What do you do? This is a question that is often asked when you meet someone for the first time and we mostly expect/are expected to answer with our occupation. In the book Christianity After Religion, which the Tuesday and Wednesday Men’s Groups are currently reading, the author Diana Butler Bass asks the reader to focus on the questions what and why, as well as how, when it comes to our behavior as Christians. I’d like to take a moment and think together specifically about the question what. What is it that we do as the Church? More importantly what is that we are called to do as the Church? Our answer has big implications; not just for the way we spend our time, but also how we budget and spend our money, how we equip and support our leaders and volunteers, and how/what we teach the faithful and curious among us.
Over the course of Christian history many individuals and groups have come up with their answer to what the Church does. Some of those answers have been to live out certain scriptural mandates, such as those found in Matthew 25 or Matthew 27. Sometimes the scripture pointed to is much larger, such as the Sermon on the Mount, or smaller, such as Micah 6:8. At times the answer has been found in one or more creedal/confessional documents, such as the description in the Nicene Creed of the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
All of these answers to the question of what the Church is supposed to do are, I believe, good and faithful. I’d like to offer up another answer to the question of what, which is found in the PC(USA) Book of Order, and that is the Great Ends of the Church. The Great Ends were crafted in the early 20th century to help guide the vision and mission of the then United Presbyterian Church of North America. Our church continues to use them to guide our vision and mission to this day.
The Great Ends of the Church are:
the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
the maintenance of divine worship;
the preservation of the truth;
the promotion of social righteousness; and
the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.
This summer, starting on June 9th (which is Pentecost!) we will look at the Great Ends of the Church in a six week sermon series, exploring how they might help guide our vision and mission at Buffalo Presbyterian Church and help us answer the question of what the Church does.