The Difference Between a Church and a Mission
by Les Nixon
The use of the word, church, here refers to the local body of
Christian believers who meet together regularly. The Biblical
Church is made up of the worldwide gathering of all Christians who
make up the ‘body-of-Christ’, of all nations and all cultures who
have been drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, are
saved and made whole in Him.
Outback Patrol is a mission. We go to people who live in remote
towns that are too small for church, to help bring them to Christ.
Some locals ask us to become their church. To answer the question,
let me say that we cannot be a church, as the Bible has defined the
differences. Small towns need a home church, and they may begin
them, and provide a sanctuary for their friends. We may help them
to start. But Church is not what we do. Here’s why:
- A mission is not a church. A mission does not attract people
to worship in it’s chapel, if it has one. And it’s purpose is not
to grow another church, but support the existing one. Yet all
mission people belong to their local church, and so they
- A Church is a place for the gathering of Christian believers. A
mission wins souls from unbelievers. They are not in conflict
or contradiction; but are in harmony with each other. Church
is the place where you meet, as you a part of ‘the-body-of-
- A church hires a pastor to draw people to get on-board the
great ship of the church. A mission is like the small fishing
vessels, and urges Christians to go sailing into the oceans
of the world, and lower the nets for the fish.
- A pastor cannot survive without familiar people around him
every week; a mission grows by sending people out into the
harvest of the world to reap more souls for Christ. Mission is
like the bell in the church tower, or the people singing “Come
- A Church grows by addition; a mission by multiplication. A
church attracts; a mission reflects. If a church is like a sun,
a mission is a moon. A mission does not progress on to be a
church so that it can expand to be a cathedral. A mission
draws people to Christ and sends them back to grow in the
church. The church depends upon the mission to help it
expand at home; the mission depends on the church to help
it reap new people elsewhere.
- A church is temporarily permanent; a mission is a progress-
ively moveable and adjustable feast. A church empowers
missionaries and a mission employs reapers. A pastor nurtures
his followers and a mission mobilizes them. The church is a
gathering place; a mission is a sending agency. The church
holds the cannon, mission fires the shot. A church is the
storehouse; a mission is the store front.
- A church needs to expand it’s assets; a mission depletes its.
The church is a cafeteria to feed and sustain the people and
a clinic to heal the hurting. A mission helps the strong to win
the weak. A pastor serves the people who support him; a
mission serves the people who have nothing to give. A
gives everything away that the believers give it.
- Both a church and a mission are motivated by the theologically
imperative of the Bible, to make God and Jesus Christ known to
the world, as outlined in the Gospel’s Great Commission. A
church is preparation; a mission is implementation. A church
without a mission is like an army without a conquest.
- A church generally meets in a location for the people to be
private and secure; a mission has no borders to restrict it. A
mission expects itself to be thrown to the lions to defend
itself, but a church is not a place of battle; rather of harmony
and peace. A church raises money; a mission gathers new
candidates. The mission is the ‘risk department’ of a church.
- A church is usually founded upon a “Vision” statement; a
mission upon a “Mission” statement. A church creates nets
and keeps them repaired; a mission throw them overboard and
lets them down and draws them in at the right place in the
right way for the right reasons. A church sows and plants,
the mission reaps.
- A church renews strength; a mission expands its muscles,
works up a sweat, and rows the boats to the fish. Mission
muscles are at full peak, near ready to burst.
- There will always be a crossover between the functions and
priorities of a church and a mission. This is because some
churches are more or less mission-minded within themselves,
and some missions are more church minded than they ought.
They are mutually separate and cooperative, but are not inter-
- This explanation may be incomplete and subject to different
interpretations and changes, so long as the purpose and views
of their functions are not compromised. And so long as the
purpose of the Mission is to bring people into a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ through salvation, and the
Church’s mandate is to progressively grow them into strong
followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- A person seeking to know the differences will have no difficulty
finding the Biblical basis’ for the Mission and the Church. A
consistent reading of the Gospels will do it. So long as they
hold on to a conservative view of hermeneutics, (rightly inter-
preting Bible teaching according to stablished and approved
methods). And if they avoid error and cultism, and heed the
directions of the Lord Jesus Christ, St Paul and the Apostles.
Anything that is contradictory to the Scripture must be seen
as not of God. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” His mission
for us is found in Acts 1:8.
- Trying to run a church without mission is like running a petrol
station without gasoline, on milk, f'instance. And trying to run
a mission like a church is like reaping the harvest with no
storehouse to keep it in.
To paraphrase a political glitch in a speech by British PM Tony Blair,
but to mean it in the right sort of way—let me say:
“These are the single most important things we can do.”
For Outback Patrol: It’s Church and Mission!
See: Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:19, Luke 12:8 and John 3:16,
Acts 1:8, and various others. See also: Acts 2:46, 5:42, Romans
16:5, 16:23, I Corinthians 1:11, 16:19 and 14:26. And Acts 6:3,
I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1;6-9. And Matthew 18:17-18, I Corinthians
5:1-13, II Corinthians 2:5-8, and various others.