It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that your church’s only responsibility is to meet on Sunday mornings, sing some songs together, and listen to a message from the Bible. While corporate worship and time together in the Word of God is important, that’s not the primary mission of the Church. Instead, God expects the believers in His Son to go beyond the walls of their church buildings in order to better fulfill the Great Commission.
Whether you’re in a position of church leadership, or you’re one of the people who fills the seats of your local church every week, you may be wondering what the purpose of the Church is. Before we go on, it’s important to understand the difference in the church that you attend and the Church. The Church is the term that is used to encapsulate all of the men and women who have made Chris the Lord of their lives, and are committed to being faithful disciples of Him. The Church launched on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and is still very much alive and active today. The church that you attend is an important part of the Church as a whole.
The church that you attend probably has a mission statement in place. Even if there isn’t one that has been distributed to the congregants, the leadership of your local church has probably discussed the things that they hope to accomplish as a body of believers. If you’re in church leadership and haven’t established a purpose and a mission for your church, today is a great day to talk to the rest of your leadership team to get that process started.
Today, we’re going to look at the purpose of the Church. That is, we’re going to look at the things that God wants His people to accomplish in His name while we wait on the return of His Son. It’s incredible to think that God wants to use ordinary people just like us to fulfill a divine plan. But that’s exactly what He has done since the beginning of time as we know it. When you better understand His plan for the Church, you can begin to determine where you fit into God’s perfect plan for the world.
Pentecost and Its Purpose
Acts 2:1-4 (TPT)
On the day Pentecost was being fulfilled, all the disciples were gathered in one place. Suddenly they heard the sound of a violent blast of wind rushing into the house from out of the heavenly realm. The roar of the wind was so overpowering it was all anyone could bear! Then all at once a pillar of fire appeared before their eyes. It separated into tongues of fire that engulfed each one of them. They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues-empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never heard.
There are several misconceptions about the Day of Pentecost. Some charismatic churches believe that the purpose of this day was to allow believers to receive the gift of speaking in tongues. While that certainly happened on the Day of Pentecost, it wasn’t the primary purpose. Conversely, other churches who are not as passionate about the charismatic gifts of the Spirit believe that the Day of Pentecost was simply a singular event that was necessary for believers during the days of Acts 2. Both camps, though well-intentioned, are simply incorrect.
The Day of Pentecost established one of the earliest purposes of the Church. If you allow yourself to get completely hung up on the tongues of fire and the fact that the people present spoke in languages they didn’t know, you will miss out on a little nugget of information tucked in the middle of those verses. Let’s take another look at the first part of verse 4:
Acts 2:4 (TPT)
They were all filled and equipped with the Holy Spirt…
One of the greatest purposes of the Church is to have its members be filled with God’s presence and equipped to do His work. The Day of Pentecost wasn’t about a charismatic outpouring of God’s presence. It wasn’t solely about one gift of the Spirit. However, it also wasn’t a singular event that shouldn’t be taken into constant consideration today. Instead, it established the fact that God equips those who He calls to His service.
Changing the Culture
Matthew 5:13-16 (TPT)
“Your lives are like salt among the people. But if you, like salt, become bland, how can your ‘saltiness’ be restored? Flavorless salt is good for nothing and will be thrown out and trampled on by others. Your lives light up the world. For how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop? And who would light a lamp and then hide it in an obscure place? Instead, it’s placed where everyone in the house can benefit from its light. So don’t hide your light! Let is shine brightly before others, so that your commendable works will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven.”
Christ compared the importance of the Church to the presence of salt and light. This isn’t a deep, mysterious, hard-to-understand comparison. It’s exactly what it looks like. Have you ever eaten food that needed salt? Before you add the salt to that food, you may notice that the meal is incredibly bland. The presence of the right amount of salt doesn’t change the flavor of the food. Instead, it brings out the flavors that are already there. That’s what we’re called to do. God has a plan for every person on this planet. When we fulfill our role as salt, we help them bring out exactly what God has placed in them.
In the same vein, embracing the role of light in a dark, fallen, sin-stricken world means that we simply act as the change that we want to see. Ultimately, the Church must decide between being a thermometer, or being a facilitator of change. When we act as a thermometer, we simply sit around and talk about how much better we wish things were. Thermometers don’t do anything to change the temperature around you. They just report it. That’s not what the Church is called to do. Instead, we’re called to change things, in the same way that light changes a dark room.
Luke 10:26-28 (TPT)
Jesus replied, “What do you read in the Law? How do you understand it?” The religious scholar answered, “It states, ‘You must love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy, and your every thought. And you must love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus said, “That is correct. Now go and do exactly that and you will live.”
This conversation preceded a parable that Jesus taught about the Good Samaritan. A religious leader came and asked Jesus how to get into Heaven. Jesus, always a step ahead, turned the question around, and asked the man what the Law of Moses taught him. He recited the right words, allowing Jesus to go into a parable about what it means to love your neighbor.
It certainly wasn’t a mistake that Jesus mentioned religious leaders passing by a person that needed help in the parable (Read more about this parable in Luke 10:30-37). That’s because Jesus didn’t call His Church to fulfill some level of religious tradition. Instead, He wants us to be His hands and feet, taking the Gospel to a lost and dying world, and meeting them at their point of need.
In addition to the command to love God, the primary purpose of the Church is to love others. Loving others is about more than words. Instead, it means doing what needs to be done so they can see the love of God in action.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your Church. I know that You have a plan and a purpose for every person who has called on Your name, seeking salvation. Help me to do a better job of fulfilling my purpose. In Christ’s name, Amen.