Many churches and other organizations have chosen to craft and implement mission and vision statements. At Twickenham, we have decided to simplify and have one single, unifying purpose statement that defines our overall purpose as a church. That purpose statement is:
Making Disciples who Glorify God by Loving Him and Loving Others
If we look at Matthew’s rendition of Jesus’ final instructions on earth:
18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, Translation: New International Version, or NIV)
we see that Jesus left his disciples with what we call the “great commission” to go and replicate themselves — to go and make disciples of others in the same way in which they were made disciples. The overall purpose of our church is to “make disciples” of ourselves — as members of Twickenham, we are to become disciples of Jesus. The purpose of our church is to be “making disciples” out of her members — to make us into disciples.
Another way of saying it is that our overall purpose is discipleship. Discipleship is the craft or skill of becoming a disciple — the state or condition of being a disciple. Discipleship is not an overnight transformation. It is a process — it is our life-long journey. Discipleship is “the journey” — the journey of life in God, the abundant life, the full life — the journey of becoming disciples of Jesus — it may be described (and is called in various places in scripture) as maturation in Christ, being made holy, sanctification, consecration, spiritual formation or transformation.
How do we become disciples of Jesus? The passage above says as much — by being taught to obey his commandments and his teachings. What are those teachings? They can be summarized as "loving God and loving others".
By Loving Him and Loving Others
When asked by the young lawyer what the most important commandment was, Jesus gave what has come to be known as “the Jesus creed”:
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31, NIV)
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5, a passage known as “the Shema” (Shema y’Israel is the Hebrew for “Hear, O Israel”). To the Jews, it was considered to be one of the most important passages in their Bible, and they prayed it twice per day. To this, Jesus added a commandment from Leviticus 19:18 to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Matthew account of this story adds that these two commandments act as a summation of all the law and prophets had to say (Matthew 22:40).
The first and greatest commandment, what we do to become true disciples, is strive to enter into a deep, abiding relationship with God, the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus makes it clear this should be our highest priority. We do this by practicing our “Love God” core values, by “practicing the presence of God” — by dying to ourselves, our wants, our desires (“Dying to Self”), by spending time with Him in prayer (“Reliance on Prayer”) — listening as well as talking, listening to His words through scripture, through His creation, through others, through his Spirit (“Hunger for the Word”), and by worshiping Him — dedicating our entire lives to Him (“Life as Worship”).
When we do this, His Spirit will gently transform us into His image—to take on more and more of His character. The loving relationship we have with God will spill over to our having and demonstrating that same kind of love for others. The second greatest commandment—to love our neighbor as ourself—we have chosen to articulate as our “Love Others” core value. We will practice being an active and vital part of the body of Christ through the community of local church (“Life in Community”). We will individually and corporately demonstrate our love for the marginalized of our society—the poor and forgotten (“Heart of Compassion”). And we will naturally want to share the good news of this abundant life that we have found in Christ with those who have not (“Sharing the Gospel”)—in turn making disciples of them.
Who Glorify God
We glorify God by worshiping Him and by obeying Him, but we primarily glorify Him by becoming like Him. How do we accomplish that transformation? Well, we really don’t. God does—through His Spirit working inside us. We facilitate that transformation “by loving God and loving others”—by practicing the spiritual disciplines, the core values described above, but it is God who changes us.
And this is how we “glorify God”—by being transformed into His image—so that we “reflect His glory”. As we go along that continuum, that journey of becoming more and more Christ-like, our lives glorify God more and more—we reflect a clearer and clearer image of God to others, which serves as a means of attracting them to God and His kingdom.
Paul states it well in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
So all of us can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him, transforming us into His glorious image.
This is why at Twickenham we believe that the purpose of our existence as a church is to be making us into disciples who glorify God by loving Him and loving others.