Some time back, I read a really excellent article on the mission of the Church and the purpose of the Gospel. At the time, I was just beginning to try to understand the discussions going on over gospel and mission. This article helped me in so many ways. Here is a small excerpt. I highly recommend reading the whole post:
A number of churches have stated as their purpose: “The gospel is the means for healing and transforming our lives and community.” Obviously, the gospel does heal and transform lives, but does it heal and transform our communities? Is engaging the culture in this sense what the church is called to do?
Engaging the culture has become shorthand for attempting to bring change to communities by common grace programs. These programs or activities have been confused for special grace actions (perhaps without realizing how this redefinition is faulty and confusing). Special grace has as its focus redemption leading to eternal life; common grace is focused on relief from the effects of sin’s curse.
The goal of special grace is redemption, that is, the salvation of sinners from the curse and wrath of God through the meritorious and substitutionary work of Christ. The goal of common grace is relief for all people from the curse that came upon the earth because of Adam’s sin.
Some have defined the gospel as Jesus coming “to make all things new.” There is no question that Jesus does ultimately make all things new when understood in its full biblical meaning. However, are all things being made new right now? This definition of all things made new has led to confusion regarding the nature of the gospel. Another framing of this issue is something like this: The purpose of the gospel and ministry of the church are to transform the structures or sub-groups of society.
The ministry of the church and the gospel are to proclaim to sinners that they are lost and only Christ can change and transform them. The church can’t transform culture; it can help relieve the effects of the fall, but it can’t transform it in the same sense that the gospel heals and transforms sinners from lost to redeemed, genuinely made new creations.