Biblically understood, there is a lot more involved in “going to church” than simply attending a worship service. The gospel is designed to remake our entire souls, reorienting us away from ourselves and instead around God and others. The gospel makes the church, so the church that operates according to the gospel that has made it magnifies the Christ of the gospel more than the church that doesn’t. And yet, the commitments the church makes to “go to each other” must necessarily entail “going out” as well. The church that is not on mission, in fact, is not acting true to its own nature. The gospel is not meant to be hoarded but to be shared.
Over and over again, the apostle Paul in his letters necessarily connects the inner life of the church with the outer witness of the church. He transitions from inward relational harmony and service to outward acts of justice and mercy and blessing. For instance, in Romans 12, Paul is discussing what the inner life of the church looks like and then transitions into a statement like this:
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Here, we see how the church is meant to move from harmony with each other, hospitality with each other, needs-meeting with each other (in verses 13-16), to now ministering to those considered our “enemies.” This is something of course only the gospel can help us do.
When we see the purposes of the church in enjoying the gospel in the New Testament teaching, the phrase “missional church” ought to strike us as incredibly redundant. Charles Spurgeon has said, “Every Christian is a missionary or an impostor.” That is a harsh word but it certainly is in keeping with Paul’s command to “let love be genuine.” If we say we love God but have no love for our brothers, we are liars. And if we say we love God but have no love for the lost, we are liars. The love God gives us in the gospel is more than enough for us. It must overflow, spill the banks of the church fellowship and begin to flood the communities and contexts the church finds itself in.
The church centered on the gospel, then, makes a commitment to bless the world. We determine that we are so satisfied in God that we are willing to live at peace with all men, so far as we are able. We determine, by God’s grace, to suffer wrongs if it will further the gospel. We determine to hand over to God what is rightfully is—the place of judgment, the place of authority, the place of sovereignty. And because we who were enemies of God were nevertheless fed and clothed by him in Christ, we ascribe maximum worth to him and maximum glory to his gospel by feeding and clothing others.
And in the end, our efforts at fulfilling Romans 12:21 serve to foreshadow that great and consummate day when the Lord will return and finally overcome evil forever with his eternal goodness. And these efforts also serve to recollect that great and wonderful day when the Lord came in Spirit to our souls and overcame our evil dispositions forever with his eternal righteousness. The church is empowered by the Spirit through the gospel to bless the world as the overflow of God’s blessing of us. That the world may know the God we serve and worship him alongside us in spirit and truth. We love and believe and serve and bless, that the whole world might “go to church” with us.