Elton Trueblood's answer: "The Church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning." I recently had lunch with a church consultant I met through an odd series of events who echoed Elton's thoughts.
Every church exists by vision, he says, whether it's something that's articulated or not. If it's not, it's what he calls a "default vision." That default vision usually means something like, 'run our programs, keep everyone basically happy, keep the structure running that's gotten us here.' Without leadership, I suppose any group defaults to that sort of maintenance.
If the church is to burn, he says there are three crucial elements.
If the default vision isn't challenged, then real vision ends up coming hat-in-hand to structure, asking if it can play a bit. A very backward arrangement. Nothing burns.
David Bosch in Transforming Mission nails it:
Mission [is] understood primarily as being derived from the very nature of God. It [is] thus put in the context of the doctrine of the trinity…The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit [expands] to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world…mission is not primarily an activity of the church, it is an attribute of God.
God is a missionary God.
Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God into the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is a church because there is a mission, not visa versa.
- People confront their demons and find them already overcome by the Risen Jesus.
- People change.
- The past is healed.
- Love grows.
- Hope flourishes.
- Communities are transformed.
- Kids have better parents.
- Employees have better bosses, and bosses have better employees.
- Beauty flourishes through the arts.
- Single moms find help.
- Marriages blossom.
- 13 year old girls trapped as prostitutes in the dark corners of the world are rescued.
- Mosquito nets keep babies safe from malaria in Africa.
- Clean water wells are dug in remote villages so kids don't die from some simple like diarrhea.
- The Kingdom of God comes on earth, as it is in heaven.
- Jesus is Lord.