Why On Earth Is The Church Here?

Bible Book: Matthew  28 : 16-20
Subject: Church, Purpose of; Evangelism; Soul Winning; Church Growth

Matthew 28:16 - 20

Why on earth is the church here? What is the main business of the church? The passage of Scripture, Matthew 28:16 - 20, comes after the resurrection of Jesus. He is getting ready to go back to heaven, and He is giving instruction to His disciples.

Any organization, institution, or business on this earth justifies its existence only insofar as it carries out the purpose for which it was founded. This is certainly true in every area of life. A grocery store justifies its existence if it continues to make groceries available to people. Suppose you walked into a grocery store and asked to buy a dozen bananas. If they said, “We’re sorry, we don’t sell food here, but we’ve got some motor oil if you’d like to have that,” it wouldn’t be long until they were out of existence.

Suppose you went into a university, walked into the registrar’s office and said, “I would like to sign up for some courses. I would like to educate myself in several areas.” Suppose they say to you, “We don’t have any courses available for you, but if you’d like a dozen bananas, we have plenty of those.” It wouldn’t be long until that institution was out of existence.

Any organization, any institution, any business on this earth justifies its existence only as long as it accomplishes the purpose for which it is intended. Now that is true also of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why on earth is the church here? What is the main purpose of the church?

In Matthew 28, there are certain statements from Jesus that give us the irresistible logic regarding why on earth the church is here. If there is a heaven and a hell - and there is -  and if Jesus died on the cross to make it possible for people to go to heaven and not go to hell - and He did - then the most important business of the church is to let people know that they do not have to go to hell. They can go to heaven. Because Jesus died on the cross for their sins, it is possible for them to go to heaven. That is the irresistible logic of evangelism, and it is the irresistible logic of the main business of the church.

The church exists on this earth for the sole purpose of evangelism. The word evangelism is taken from a Greek verb that means, “to tell good news.” The noun is the word evangelion, which is translated “gospel” in many passages in the Bible.

Evangelism is simply the work of telling the good news that Jesus died on the cross, that He was buried, that He rose again, and that those people who turn from their sins by repentance, and who, by faith, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving Him as their personal Savior, will not go to hell, but to heaven. That is the work of evangelism, and that is why the church exists.

A recent article in a local newspaper described a wealthy man who had announced his intentions to begin an institution. He was going to start this institution because he believed the most important thing in the world is to get people ready to go to heaven. In fact, he said that the best way to do that was through education. Now I praise his efforts to build an institution of higher education; however, the main purpose of the church is not education. Certainly, that is one factor, but the church exists primarily for evangelism, telling people the story of the Lord Jesus and how people can be saved through Him. That’s why the church exists on this earth.

It is sometimes easy for us to misunderstand why the church is here and to get a little concerned when things are changed. I heard many years ago about the buggy business. They were extremely successful until the automobile was invented. People started riding in automobiles instead of buggies, and the company refused to change. They continued to try to sell buggies and went out of business. They made the critical mistake of thinking they were in the buggy business, when they were actually in the transportation business.

I fear that many churches are reluctant to change because they think they are in the buggy business, when they are really in the transportation business. You must understand that we’re not riding in buggies anymore. We’re in the jet age and flying on jet airplanes. Our business is to win people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and should never be detoured from that.

I truly believe that one of the easiest things in the world is for a church to get involved in all kinds of secondary trivialities. Many churches today get worked up and carried away about a number of activities, totally redirecting their focus from the main business. Again, the church exists to tell people about Jesus and get them ready to go to heaven when they die. That’s why on earth the church is here.

We know that evangelism is the main business because Jesus founded the church, and He knows what the business of His church ought to be. He has given it to us in a beautiful way. It is called the Great Commission. Unfortunately, for a number of churches, it is the great omission.

Jesus told us exactly what He wants the church to do. He told us precisely why on earth the church is here. The church is here for the primary purpose of evangelism. Jesus accurately underscored this just before He returned to heaven.

I. The Power Jesus Emphasized

Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The word “authority” speaks of the right to use power. Jesus is referring to His authority, the right to exercise power. Jesus already had power. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible says that when the people heard the words of Jesus, they were astonished at His sayings, “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29). He had authority in His teaching.

In the ninth chapter of Matthew, a sick man was brought to Jesus. Jesus said that He healed him, “that you may know that the Son of Man has power [authority] on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6). He already had authority to teach. He already had authority to forgive sins. Yet now He says, “All authority is given to me.” Why is a new statement of Jesus’ authority given?

The night before Jesus went to the cross, the religious leaders came to arrest Him. He said, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk. 22:53). But when Jesus died on that old rugged cross the next day, all the powers of hell joined themselves against Him. On the cross of Calvary, He spoiled powers and principalities, and now He has all authority. Total power, total authority belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. The hands that were pierced with the nails of the cross are the hands that hold the scepter of this universe. He has all authority - total power, total authority!

Jesus also has universal authority. He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). This means that angels, cherubim, and seraphim gladly do His bidding. This means that he holds the demonic powers of the world in check. This means that He has total universal power - power in heaven, power on the earth. Jesus Christ has the authority to tell the church what to do. It’s His church. It’s not my church. It’s not your church. It is His church. Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). He’s the One who founded the church. He’s the One who says, “All power, all authority is given to me.” So, the good news is that the power and authority to accomplish this Great Commission has been provided for us in the Lord Jesus.

This statement must be put into context. Jesus was talking to some disciples who had just been scared out of their wits. The cross of Calvary had come. They all forsook Him and fled. At this point, they realize that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and yet Jesus says to that diverse group of disciples, “I want you to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Go into all the world and make disciples. Go into all the world and win people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”.

There they were like little specks in the world. There they were like little drops in an ocean of humanity, and yet Jesus said, “Go into all the world and tell them about me.” They must have wondered how they could do that. Because He said, “All authority has been given to Me.”

When these early disciples went out, the Lord said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me … to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That’s definitely an encouragement to us today!

Later in this message, I will get specifically to this matter of winning people to Christ - making disciples, soul winning, and witnessing. It’s going to frighten some of you. Some of you are going to say, “Well, I can’t possibly do that.” Jesus said, “All authority is given to Me.” In other words, He said, “I’ll give that authority - that right to exercise power - to you. I’ll give you the power to do what I’ve commanded you to do.”

That’s what always impressed me about Jesus. He never asked us to do something without providing us the power to do it. It is such an encouragement to us to see all power. But, again, all authority here means all power. That means Jesus is in charge. Therefore, we must stop right here for a moment and solve the authority question.

Have you submitted yourself to the authority of Jesus? Have you committed to Him in your heart and mind? Not only is He the Savior of your life; He is the Lord of your life. He is the final authority in your life. Now you can’t go any further in the Great Commission until you solve the authority question. So right now, I’m going to ask you, as a believer, even while you hear this sermon, to say in your own heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, “Jesus, You are not my Savior alone; You are also my Lord. I yield my life today to Your authority. I’ll do whatever You command me to do.”

II. The Plan Jesus Employed

Any business that is going to accomplish its purpose must have a good business plan. That is the only way to accomplish the mission of a business. So Jesus, in Matthew 28:19 - 20, lays before His church His business plan. He specifically clarifies how we will accomplish the mission He has assigned us to accomplish. There are four different parts to this plan:

A. Going

“Go therefore” (Matt. 28:19). The verb here is not an imperative. It has the force of an imperative, but the idea here is “as you are going” or “having gone.” It is assumed by the Lord Jesus Christ that those who follow Him will be going.

I heard about a country preacher one time who said to his congregation, “Now beloved, if we’re going to do what the Lord called us to do, the church has got to walk.” The congregation said, “Amen, let the church walk.” Then he said, “If we’re going to do what the Lord called us to do, we’ve got to run.” The people responded, “Amen, preacher! Let the church run!” The preacher then said, “If we are going to do what the Lord wants us to do, the church has got to fly!” They cried out, “Amen, preacher, let the church fly!” Finally he said, “Now if the church is going to fly, you folks are going to have to give more money than you’ve been giving.” The people said, “Amen, preacher. Let the church walk.”1

We’re on a walk, and Jesus assumed that believers along the way would be witnesses for Him. Jesus took this seriously. He said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Jesus Christ was on a journey. He journeyed all the way from heaven to this earth. Everywhere Jesus went, He was on a walk to tell others how they could be saved. When Jesus went fishing, He told the fishermen how they could be saved, and they followed Him. When He sat down beside a well to refresh Himself with the cool water, He won the woman at the well to faith in Him. Even as He was dying on the cross, He stopped dying long enough to win a thief and get that thief out of hell and into heaven! Jesus took His own commission seriously.

The early Christians also took this Great Commission seriously. On the day of Pentecost, Simon Peter stood and preached the Pentecostal sermon. When it was over, he gave an invitation. On that one day, three thousand people were saved and baptized into the fellowship of the church (see Acts 2). The early Christians took Jesus’ orders seriously.

They took them seriously as individuals. In Acts 8, the Spirit of God said to the deacon Philip, “Arise and go into the desert” (see Acts 8:26). Philip went and met a man riding in a chariot. Then, the Lord used Philip to win that man to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, “as they went down the road” (Acts 8:36). It is assumed that we as believers are to go. As a result, the church must have plans to go into the world to win the lost to Christ.

Churches do this in various ways. Some have an organized visitation program; that is, a specific time for church members to go knocking on doors and share the Gospel.

I not only advocate organized visitation for churches, but more importantly, lifestyle visitation as well. Wherever you are, as you go, try to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. There are different kinds of contributions to this plan. Some people are unusually gifted in actually “closing the deal,” so to speak. They know how to lead people to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

I know many believers who are gifted in closing the deal. But that’s only part of the process. There are others who are gifted at inviting people to church. Some are gifted at prayer. Some of you are gifted at going into stores and passing out tracts. It is all a part of the process of lifestyle evangelism. Wherever God has placed you, whatever the circle in which you move, it is your circle of influence. It is your sphere of influence. Therefore, as you go, be a witness.

Years ago, there was an interesting article about the head coaches at the University of Georgia and Florida State - Mark Richt and Bobby Bowden. Richt, who is a fine young Christian coach, told about how when he was on the coaching staff of Bobby Bowden, one of the players on the team died. Coach Bowden called the team and coaches together and shared with them how they could be saved. He asked, “If that boy had been you, would you be in heaven or hell now?” Mark Richt said that day he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

You probably are never going to have the chance to witness to a football team. You probably are never going to have the opportunity to move in certain circles that other people will move in. But as you go, wherever you are, do whatever you can to obey the Great Commission of our Lord to get involved in this “going” business of making disciples.

B. Winning

Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). What does it mean to “make a disciple?” To make a disciple means to win someone to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then this person begins to follow Jesus Christ as his Lord and Master. That’s what it means to make a disciple. Go and make disciples. That’s the main business of the church. That’s why on earth the church is here.

In one of D. L. Moody’s sermons, there is a moving story of a man who came to the great evangelist seeking the way of salvation. Moody opened his Bible and pointed out these words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” The man said, “But, Mister Moody, I’m a drunkard.” “It does not say,” replied Moody, “Come unto me all ye that are not drunkards.” The man said, “But Mister Moody, I’ve abandoned my wife and my children.” “That is a dreadful sin,” replied Moody, “but it does not say ‘Come unto me all ye that have not abandoned wife and children.’” The man continued, “But, Mister Moody, I’ve stolen. I’ve been in jail.” “I am sorry to hear that,” Moody said softly, “but it does not say ’Come unto me all ye that are not thieves and have not been in prison.’ It simply says, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.’ And, sir, if I understand what you have just told me, this gracious invitation includes you!”   D. L. Moody was a gifted evangelist, and he understood that the main purpose of the church is to win people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice again what Jesus says! Make disciples. This is an imperative. It is a command of the Lord Jesus. Make disciples. Win people to faith in Christ. That’s our command - that’s not a suggestion. That’s a command! This is mandatory. It is not optional. This is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ - to make disciples. Have you obeyed the command?

Go - that’s plural. A lot of people think it’s just go - singular. A lot of people think winning others to the Lord is just the pastor’s job. And if he doesn’t win many lost people to faith in Christ, they think it’s time for him to change jobs. But, in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is a command for every member of the church. It’s not just the pastor’s job. It’s not just the church staff’s job. Go - every one of us, a vast army of us - telling the good news of Jesus, getting people saved.

This is the job of every believer - going, winning. I hope you realize a church that does not win souls does not deserve the land on which the building stands. I hope you realize a Bible class that does not win souls is not worth the electricity, the heat, the lights, the carpet, and the paint that goes into the room. Are you winning people to Christ in your Bible class? If not, get busy. It’s time for you to do that. Put an empty chair in your class.

Say to the members of your class, “This chair represents some person who needs to know Jesus Christ. Get him here next Sunday.”

C. Baptizing

Jesus says baptizing them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). We haven’t done New Testament evangelism until we have taken this third step.

When we are asked to support missionary endeavors in other parts of the world, and missionaries tell us they’ve had five thousand people saved, the next question we need to ask is, “How many of those have been baptized and are in the fellowship of the church?” We haven’t completed the job until we obey this command: Baptizing them! It’s not enough to  get people to sign a card. It’s not enough to get them to raise a hand. We’ve got to win them to Christ, and then we are to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Baptism doesn’t save anybody, but baptism is an outward expression of an inward experience. Baptism is a way of giving open testimony that a person has indeed received Jesus Christ as his Savior, that Jesus is not only Savior but He’s also Lord. It reveals that we intend to follow Him and live for Him.

Baptism is an act of illustration. It illustrates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. That’s why baptism by immersion is so vital. It’s also an illustration of what happened to us. It’s a picture of our death to our sins, our old way of life, and our resurrection to a brand - new way of life. Baptism is also an act of appreciation. By being baptized, we’re saying to the Lord, “I appreciate what You did for me in saving me, and I’m not ashamed to do what You have commanded me to do.” Baptism is also an act of identification. We are identifying ourselves with the local church. Have you been saved? If so, have you been baptized?

In the New Testament, we discover that when people were saved, when they received Christ as their Savior, they were baptized. You didn’t have to write them a letter. You didn’t have to call them on the phone. You didn’t have to persuade them. You didn’t have to entice them. You didn’t have to try to trick them. The moment they received Jesus Christ, they were like the eunuch in the book of Acts. He said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

When the great expository preacher, Dr. Jerry Vines, was the pastor at a little country church, he tells the story of a little lady there attending the church’s revival services. Her name was Mrs. Screws. Dr. Vines went to the little house where she lived. She did her washing outside because they didn’t have running water. She used a big black kettle, and when Dr. Vines arrived, she was washing clothes for her children. He asked her, “Have you accepted Christ?” “Oh, yes, preacher, I’ve accepted Christ,” she responded. Dr. Vines then inquired, “Have you been baptized?” “Preacher, I’m afraid to be baptized. I don’t know if I can be baptized.” He said, “Mrs. Screws, I’ll tell you what you do. This afternoon before the evening service, you ask Jesus what He wants you to do. Will you do whatever Jesus wants you to do?”  She said, “I will.”

Dr. Vines said he got to the church a little early that night. Soon after he got there, Mrs. Screws and all her children arrived. She walked up to him with a big smile on her face. “Preacher, I did exactly what you told me to do this afternoon,” she said. “I asked Jesus what He wanted me to do. And He told me to be baptized. I’m a - joinin’ the church tonight.”

D. Teaching

“Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 18:20). We need to get people involved. We should teach new Christians to live the Christian life. The Christian life is not something that’s just a matter of information; it’s a matter of application. It’s not just a matter of what you believe; it’s how you behave!

After you accept Christ, have been baptized, and are in the fellowship of the church, you should be more pleasant at home. You should be a better worker on the job. You should behave better at school. Your life should be better if you are a disciple, a follower of the Lord Jesus.

III. The Promise Jesus Explained

Another dimension of the Great Commission that Jesus explained was His promise. He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). What a promise!

If you obey Jesus’ “go,” you can claim His “lo.” We know that Jesus is with us always. But here He is making a special promise that when we go, when we witness, when we seek to win people to faith in the Lord Jesus in a special way, He’s with us - always, all the days of our lives.

Many years ago, Dr. Martha C. Myers, a dedicated Christian and avid soul -  winner, felt the call of God to go onto the foreign mission field. She went to one of the most dangerous places on the planet, Yemen. For twenty - five years, she served there at the Jibla hospital, which was an 80 - bed facility that treated 40,000 patients yearly. In 1998, she was driving back up through the hill country to immunize boys and girls and to deliver babies. She had become so loved by the people, yet some people hated what she was doing. Those who reviled  her decided to kidnap her and put her in the back seat of her car. They said to her, “You say anything, and we’ll kill you!” However, the car stalled, and they abandoned her. Her life was miraculously spared. Someone later asked her, “If you had been shot and had known you were going to be shot, would you have gone to this dangerous place?” She said without hesitation, “Oh yes.”

On December 30, 2002, a Muslim extremist with ties to Al Qaeda broke into the hospital room where Myers was ministering to the people of Yemen. The extremist shot her in the head, killing her instantly. President Bush said she was rendering humanitarian assistance. This is certainly true; nevertheless, there is more to it than that. She was not only rendering humanitarian assistance in ways that would be respectful to the land in which she served; she was making disciples. She was winning people to faith in Jesus Christ. Her dad, a highly respected doctor in Alabama, said: “She’s in heaven for sure. That’s why Christians have nothing to fear. From that standpoint, we will see her again. It’s a matter of who gets to heaven first.”

There’s an old saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In 2002, the people of Yemen had their hearts broken because of Myers’ death; yet, as a result of her death, hundreds of people there have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.2

Now you may ask, “Why was she over there in such a dangerous place?” I’ll tell you why. It’s because she took seriously these words: “Go and make disciples of all  the  nations,  baptizing  them  and  teaching  them.”  She  was  willing  to  die obeying  the  Lord’s  command  because  she  understood  why  on  this  earth  the church is here.


1.         James S. Hewitt, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1988), 459.

2.         James T. Draper, ed., Preaching with Passion (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004), 494 - 495.