What is the purpose of the Church?

Posted in body of Christ, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on October 23, 2008

Recently I was asked to answer a couple of questions about the purpose of the Church and its role in society…a topic that is in keeping with the subject of ChurchETHOS. Therefore, I decided to post my answers here. I got a little crafty and used Ephesians 4:11-13 to answer my question. There, we can find God raising up leaders for the Church to accomplish three things. Certainly there are other purposes but it was intriguing to find that these three purposes answer the following three questions.

Q. What is the main purpose(s) of the church, and therefore, what should be our measures of church/Kingdom success?

The main purpose of the Church is to make disciples. When Paul tells the Ephesians (4:11-13) that God gave some to the Church as apostles, some as prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, it was for about three reasons. First of all, it was to train saints in the work of ministry. This training harkens back to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We are told to “Go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” We make disciples and teach them to be obedient to the commands of God. What are those commands? Love God, love people, make disciples, and teach them to obey my commands. It becomes a cycle much like the cycle that Paul initiates and encourages in Timothy: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Paul is investing in Timothy who is investing in “faithful men” who will “teach others also”. This cycle is what has kept the Church in existence for 2,000 years.

How would you explain the current decaying of our culture and society in light of our current state of so many examples of successful churches?

This second question also leads us to the second purpose of the Church that Paul charges the leaders to accomplish. Therefore, I am still answering Question 1 while at the same time answering Question 2. Hope that’s not confusing. The second purpose of the church leaders is “to build up the body of Christ”. In other words, the Church is designed to grow. All organisms do it. We don’t have to be taught how to grow, but we do have to be taught how to stay healthy. The Church could be making a bigger difference in the world, but we aren’t healthy. As you mention in your question there are many examples of successful churches, but by what standard? Are they making disciples? Are the leaders encouraging growth that is both numerical AND in maturity? Meanwhile, the majority of churches are floundering. The world sees examples of perversion in the Church broadcast by the media and they don’t know what to think about the Church. Most of society has rejected Christ because of people who call themselves Christians but “deny Him by their lifestyle” as Billy Graham famously said. The leaders are given to the Church to build up the body of Christ.

What do you think the church can and should do in order to truly make a greater impact in our society and culture? To what extent is this possible?

Again, let me use the third purpose in Ephesians 4 to answer the third question. The leaders are given to the Church to do what? To make disciples, to build up the body, and finally, to reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son. What must be done by the church to have a greater impact in society? We have to stand unified against injustice and evil but also unified in our love for God and people. Most of the world only knows what we stand against (abortion, homosexuality, Catholics, Baptists, etc.) but rarely does a community or a city know what a church stands FOR. Most churches in a city or town are AGAINST each other because of competition or differing theologies or different races, etc. We aren’t really doing a good job of showing our unity with each other, much less show the world that we are unified. In order to make a greater impact in our society we have to be unified in our support of other believers and we also need to be unified in our love for our neighbor, especially those in need. Let’s let the world know that we love them. Let’s let the world know that we are unified against evil and are seeking and praying for the good of the city in which we live. All three purposes (make disciples, grow, and be unified) are necessary to make an impact in our culture. If we are the body of Christ but look anemic and unhealthy, no one will care about what we have to offer the world. If people’s lives are not being transformed through discipleship, the Church will cease to exist.

Related Post: My Top Concerns for the Local Church ::  Subscribe ::


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