the church patiently awaits Christ’s return, the temptation is to reject Christ’s mission in exchange for quick solutions. Numerical statistics, building projects, and live stream views can be helpful resources in discipleship. Still, they become idols when they replace the mission. Christ’s mission for the church leads to God’s glory, not the church’s mission.

  1. Imitation

After the idol’s creation, Exo. 32:6a says, “Early the next morning they arose, offered burnt offerings, and presented fellowship offerings” (CSB). God’s people knew what to do and say. They were going through the motions, imitating religious duties rather than joyful praise.

A mission-less church will go through the motions. They know what songs to sing, where to sit on Sunday mornings, and who will be in attendance. Imitating religious efforts leads to empty worship. However, God designed His church for more than going through the motions. The church received a grand mission worthy of persistent dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

  1. Inward focus

Finally, the third danger of a mission-less church is an inward focus. Exo. 32:6b says, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to party” (CSB). God’s people forgot about their redemption from Egypt. They put the deliverance from the Red Sea behind them, focusing on pleasing themselves rather than pleasing God. Worshiping God was far from their hearts, as selfish desires consumed their minds.

The mission to make disciples of all nations reflects God’s heart for the nations. God sent His Son to redeem the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All are invited to surrender their life in obedience to the mission. However, when the church forgets Christ’s mission, they disregard God’s missional heart. Ignoring God’s heart for others leads us to focus our attention inward.

Don’t become a mission-less church

Churches must guard against idolatry by pursuing the glory of God. Success for the local church is not attained by being bigger, better and brighter than other churches. Christ’s mission gives a clear picture of success—making disciples for the glory of God.

Churches guard against religious imitation by imitating Jesus. Discipleship is a commitment to follow the Master. When the local church is committed to following its Master, it will, in turn, become committed to making disciples of all nations.

Finally, guard against an inward focus by unveiling a vision for the mission. In the Lifeway Research Greatest Needs of Pastors study, 45 percent of pastors say they need to establish a compelling vision for their congregation. While a mission clearly defines what is to be accomplished, a vision clearly illustrates what the mission looks like as God blesses the church’s obedience to the mission. The mission is vital for the local church, and a clear vision will aid in bringing clarity to the mission in action.

There may be times the church strays from the mission, but the good news is Christ’s church is never without His mission. His church is not mission-less but missional. Christ’s mission, led by the Holy Spirit, leads to the glory of God.