With these words, we all express the mission of Three Rivers Grace Church. You should know that the New Testament uses the word “church” (Greek: ecclesia) over seventy times. Occasionally, it is used in a universal sense and refers to the entire body of Christ. However, in the vast majority of cases, the reference is to a local body of believers like 3RGC. It is proper that the mission of the local church reflects the tasks that Jesus has given to the church universal.
These tasks are threefold. First, we have an upward call to worship and to find our happiness and peace in Jesus. The words of Westminster’s Shorter Catechism are correct when they state that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” John Piper reminds us that these two things are really one thing: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. The desire to both worship Jesus and to love Him and find our happiness in Him dwells within every Christian. We express that by simply affirming that “we exist to delight in the beauty of God’s greatness.”
The Inward Call
The second call is inward and directed toward the individual members of the body of Christ. Paul explains: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11)) Granted, equipping the saints is the particular task of our elders through preaching and teaching of the Word of God, but we all have a responsibility here. This is evidenced by the many “one another” commands of the New Testament: “… be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50), “…love one another” (John 15:12 – but several places), “…instruct one another (Rom 15:14), “…serve one another” (Gal 5:13), “…. [teach] and [admonish] one another.” (Col 3:16), “…encourage one another ”(1 Thess 4:18), “…exhort one another” (Heb 3:13)…okay – the list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea. As we speak God’s word to each other, we grow in grace and holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus prays, “your word is truth.” (John 17:17) At 3RGC, “we exist ….. to proclaim the truth of God’s Word.”
The Outward Call
The outward call to the world manifests itself in two ways; first (and primarily) this is done by sharing the gospel. This is clearly announced by Jesus in the great commission: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20) The fundamental way that the church serves all nations is through evangelism. I do not say that we must all be skilled at sharing the gospels with strangers, but Peter does encourage us: “….always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15).
The second way this outward call manifests itself is in recognizing and helping to meet the needs of the world around us. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:2) At Three Rivers Grace “we exist to …. ignite a joyful passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ among all the peoples of Pittsburgh and the world.”
It is this third call – this outward call to “…ignite a joyful passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ among all the peoples of Pittsburgh and the world” that has been on so many of our minds recently. How can we at Three Rivers Grace best fulfill that call? What role does the physical building we meet in play in this happy task? As explained at the recent business meeting, the elders and deacons have recently undergone a sort of “philosophical” change: we are no longer simply looking for a ‘better’ building with a parking lot, more classrooms, and air conditioning (…and other needs, I grant you). We are now looking to multiply ourselves (perhaps with a building much like the one we own) in a different part of the city to assist in this mission.
The upward, outward, and inward calls define the three-dimensional mission of both the local and of the universal church. It is self-evident that what is true corporately of the church is also true privately of the individual Christian. We know church is not a building, but the building does help serve the church in our mission. I love the Apostle Paul’s “mission statement” in Acts 20:24: “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. “ I trust a similar desire rests in each one of us.