Believe, Then Love God and Make Disciples

Several years ago, it became all the rage for churches to adopt mission statements. When establishing mission statements, perhaps the most popular approach today is to emphasize the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. It’s not uncommon to hear mission statements like:

“A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will produce a great church.”

“To glorify and honor God by fulfilling the mission the Lord gave His followers through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) in the Spirit of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40).”

“We are a people committed to living and teaching the Great Commandment (loving God) and the Great Commission (loving others).”

This is all well and good, and I may be guilty of nitpicking here, but these statements can be misleading. You might be thinking, “How on earth can those mission statements be misleading?”

Here’s how: First, these mission statements imply that loving God with all our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind (Matt. 22.37) is something that we can actually successfully do. In our heart of hearts we know that don’t really love our God in the comprehensive way that is demanded and deserved by God. We fall short of fulfilling this commandment. And if we are truly honest, we fall woefully short. In reality, Jesus Christ is the only One who successfully carried out this great commandment. Jesus always loved the Father completely: heart, soul, and mind.

Second, these mission statements neglect to mention, or even acknowledge, the all-important first step toward truly loving God, loving our neighbors, and seeking to make disciples of all nations. That first step is to believe God. Before we can obey, before we would even want to obey, we must believe. Faith is not only the gate into the Christian life, faith is the prerequisite for any meaningful obedience to God in the Christian’s walk with Him.

Wouldn’t we agree that the mission of a church should be to do the works that God desires them to do? If so, what are the works God desires of us? According to John’s Gospel, Jesus was asked that exact question. Note his response:

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”    – John 6.28-29

Faith is THE WORK God desires for us…to trust in His Son Jesus. Notice also that the faith is not really our work at all…it is the “work of God.” In other words, the faith God requires of us is a faith He works into us. It is His work, not ours. Therefore, it is all grace!

The apostle Paul put it this way:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2.8-9

Now the reality is that all three of the church mission statements listed above are mission statements by churches (the second church mission statement is ours!) whose belief statements are very clear in articulating that belief precedes love for God and obedience to Him.

It might be wise to adjust these mission statements to reflect the reality that the Bible teaches that we can do nothing until we first believe.  Here are some examples of how that might look:

“Our mission is to believe God, love God, and obey God.”

“Trusting in Christ to increase our love for Him, our love for Others, and our obedience to His Great Commission.”

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