Lesson 29: The Church and Corporate Mission | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 29: The Church and Corporate Mission

We learned in Lesson Twenty Eight that the second objective of the local church is evangelism. The Great Commission describes this objective as “disciple making.” [“Make disciples” is the main verb in the great commission.] Evangelism takes place on two levels: personal witness and corporate mission . These should not be viewed as separate activities, for the former [personal] is necessary to accomplish the latter [corporate].

Corporate mission is evangelism pursued through the united efforts of the members of a local church, using their combined resources.

[So when we talk about “corporate mission,” we mean evangelism that a congregation as a unit pursues.]

In this lesson, we will examine:

1. The goal of corporate mission

2. The extent of corporate mission

3. The priority of corporate mission

I. The Goal of Corporate Mission

The corporate mission of a local church includes the work of personal witness, but it includes such witness into a larger goal or “bigger picture.”

A. The corporate mission of the church is to reproduce congregations .

Whereas personal witness seeks to produce converts , corporate mission seeks to produce congregations by organizing such converts into local churches. The bulk of the New Testament (from Acts to Jude) deals primarily with the starting and strengthening of local churches.

Paul’s first two missionary journeys resulted in the reproduction of churches.

1. Paul’s first missionary journey

During Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13 14), he and Barnabas followed a clear plan: after being commissioned by their home church in Antioch of Syria, they established a new church in Antioch of Pisidia, from which they evangelized neighboring cities, establishing other churches.

[This is the same pattern we desire to see in mission work today. A primary mission of the church is to establish more churches. Lots of churches support many different “mission” works: hospitals, schools, food services, etc. But the primary mission work should be starting more churches.]


2. Paul’s second missionary journey

Paul followed the same pattern during his next missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22).


On this occasion, Paul established the “mother church” in Ephesus, which commissioned Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) to establish churches in these other cities.

In both of these cases, Paul or a fellow worker communicated the gospel , organized congregations , taught them doctrine , helped them appoint pastors, and checked back on their progress . The end result was always an independent local church.

[This is the same pattern which should be followed by modern missionaries. A true missionary is a church-planter.]

B. The corporate mission of the church is to reproduce in kind .

1. Churches should reproduce doctrinally .

Even a casual reading of Paul’s epistles reveals that he was determined to see sound doctrine established in the churches he started. To Timothy, Paul’s representative in the Church at Ephesus, he declared:

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you. – 2 Timothy 1:13-14

[If we sent out some people to start another church, we would want it to teach the same doctrine that we believe.]

2. Churches should reproduce philosophically .

Paul was not only concerned about reproducing a doctrinal system in the churches that he established, but also about making sure those churches followed his application of doctrine.

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.   1 Timothy 3:14 15

[Even in churches that share the same doctrine, there may be much difference in philosophy of ministry. We would plant a church that goes about its business in the same way we do and emphasizes the same things we do. The same doctrine doesn’t always result in the same philosophy.]

II. The Extent of Corporate Mission

The corporate mission of the church should be marked by extension . Christ’s last recorded message before His Ascension was:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.   Acts 1:8

[By “extension” we mean that the church is responsible to extend the message of the gospel and the ministry of the church to the local community, to neighboring communities, and world-wide.]

This can be visualized:


The principle of extension means that:

A. Corporate mission takes place within the community.

When most people hear the word “missions,” they usually think of ministry that takes place on foreign soil. The corporate mission of the church, however, includes the reproduction of congregations in one’s own community, provided the community is large enough to sustain multiple congregations.

[It’s very likely that within Jerusalem and other cities in the times of the apostles, there were many “house” churches which met in peoples’ homes. Thus, there were probably many such churches in large cities. Churches should support “home” missions within their own communities.]

Reproduction of congregations tends to promote service . The early church multiplied via many small house churches due to the lack of facilities large enough to house all of the believers in a particular community. Although larger facilities are available today, it may be wise to limit the size of a church in order to promote service. As a church grows, it may reach the point where it starts producing

spectators rather than servants . At that point, a new congregation should be started to provide more opportunities for service among its members.

[Studies have shown that no matter how big a church gets, a maximum of about 150-200 people are actively involved in the ministry of the church. Thus, once the church gets far above that number, people become more spectators than involved in service. Some feel that 300-400 is as large as a church should get before spinning off another church.]

B. Corporate mission takes place beyond the community.

The church that was established in Jerusalem was expected to minister beyond its own community. Its goal was to reproduce itself worldwide . Whenever Paul started a church and strengthened it to the point where it could function on its own, he left to start churches in other areas.

Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.   2 Corinthians 10:15 16

[Church planting is God’s plan for reaching the world. Part of the problem with many evangelistic efforts is that they win converts but do not channel them into good churches, or any churches. The biblical pattern is winning someone to Christ and seeing them baptized and added to the membership of a church.]

III. The Priority of Corporate Mission

A. Corporate mission should be a priority for the congregation .

The Great Commission was given to the church. This is seen from the fact that Acts 1:8 links the Great Commission to the Day of Pentecost, the birth of the church.

1. Corporate mission is not an option for the local church.

“Make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) is a command, not a suggestion. Reproduction of churches is the primary way in which a local church obeys this command. Therefore, there should never be a missionless church or a churchless mission.

2. Corporate mission cannot be separated from the other objectives of the Great Commission.

Evangelistic outreach should not be a local church’s only concern. The objectives of the Great Commission are interrelated. Their relationship is seen in the following diagram:


B. Corporate mission should be a priority for the individual believer .

Because the Great Commission was given to local churches and the New Testament expects all believers to minister through local churches, the corporate mission of the church should be a priority in the life of every believer. When individuals become Christians, they are not to be independent in their outreach. They are part of a community of believers whose goal is to reproduce congregations.

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. The goal of corporate mission is to reproduce congregations similar in doctrine and philosophy.

2. The extent of corporate mission includes the reproducing of congregations both within and beyond one’s community.

3. Corporate mission should be a priority for the congregation as a whole and for the individual believer.

Learning to Live It

1. Many worthy and needy causes receive money from churches: hospitals, schools, famine relief, etc. Should a local church support any of these causes? Why or why not?

normally not; because they usually are not trying to accomplish the same objectives as the local church. If one can win souls and channel them into churches or start churches thru these means, then OK. In some countries, the above means are the only ways available to have any gospel influence at all. But none of these are ends in themselves. Obviously, a church can support whatever it deems worthy of support. But Biblically speaking, those ministries whose primary goal is evangelizing the lost and starting churches are central.

The church is not commissioned to feed the hungry, educate the ignorant, or cure the ill. It is commissioned to preach the gospel and start churches.

Under what circumstances could such causes be worthy of local church support?

if they are accomplishing the objectives of the local church and are submissive to the leadership of the church

2. A comment frequently made from the pulpit is that there are enough churches here in America and that we must, therefore, spend all our missions money on foreign missions. Is this a valid comment? Why or why not?

no; Corporate mission starts at home (i.e., within one’s own community). Home missions is legit. Also, who says there are enough churches in America? There are many communities without a solid church. Further, more American churches means more missions support.

3. A rapidly-growing church in your area has decided to build a multi-million dollar addition to their current facility in order to make room for more people. What might be a better option, and why?

to start a sister church in the area with several families who now attend the big church; to give more opportunities for service and it extends the ministry of the big church.

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