What is the Purpose of the Church?
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirt.
As God’s children, we understand the importance of being connected to a local church. The gathering of believers is a vital aspect of a healthy Christian life. It not only ensures that you are hearing the Gospel presented by preachers and teachers, but it also provides you with a source of encouragement when you face troubles and trials in your life. The local church is God’s chosen vessel for reaching the community. It is certainly no mistake that in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit fell on the believers after they were all gathered together. There is strength in numbers, and there are spiritual benefits associated with understanding the purpose of the church and being a part of a Christian community.
However, it’s important that we understand that we are also a part of the Church. When we speak about the Church (notice the capital C) as opposed to the local church, we are referencing the entire body of believers around the world. The Church references everyone who has accepted God’s free gift of salvation through the gift of His Son. When you give your life to Christ, you become part of the Church.
One of the most powerful aspects of being a believer is that it allows you to embrace God’s unique purpose for your life. Before you were ever conceived, God had a plan for your existence. When you submit your life to Him, you open yourself up to receive His direction so you can walk in that purpose.
In addition to God’s unique purpose that He has for each of His children, He also has purposes for His Church as a whole. If you find yourself wondering why it’s so important to be connected to a local church, consider some of the purposes that God has for the Church. When each local church commits to these universal purposes, the world can be changed for the Kingdom, just the way God intended it.
Evangelizing the World
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The primary purpose of the Church is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we read these verses from Saint Matthew’s Gospel account, Christ had already risen from the dead. He had spent a few weeks with His disciples, equipping them for life without Him, at least in His tangible form. Before he returned to the Father, He explained what He wanted them to do.
Thousands of years after that conversation took place, the primary purpose of the Church hasn’t changed. He still wants His people to go into the world and make disciples. To be a disciple is to be a student, a follower who is committed to the cause of Christ. That means that God doesn’t only want His people to tell people how to be saved. He also wants us to teach those people how to become a true, committed follower of Christ.
While you may not be personally called to stand in front of a congregation and share a Gospel message, we are all called to share the Gospel. In the battle for the souls of humanity, every day is an opportunity to live out the Church’s purpose.
To Remember the Forgotten
James 1:26-27 (NIV)
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight reign on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Another of the universal purposes of the Church is to care for those who are forgotten or alone. Before we dive into what this looks like in practice, we should do a bit of contextual study on this verse. In Biblical times, families were largely responsible for themselves. While some of the more financially successful individuals may have had employees, most people worked for themselves, growing food or raising animals that they would eat and barter with. Unfortunately, when the husband or father of a household died, depending on the age of the children, the widows and the orphans would find themselves in a terrifying position.
While there were societal methods of caring for widows and orphans, it often resulted in people ending up in loveless relationships, and children were often doomed to a life of slavery. With the birth of the New Testament Church, God put the responsibility for caring for those people on the Church.
Today, God still wants us to care for those that society forgets. You don’t have to look outside of your own neighborhood to find opportunities. Is there a widow or a widower that lives on your block? That individual is likely dealing with loneliness, and having someone reach out to them would be invaluable.
Even if you don’t have opportunities to carry out this purpose of the Church in your own community, you can support those who are caring for orphans. Many churches sponsor orphanages around the globe. Contributing financially can help ensure that those children are having their needs met.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Finally, the Church is called to worship. Worship goes far beyond a song or a certain block of time in a service that you attend. Instead, worship is a lifestyle. To worship God means that you allow yourself to be completely consumed by His goodness and authority.
When Solomon wrote these words in Ecclesiastes, he was saying that all of us are born with a sense that there is something greater than ourselves. However, no matter how aware we are of the fact that there’s something greater, none of us can truly fathom everything that God has done and everything that He is.
When we acknowledge that we cannot fully understand His existence, the only response is to worship. The Church, the entire body of believers, has been called to worship. Worship is surrender to His will, which allows us to carry out the other purposes that He has for us. Worship means that you allow yourself to be fully under His Lordship over your life. Worship means that we pour out the type of love to God that He longs for.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me into Your family. Thank You for choosing me long before I ever chose You. Help me to do my part to carry out the purposes that You have for Your children. I know that You have things specifically for me, but there are also broader purposes that apply to all of us. Help me to do my part in Your Kingdom. In Christ’s name, Amen.