“The church may be the only organization on the planet that exists entirely for the sake of those people who don’t belong to it yet. In fact, as soon as we forget this and start making it all about ourselves, we stop being the church.” – Kelly Fryer, Reclaiming the L Word: Renewing the Church from Its Lutheran Core
I repeat that quote from Kelly Fryer often. It succinctly sums up the primary mission of the church, the warrant Jesus gave us in the Great Co-Mission: “GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18, NIV).
But what about those folks already in the church? Shifting from a we’re-here-to-take-care-of-each-other mentality to a missional focus can be understandably threatening. Folks in the church hurt and get sick and die and lose their jobs and have family crises and on and on. Does being missional mean we say to them, “Deal with it. That’s not our thing. It’s not the job Jesus gave us.”
Certainly not! Remember, Jesus also said this: ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, NIV).
In other words, taking good care of each other is essential to our evangelism. When we nurture each other, we show the world what love looks like. The church becomes a living parable of God’s love for the world.
Rather than hitting people over the head with the Bible and focusing on the specks in everyone’s eyes while ignoring the logs in our own, evangelism becomes simply taking the love of Christ beyond the walls of the church and into the world.
There is no conflict between Jesus’ commission to GO and his command to love each other. As a pastor who often encourages his congregation to be more outward-focused, I realized recently that I need to make that more explicit. We can only genuinely love the world when we love each other; our “no matter who you are, no matter what you have done” outreach begins with practicing it internally.