Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Purpose of the Church

I have been thinking a lot recently about what a church is and what it means to be the Church. The Church is the worldwide body of believers, whereas the church is the local expression of that body. Both hold significance and both are important. John Piper has said that "missions exists because worship does not." Think about that for a second... The goal of the church is not necessarily evangelism (although that is a big part of it), but it is worship. We all "do church" in different ways. Some of us meet in old buildings with ministers who wear robes and sing from hymnals and this is church. Some of us meet in rented schools and have pastors that don't wear ties and this is church. And a growing number of people meet with a small number of others in their homes for prayer, Bible reading and expression of the gospel. And this is church.
I think so much of how we define church has to do with what we were brought up with. Unfortunately, some of what we use as a definition of what constitutes a real church has much more to do with tradition than biblical authority. There are people who say that people have to dress up to make it church. Others think a pipe organ makes it a church. Many people think that an ordained minister has to be leading the way or it's not really church. Or maybe that the fellowship has to be part of an "official" denomination. Funny, but Scripture doesn't place any of these requirements on what makes a church a church.
What Scripture seems to indicate is that when members of Christ's body gather together (Jesus said when two or more are gathered) then God is in their midst. So a church is not a building. It is people who love Jesus and mutually commit to follow Him. Our aim as the Church is to worship Almighty God and introduce others to our great Creator so that they can worship Him as well. Church does not exist to be a social club. Church does not exist as a place for us to make business connections. Church does not exist so that we can push our political viewpoints tax-free.
Church exists for us to meet with God, to meet with His people and to have a place to invite others to do the same. It's troubling to see when God's house (whether that's a church building, a schoolroom, a rec room, a living room or a coffeehouse) is defiled by using it for reasons other than worship. I came across this article recently and what I read really bothered me. While I have no problem with megachurches in general, large churches can see a subtle slip into creating a good show for people rather than creating a true environment of worship. Of course, small churches can fall into the same trap (they're just not affecting as many people). And to bring it closer to home, the ministry that I'm apart of, Campus Crusade, can also go down this road as we can spend way too much time, energy, and money on trying to have the best band, the sharpest videos and the funniest skits at our weekly meetings while forgetting what our real purpose is.
Please read the article and let me know your thoughts on whether you think this example is what you think the church should be. I have been fortunate to have been part of some great church communities and I'd appreciate hearing your examples also of churches that you've been a part of that have done a good job of living out our primary calling.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I posted something today that is related to this. You may enjoy giving it a read.

The Gathering