Weekly Bible Study
Tuesday 8th September 2020
Topic: THE PURPOSES OF THE CHURCH
Text: Matt. 5: 13-16.
We have once studied this from Rick Warren’s view outlined in his book; Purpose Driven Church but we will look at the same thing from a different perspective. We can understand the purposes of the church in terms of ministry to God, ministry to believers, and ministry to the world.
1. Ministry to God: Worship.
In relationship to God the church’s purpose is to worship him. Paul directs the church at Colossae to “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). God has destined us and appointed us in Christ “to live for the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:12). Worship in the church is not merely a preparation for something else, it is in itself fulfilling the major purpose of the church with reference to its Lord. Paul therefore exhorts us to “make the most of the time” with a command to be filled with the Spirit and then to be “singing and making melody to the Lord with all our hearts.” (Eph. 5:16– 19)
2. Ministry to Believers: Nurture.
According to the scripture, the church has an obligation to nurture those who are already believers and build them up to maturity in the faith. Paul said that his own goal was not simply to bring people to initial saving faith but to “present every man mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). He told the church at Ephesus that God gave the church gifted persons “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12–13). It is clearly contrary to the New Testament pattern to think that our only goal with people is to bring them to initial saving faith. Our goal as a church must be to present to God every Christian “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28).
3. Ministry to the World: Evangelism and Mercy.
Jesus told his disciples that they should “make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19) This evangelistic work of declaring the gospel is the primary ministry that the church has toward the world. In addition to the work of evangelism is also a ministry of mercy, a ministry that includes caring for the poor and needy in the name of the Lord.
Although the emphasis of the New Testament is on giving material help to those who are part of the church (Acts 11:29; 2 Cor. 8:4; 1 John 3:17), there is still an affirmation that it is right to help unbelievers even if they do not respond with gratitude or acceptance of the gospel message. Jesus tells us, love your enemies, and do good, lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35–36) The point of Jesus’ explanation is that we are to imitate God in being kind to those who are being ungrateful and selfish as well.
Moreover, we have the example of Jesus who did not attempt to heal only those who accepted him as Messiah. Rather, when great crowds came to him, “he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” (Luke 4:40) The ministry of mercy to the world may also include participation in civic activities or attempting to influence governmental policies to make them more consistent with biblical moral principles. In areas where there is systematic injustice manifested in the treatment of the poor and/or ethnic or religious minorities, the church should also pray and as it has opportunity to speak against such injustice. But the ministry of mercy to the world should never become a substitute for genuine evangelism or for the other areas of ministry to God and to believers mentioned above.
All three purposes of the church listed above are commanded by the Lord in Scripture; therefore all three are important and none can be neglected. In fact, a strong church will have effective ministries in all three of these areas. We should beware of any attempts to reduce the purpose of the church to only one of these three and to say that it should be our primary focus. In fact, such attempts to make one of these purposes primary will always result in some neglect of the other two. A church that emphasizes only worship will end up with inadequate Bible teaching of believers and its members will remain shallow in their understanding of Scripture and immature in their Christian lives. If it also begins to neglect evangelism the church will cease to grow and influence others; it will become ingrown and eventually begin to wither. But a church that makes evangelism such a priority that it causes the other two purposes to be neglected will also end up with immature Christians who emphasize growth in numbers but have less and less genuine love for God expressed in their worship and less and less doctrinal maturity and personal holiness in their lives.
All three purposes must be emphasized continually in a healthy church. Because we are like a body with diverse spiritual gifts and abilities, it is right for us to place most of our emphasis on the fulfillment of that purpose of the church that is most closely related to the gifts and interests God has given to us. There is certainly no obligation for every believer to attempt to give exactly one third of his or her time in the church to worship, one-third to nurturing other believers, and one-third to evangelism or deeds of mercy. Someone with the gift of evangelism should of course spend some time in worship and caring for other believers, but may end up spending the vast majority of his or her time in evangelistic work. Someone who is a gifted worship leader may end up devoting 90 percent of his time in the church toward preparation for and leading of worship. This is an appropriate response to the diversity of gifts that God has given us