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The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Proclamation of the Gospel”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
This is the first of a 6-week sermon series on what has become known as the Six Great Ends of the Church. The word “Ends” in that phrase means “purposes, or reasons for existence”. This is what the Church is for! (When I mentioned this series a couple of weeks back, some people thought I had said, “The Six Great ‘N’s of the Church”, so I tried to make each of the Six purposes begin with the letter “N”; but alas, I simply Neutered the assignment, so I Never did it.
The Presbyterian Church in North America adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when the Presbyterian Church in North America united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution; and when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).
These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.
Since October begins with World Communion Sunday – a day when we celebrate the global and trans-denominational reaches of the united Church of Jesus Christ – and October concludes with Reformation Sunday – remembering and honoring people like Martin Luther who, 499 years ago, started a Christian Reformation when he posted 95 ways the Church was not doing/being what the church should do/be, this seems like the perfect time to look together at why we exist.
What is the first, and by implication the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church? The Proclamation of the Gospel! And neither Martin Luther, nor John Calvin, nor the Presbyterian denominations that have sprung forth from John Calvin’s teachings, made this up! Jesus Himself gave us this purpose!
Listen, with me, to Jesus’ words to His disciples. Sometime after His resurrection and before His ascension, Matthew records this story – Matthew 28:16-20….—-
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Proclamation of the Gospel is the first of the Six Great Ends, and it may be the most controversial. The Presbyterian evangelism efforts have been neglected over the years, and many have gone so far as to discourage evangelism efforts among non-Christians in general and Jews and Muslims in particular.
However the Great Commission, what we just read from Matthew’s Gospel, puts no limits on where or to whom we proclaim the Good news of Jesus Christ!
But before we go too far down this road, let’s talk about what this Great End, this Main Purpose of the Church, means.
What does it mean to “Proclaim the Gospel”?
What is “the Gospel” we’re supposed to proclaim? The word “Gospel” comes from an Old English translation of the Greek word Euaggelion = Good (Eu) Message/News (Angel-words).
So what is this “Good News” we’re supposed to proclaim? [That God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!]
What does it mean to “Proclaim the Gospel”? [We tell that Good News!]
Think back to when you first heard the story of Jesus, when it first became real for you. When and how did you first hear the Gospel? [Personally, I grew up in a church-going, Jesus-believing home. I cannot remember when I first heard it. I kind of always knew this Good News – Christmas was more about the baby Jesus than it was about Santa Claus, and Easter was more about the empty tomb than about finding baskets of candy and eggs! I kind of always knew – but I didn’t really hear it until I met an old man (he was probably 55) when I was in Jr High School. Bud Cook gave up his every Wednesday evening to sit with a bunch of Middle School snots and talk about God’s love.]
The next question on your Sermon Notes Page asks What made it “Good News” for you? What made it “real”? Last week we were blessed with Jack Hewson’s witness to Christ’s Resurrection power. His faith became very real for him when he could sit in the back of the prison chapel and know God’s presence. For me, of course my story is not Jack’s or yours, the Gospel became real when I saw in Bud’s life a power and an assuring presence that could not be explained in any other way. Since then, it has become more real and deeper and more solid through prayers being specifically answered and doors miraculously opened and experiences that no scientist could attribute to anything other than God’s super-natural presence.
Remember what I said the word “Gospel” comes from? Euaggelion? That’s the same word we get “evangelism” from. And, in the last 100 years, it seems, evangelism has become less and less a thing most Christians think of as something they can do. After all, we have Billy Graham or Franklin Graham or Luis Palau. Or some would say, “That’s what we pay the Pastor for.”
Well friends, if that’s what you pay me for, then someone else gets to preach and pray at your hospital bed and answer the phone between midnight and 8am – because I’ll be out on the street and in the market place sharing Jesus’ love! You see, that’s the thing! You do not pay the Pastor to evangelize. The Pastor preaches and teaches. We all share our faith, because we all live our faith everywhere we go! As a church-team we can do a much better job than just one guy trying to be everywhere you all are every day!
Jesus says that this is something for everyone in His Church! Everyone! Including you! So, how do we share our faith? How do we tell people about Jesus?
How about those last two questions on your Sermon Notes Page: How is proclaiming the Gospel done in what we do? [Let’s hear some feedback – what are some ways you have shared the love of Christ simply by doing things? Or, maybe, how have you seen someone else do that? …….. Treat people with kindness! St Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel always – if necessary, use words.”]
Okay, but has anyone ever seen someone who is not a Jesus-follower be kind to people? Of course! In fact some of the nicest people in the world are people who define themselves as definitely not Christian! So, how does our behavior proclaim the Gospel?
Because lots of religions and non-religious people can be very nice, I agree with St Francis, but I also think that it’s always necessary to use words! So, how is proclaiming the Gospel done in what we say? [Last Summer when Bishop Bushebi and Pastor Bushebi were in town I had the privilege of taking them shopping one day, and I watched as they greeted and thanked every single cashier in every store we went to with a simple, “God bless you.” I was convicted!
I used to be afraid of offending someone – with a “God bless you”. No longer!
But, of course, If I say “God bless you” while I am griping and complaining – what will they hear? Or if I am even more direct and offer to pray to Jesus for their sick child while growling and barking, what will they think? Our words and our actions really do need to line up! If they do not agree with each other, maybe we just need to go home and pray and reconsider what we really believe! (Because they will always hear and believe our actions over our words!]
The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.
If we claim to be Christian, if we assert ourselves as Jesus-followers, then Proclaiming the Gospel, in word and deed, is our call from God!
This Great End is foundational to everything we do! Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:
Know the power and love of God, and
Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to
Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet
Know the power and love of God….
Did you hear the proclamation of the Gospel in that? Let’s be that kind of Church! Amen.
The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; The fellowship Community; Episode 1; 2016.