Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is the Church Held Accountable for its Mission?

I spent the whole day at work schlogging through our institution's self-study. Once every ten years (if all goes well) the regional accrediting agency comes around to check to see whether we're doing what we say we're doing. In advance of this we have to prepare several hundred pages of documentation and reflection on how well we're doing. It's really a pain in the posterior, because tending to your mission is different than documenting or proving that you're tending to your mission. However, there is something about having someone check up on you that makes you do things better and more responsibly.

I got thinking, "What if churches had accrediting agencies?" I guess those that are part of denominations in some sense do have a regulatory body, but I'd bet that there is not a lot of rigor with regard to the expectations.

What if Jesus showed up occasionally to see how we're doing with regard to the mission he left us? The Great Commission in Matthew has four components to it as normally translated:
  1. Go into the whole world;
  2. Make disciples of everybody;
  3. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
  4. Teach them to obey all that I have commanded.

When people talk about the Great Commission, they rarely make it to #4. What if the accrediting agency came around to our churches to check up on this one? Disregarding for the moment all of those people who aren't in the church (whom we're supposed to be going to, discipling, and baptizing), could we demonstrate that those who are in our churches have been taught to obey all that Jesus commanded? Notice that this is not just teaching them what the commands of Jesus are (though we might not do so well on this easier task either). Rather, we have been charged to teach people to obey.

I'd even like to claim that it is not just declaring to people that they ought to obey the commandments. If I were writing a Message-esque paraphrase, this passage would be rendered, "Teach them how to obey all that I have commanded." For that is the sense of what Jesus is expecting. And these were pretty tough commandments: Love your neighbor, love your enemy, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, be perfect, etc. Have we been teaching people how to do this stuff? This is the beginning of spiritual formation.


entirelysimulated said...

I think you are right. I would say most of us don't make it to number 1. As I understand it, it seems Christ's commission is about a global and universal vision, not necessarily implying physical dislocation. Patterns of action that strategically and globally bring about the kingdom of God.

Bob Carder said...

And the Great Commission is not just a corporate mandate as some assume. It a personal mandate for all Christ followers to obey. It's personal and personal does not mean plan an outreach event at church for the church to name evangelism so they can hunker down in the pew and feel they have done something great.

We would lose our accreditation! Actually, we have already lost it from the world.

Now what?