To-night we want to talk about the first of the two human forces—the Church.
We ought to remind ourselves of just what that word "Church" means in this connection. It has many meanings. There are at least two that we should note here in thinking of it as a great winning force. In its broadest meaning, the word is commonly used for the whole group of church organizations taken together, the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, the Protestant, and the few primitive societies that still retain their old original organization. In the deeper, less used meaning, it stands for the body of those men and women everywhere who are trusting Jesus Christ, and are allied with Him in the purpose of their hearts.
These two meanings, of course, should be the same. All who trust Jesus should be in the church organizations. And all who are in the organizations should be there because of their relation to Jesus. Whatever the facts regarding that may be, the mission of each is the same. And it is with that mission that we are concerned just now.
Jesus planned that His Church should be a great man-winning and world-winning organization. The mission of the Church is to take Jesus to all men. It is God's messenger of His truth to all. In that it is the direct lineal descendant and heir of the Hebrew nation.
That nation was chosen to be a messenger or missionary nation. That was the one purpose of its special creation as a nation. It was not to be as the other nations, in the characteristics that commonly mark strong nations. It was to be a teacher-nation, receiving its message of truth direct from God, embodying that message in its own life, personally and nationally, and giving it out clearly and fully and winsomely to all the nations of the earth. And, in spite of its failures and breaks, that mission was accomplished to a remarkable extent.
The Church is its heir. It was born in the Jewish nation. It became the heir to its world-wide messenger mission. The great commission given by Jesus as He was leaving is the Church's commission for its great life-work. It was spoken to the group of Jewish men who were the nucleus of that body called the Church, that came into being on the day of Pentecost. That ringing, "Go ye into all the world and preach my gospel to the whole creation," is the Master's command to the Church which He brought into being. That is the Church's marching order by which its life is to be controlled and its faithfulness judged.
The scene of the Church's birth gives a vivid picture of its world-mission. It was born in a world-gathering. It was a world-church in its make-up at its birth. Men from all parts of the world became united in one body by the Spirit's touch that great Church birthday. Its birth-gift, the power of speaking many tongues, reveals at once the wide sweep of its service.
It was the Master's plan that His Church should speak all the languages of the earth then and now and always, as well as the language of heaven, the language of love. So every man would learn of Jesus in his native speech. The language of the cradle and of love-making and of the fireside, the language that most quickly kindles the fires in a man's heart, that was the language to be used in carrying Jesus to every man. That was Jesus' plan. The Church was rarely equipped with winning power for a world-service on its birthday in the gift of tongues.
Of course, this is not the only mission of the Church. That is to say, there are other purposes necessarily included in this. Taking the Gospel of Jesus to all men means more than merely taking it and telling it. The teaching and training and developing of those won to Jesus is an inseparable part of the Church mission. The great service of worship has always been recognized as a vital part of the Church life. Sometimes indeed these have been thought of, and still are thought of, as its only mission. But they grow distinctly out of the chief mission and are distinctly contributory and secondary to it. Indeed, they come into being only through the faithful doing of the chief task. Men were won. Then they met for worship and for training.