Because God is calling local ministries to embrace their core identity, it is essential to grasp
a local ministry’s purpose in the heart of God. Every local ministry (whether 10 or 5,000 members) is part of the grand storyline of redemptive, salvation history God is working in the earth.
Every local ministry is Jesus’ hands and feet—an essential part of His body. No local ministry
can say, “I am too small” or “I don’t have resources” or “we have no education.” Engaging in the Great Commission God’s way overcomes every excuse.
Local churches, wholehearted communities of the redeemed, are God’s vessel in the world. Through them Jesus multiplies communities of faith, advancing His Kingdom among every family, neighborhood, village, town, city, district, province, and nation of the earth. As such, God’s “Great Commission Ministries” align with core elements of who they are called to be.
Four Core Spiritual Characteristics
The book of Acts describes core characteristics of a local church. Acts 2:42, refers to four specific, core elements of local churches, yet not the sum total of their practices. These are (1) Continuing steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine (2) Fellowship (3) the Breaking of Bread and (4) Prayers.
You may notice that with these four core characteristics we do not find the core emphasis of the Great Commission. Because the concept of every local church as God’s missionary people was so interwoven into the whole event of Pentecost, Luke did not feel the need to include it in any specific way.
The Old Testament had laid out God being a God for all humanity, not merely Israel. Jesus’ Great Commission messages had only weeks before been given, providing the overarching mandate of the body of Christ—discipling all ethnic peoples, empowered by the coming Holy Spirit.
There was no need for Luke to detail that again. Instead, what is revealed are the core elements of this new community of faith, known as the Church, of which the Great Commission emphasis would naturally show up in these four elements.
Three Core Outward Characteristics
In addition to these four core spiritual characteristics of local churches there are three outward characteristics making a biblical local church. These three are as follows.
1. Proclaiming and Living out the Confession, “Jesus Is Lord!”
After receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, the disciples immediately progressed outward, proclaiming with clarity what was happening. Imparted boldness from the Spirit overcame timidity, communicating widely and powerfully.
Peter’s message highlighted the Lordship of Jesus over all. This truth is at the center of a local
community of faith. A local church bound together spiritually through the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, communion (worship) and the spirit of prayer embodies the rightful Lordship of Jesus over all.
The Lordship of Jesus motivates a local church outward in proclamation of the gospel. Lordship means all belongs to Him. Jesus’ sacrificial work of redemption, or purchasing back wayward sinners, is for all. Since the global Church’s commission is bringing humanity, and the whole creation, under Jesus’ rule as Lord, a local church proclaims truth to all in many diverse ways.
This part of the essential nature of a community of faith is often overlooked, hindering it being the vehicle God intends to fulfill His Great Commission. A local church scatters itself outward in concentric circles through simple, mobile, easily reproducible, fellowships—not merely gathering people into one large megachurch.
2. Sacrificial Service To Those in Need
Because local churches are living fellowships of Jesus’ disciples, they identify as the fellowship of the crucified. Jesus, the sacrificial servant of Isaiah 53, laid His life down to redeem humanity from the wrath of God.
True discipleship then includes becoming sacrificial servants of others as He did. Sacrificial servanthood is a crucial piece of being God’s missionary people, demonstrating the gospel of the Kingdom.
This is not a side issue, done when convenient or when we have resources for it, but a core
characteristic of what a local church is as well as a key piece of our Great Commission mandate in Mark.
The Lordship of Jesus is on display through His Church identifying with broken humanity. Leading to potential multiplication of local simple, reproducible fellowships among unreached peoples. The Church’s role is to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness in a broken world.
3. Powerful Witness Locally and Crossing Cultures
Jesus provided the calling of local churches and individual disciples in Acts 1:8 instructing, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
Looking closely at the verse, it never says first be witnesses in Jerusalem or then in Judea. The words “either” and “or” are not there. The correct reading is to view every local church’s mandate as both to the local city and crossing cultural barriers to unreached peoples more distant.
A local church doing the four core spiritual elements (Acts 2:42) along with living out the confession, “Jesus is Lord,” and sacrificially serving those in need, provides a powerful witness of Jesus, revealing their core missionary nature.
Every local church is witness in their own community and beyond. The nature of the Church is not to gather within but to multiply outward in concentric circles of influence. The gospel has transformed and continues to transform their lives, families, and circumstances. They are new creations in Christ experiencing the benefits, blessings, and privileges of the Kingdom of God.
In what specific areas above might your local ministry be able to change, aligning itself more and more with God’s vision of every local ministry’s involvement and contribution in the Great Commission?