*What is the Purpose of the Church?*
/Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on January 20, 2008/
I want to ask you guys this morning a question that is not intended to insult but to initiate some thinking: why did you come to church today?
What was your purpose or motive or goal in coming here?
Why are you here, other than the fact that it’s something you do?
In other words is it just a routine or ritual or is there a specific reason why you attend church or why you are involved at church or not?
I am certainly glad you’re all here, and my goal is not at all to make you feel unwelcome, but I do want you to engage your minds.
I want to challenge us to not be content with routines, not to be satisfied with being in a rut or a repetitious endless cycle, where we just do things because that’s the way they’ve always been done, or I do this because my parents raised me this way, or I come because that’s what I’m supposed to, that’s what good people do, etc.
What is your purpose at church?
A broader question is for the church as a whole, what is the purpose of the church, what is the goal and reason for believers gathering together on the Lord’s Day?
Why does this church exist?
Do we have a purpose statement, do we have a vision?
Is there a unifying principle and overarching objective of our activities here?
Where are we to focus our energies when so many things are competing for our attention?
What is /your/ purpose or goal or objective here?
Why are /we/ doing what /we’re/ doing this morning?
What is the purpose of the church?
What is /God’s/ primary purpose for having the church on earth?
What is the church to do and be?
Why do we do what we do?
It’s been said: ‘A high proportion of people who “go to church” have forgotten what it is all for.
Week by week they attend services in a special building and go through their particular, time-honored routine, but give little thought to the purpose of what they are doing.
The Bible talks about the “the bride of Christ” but the church today seems like a ragged Cinderella.
It needs to reaffirm the nonnegotiable, essential elements God designed for it to be committed to.’
/So what is the essential element or purpose God designs a church to be committed to?/
A few weeks ago, I began a series of messages that each had a question as their title, very basic and fundamental questions:
- *Saved from what? *(what is salvation, what is the gospel)* *
- *What is the church?
- *Why should we love the church?*
- *What did the first church look like?*
The answer to the first question, what are we saved from or who do we need to be saved from is God Himself.
We are not saved from poor feelings about ourselves, or saved from a lack of fulfillment, or a lack of success – what we need to be saved from is God.
We are saved from God by God through God for God.
As we saw in Romans 5 and other passages, we need to be saved from God’s Wrath by God’s grace through God’s Son for God’s glory.
The answer to the second question, what is the church, is also different than the way many think.
We saw that:
/The church is not a building, it is a body of true believers./
/It’s not a business, it’s the bride of Christ, chosen by the Father./
/It’s not a corporation, it’s a congregation of Christ-followers./
/It’s not a financial institution, it’s a family, it’s a flock./
/It’s not led by CEOs, it’s led by shepherds./
/It’s not built by corporate executives, it’s built by Christ alone./
As we saw in Matthew 16, the church is built on Christ (who He really is: Lord and Savior), built from Christ, and built by Christ.
For the question, why should we love the church, I said that if we truly love Christ, shouldn’t we want to be committed to what He is committed to?
If His major commitment until He comes again is to be building His church, we should want to be used by Him in His work that will never fail.
If we deeply love Christ, we cannot be indifferent to His body, which is inseparably joined to Him.
If we say we love Christ, how can we not love what He loves?
Ephesians 5 says it was the church in particular that Christ loved and gave Himself up for her, He even nourishes and cherishes the church, His highest affection and attention is poured into the church.
Some of you might be skeptical or cynical or critical about the church because of past experiences or because of how someone in some church treated you, but we know that is not the attitude of Christ.
It was while we were enemies and yet sinners that He died for us His church.
He knows the church is not perfect, and that doesn’t cause Him to abandon the church, it causes Him to commit Himself to help the church be all it is intended to be.
The church is not perfect and neither are you, but thankfully Christ doesn’t share the attitude many of us have toward the church.
He loves the church, not /because it’s /beautiful, but to /make it /beautiful
Last week, we looked at the question: what did the first church look like?
From Acts 2 we saw the early church was marked by:
- Reliance on God’s Spirit
- Response to God’s Word
- Real Fellowship with God’s People
- Regular Worship by God’s Means
- Radical Love for God’s Church
I’m spending more time in intro and review for a purpose, because today I want to try to bring this series together as we discuss the purpose of it all: /What is the Purpose of the Church?
What is to be our plumbline, our priority #1, our passion, our pursuit, our pre-eminent focus, our primary aim, our purpose?
Ray Ortlund has written:
‘The problem most churches face is not that they do not do anything; they do plenty.
The problem is that they are not doing the right things.
A pilot announced to his passengers over his intercom system, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that we have a tail wind, and we are making excellent time.
The bad news is that our compass is broken, and we have no idea where we are going.”
A similar situation is true of many churches.’
Billy Sunday said, “There wouldn’t be so many non-church goers if there were not so many non-going churches.”
In other words, many churches are either not sure what they’re trying to do or where they’re going or aren’t going anywhere, they’re stuck or stalled.
Are we in any ways stalled, to use the analogy of a car, do we need our battery to be recharged (or replaced)?
Are we spinning our wheels, is our engine sputtering?
Have we settled into a rut?
Are we in some areas stuck in neutral?
Are we starting to go in reverse?
Are we satisfied here?
What is driving us?
I listened to a message this week that discussed how churches are driven by a lot of things other than their biblical purpose:
- Past (tradition, no change, we’ve always done it this way)
- Personality (pastor or influential persons that dominate)
- Pockets (money, payments, finances, heated budget mtgs)
- Politics (or social agendas, are these the /church’s/ focus?)
- Pews (whatever they can do to fill the seats)
- Pagans (what do unbelievers want church to be like?
Let’s survey them, etc.)
- Programs (fad-driven church, latest and greatest)
According to one survey, when asked, “Why does the church exist?” 89% of church-goers said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs.”
Only 11% said, “The purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.”
[According to another source, the surveyed pastors answered the exact opposite, flip-flopped] … if the pastor and congregation disagree on why the church exists, conflict on everything else is inevitable.
We discussed this question as elders last year and were in agreement that neither of those answers are truly adequate for what the ultimate purpose of the church is.
That’s not to say the church shouldn’t be involved in meeting physical needs or especially man’s greatest need, which is salvation, but is there another purpose, an ultimate and overarching purpose that should drive us?
To a growing number of emergent voices, they think the church’s purpose should move away from a man of God preaching the Word of God as inerrant, authoritative, or the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ, like traditional churches do.
In many cases they think the church should be more of a coffee-shop feel where we sit around and light candles and can question everything, change everything, don’t emphasize absolute truth, but have a postmodern-friendly /conversation/ about our spiritual pilgrimages and opinions and what we feel about Jesus and various scriptures.
I’ve even heard someone describe church’s purpose is to be a place “where everybody knows your name” (apparently a spiritual version of the TV show Cheers)?!
To many, the emergent and missional emphasis on the church’s purpose in the world sounds like the old liberalism with new labels, even to those friendly to the more conservative side of the emerging spectrum like Mark Driscoll who criticizes more left-wing guys like Brian MacLaren.
The liberals focus ‘on societal transformation rather than personal conversion.
Their “social gospel” sees the saving of society from social evil as the great purpose of the church.
The mission of the church is not to preach the gospel to sinners in need of God’s great salvation [the liberals say], but rather, to liberate mankind from poverty, racism, disease, war and all kinds of injustice.’