M Lloyd-Jones on the "Narrow" Mission of the Church

In Sunday School we've been talking about the narrow mission of the church. The church is called, not broadly to respond to every problem of society, but narrowly to the tasks of worship, witness, and nurture. The church is, in other words, a "specialist" organization with a correspondingly narrow calling. Dr. M. Lloyd-Jones urges this "specialist" calling upon the church in his own day (mid-twentieth century England) in his book, Preaching and Preachers:

So I would lay it down as a basic proposition that the primary task of the Church is not to educate man, is not to heal him physically or psychologically, it is not to make him happy. I will go further; it is not even to make him good. These are things that accompany salvation; and when the Church performs her true task she does incidentally educate men and give them knowledge and information, she does bring them happiness, she does make them good and better than they were. But my point is that those are not her primary objectives. Her primary purpose is not any of these; it is rather to put man into the right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God ( p. 30).

Interestingly, the impulse to broaden the churches mission was just as strong in his day as it is our own - and just as problematic. He continues:

The Church is not one of a number of agencies, she is not in competition with the cults, she is not in competition with other religions, she is not in competition with the psychologists or any other agency, political or social or whatever it may chance to be. The Church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform... These proposals that we should preach less, and do various other things more, are of course not new at all (pp. 32-33).

Dr. Lloyd-Jones goes on to argue that the business of expanding the church's mission to include every politico-social interest has done great harm to her primary business of preaching the gospel.

While it may seem "narrow-minded" to the modern mind to suggest the church maintain a "narrow" calling, I would suggest much good would come if we re-embraced this narrow emphasis on worship, nurture, and witness. At the very least we would remind ourselves that the ultimate answer to all of societies ills and evils comes not from our own striving, but from God.

As individual Christians we are indeed called to serve the needy, bring comfort to the sick, feed the hungry, educate the ignorant, love our neighbor, etc. But the church as a corporate institution is given a narrow calling to proclaim the gospel and point us toward the coming kingdom of God - a kingdom that we can never usher in by our own good works, but which God himself will bring in his own time.