by John Ramsey
Every once in a while, I’ll have one of those deep, contemplative conversations with someone about the mysteries of life. That is exactly what happened this morning during a self discovery coaching session I had. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The ones where you walk away and realize how little you know about this great big world, the people in it, and the God that created it. The question that sparked it: “What is the purpose of Christianity?”
Loaded question huh?
But seriously, what is the purpose of Christianity?
I have been saved for the last 23 years and in all those years not one person has ever asked me this question. But seriously, what is the purpose of Christianity? Is it to get people into church buildings? Is it to have community? Is it to just make sure that we make it into Heaven? Is it to corral people through the process of salvation as fast as we can, so that we can add a tally, and then move on to the next? I don’t think it’s any of these.
Here’s the problem as I see it,. we view salvation as the endgame. We confuse the starting line with the finish line. The whole basis of salvation when Jesus explains it to Nicodemus in John 3 is that one must be “born again.” When someone is born, they are brand new. It becomes their beginning, not the end.
Salvation is just the beginning. Christianity isn’t just about taking one moment and saying, “I want to live for God.” Christianity is about waking up every day and saying, I am here to do what you called me to do. Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus commissioned the apostles to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19). After two millennia, the Church has made disciples in nations but not of nations. We need to consider whether our understanding of the Gospel and way of doing church is flawed. Is something wrong? And if it is, how can we fix it?
The Gospel we preach is not wrong or bad, but could it be incomplete? If we are not discipling nations, then something must be missing from our understanding of our purpose, our mission, our doctrine, our teaching, and our practice of “doing church.” Yes, we have seen souls saved and lives changed(and that is very important), but we have failed to transform our cities and the nations.
Where have we missed it?
With courage and an open mind, we should reconsider our understanding of God’s ultimate purpose for the Church, considering the possibility that we have seen our mission through church-eyes and not Kingdom-eyes. The Great Commission is more than Gospel of Salvation. The gospel of salvation puts its focus on reconciliation alone. The Gospel of the Kingdom breaks the framework and presents a greater vision. It is salvation and transformation of the systems of this world so that the house of the Lord can be established on the top of the mountains. (Isaiah 2:1-2) Are you aware the word kingdom is used more than 100 times in the New Testament, but the word church is used only twice in the Gospels.
The first words Jesus preached were, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (see Mark 1:15 NIV). Jesus was not saying, as the Church has taught, “Repent, go to church, live a good life, and when you die you will go to Heaven.” Jesus was saying that repentance opens the door for Heaven to come to earth. The world hungers for the real thing, and it is waiting for us to declare the real Gospel of Christ—the Gospel of the Kingdom!
I’m reminded of what Paul says to Timothy near the end of his life,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 God has given you and me a commission as believers to go into the system and go up to the top of that mountain where there is resistance.
I’m in. Are you?