Faithlife Sermons

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Tonight I want to share something very dear to my heart as your pastor.
This is not so much a sermon as an introduction to a series of sermons which deal with rediscovering the purpose of the church.
/            //What are we aiming at? /
/            Imagine for a moment that I, as pastor, gave special permission for you to bring one of those Nerf guns into the sanctuary and I ask you to look up at the screen and hit the bullseye.
What would your first question be?
Which one?/
/            I think that’s what happens a lot of time in church---when you ask, “What are we, as the church of Jesus Christ, trying to accomplish?
What is the target?”
Nobody is sure.
Those who are sure have different targets.
“We’re trying to reach the lost…we’re aiming to preach and teach the Bible…we’re ministering to hurting people…we’re supposed to be taking care of our own peopel” Either nobody sees the target, or we can’t seem to agree on which targets are where we should aim for.
So we fulfill the prophecy of a wise person who once observed if you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it./
/            On the other hand, what could happen if we all saw the target clearly, if we all agreed on what we trying to hit, and we all worked together to hit that target?
/            Tonight I want to talk to you about finding the target for the church—the purpose for which the church exists---the purpose for which Gray’s Chapel FWB church exists.
I want to talk to you about why it’s important to narrow down our purpose?
Who determines our purpose?
Most importantly—what are the purposes, the target we should be aiming for?
But first, let’s pray.
*            Read 1 Cor.
*            *The epistle of 1 Corinthians could have been written to the church of today.
The same issues Paul addresses still crop up: disunity, immorality, arguments over worship styles---the same problems we still deal with in the 21st century church.
The words of this verse address a fundamental problem: /everybody is aiming at a different target.
/Paul pleads: /speak the same thing….be
perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgment…./Another
translation puts it this way:
*1 Corinthians 1:10* /I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other.
Let there be no divisions in the church.
Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose./
/            /You see, the church in Corinth was filled with people who were all aiming at different targets, going in different—sometimes opposite—directions.
Paul knew until they all got on the same page, they would never get anywhere.
They needed to get together on doctrine, but also on how to live that doctrine out.
They needed to agree on what God called them to do as a church.
/They had to find the right target, and agree to aim their hearts and minds in the same direction.
They had to be unified in their purpose.
/            /Being united in purpose is important for every church, not just the Corinthian church.
Jesus told us a house divided cannot stand, and the same is true of a church.
An essential element of a healthy church is that every member is focused on the same purpose, the same mission, the same target.
General George Patton would often ask soldiers, “What is your mission?” Being able to articulate clearly the current mission was the most important piece of information a soldier could carry in combat.
            I think it’s just as important for a church to all be united in their purpose and their mission.
This is the main idea in a book published several years ago which was written by a preacher named Rick Warren entitled /The Purpose Driven Church/.
Some of what I want to share with you tonight is adapted from his book, and I don’t apologize for that, because I believe he got his ideas from the Bible.
I want to share from the Bible and Rick why a common purpose, or target, is essential to the health of a church.
1)    A common purpose allows concentration.
(*Luke 9:57-62*) Jesus is stressing the
importance of being focused on following Him.
Focus is also important for His church.
Purpose helps a church focus.
Instead of trying to focus on doing everything, you narrow your focus on what you should be doing.
Many churches, including Gray’s Chapel  church, are busy with a lot of activity, and that is great.
We ought to be about our Father’s business.
But if you’re not careful, you can try to do everything and end up accomplishing very little as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned.
Jesus doesn’t call us just to stay busy—He calls His church to focus their time and energy on doing what really matters---what lines up with His purpose for the church.
2)    A common purpose fosters cooperation.
*2 Corinthians 6:1* We then, /as/ workers together /with Him/…The work Christ has for His church is a cooperative effort between God, you, and the rest of His church to get His will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Purpose helps a church work together.
Imagine a symphony orchestra full of professional musicians, all playing their best, with only one small problem: none of them are playing the same song.
It would sound horrible!
Beautiful music only comes when there is harmony, when the musicians all play their part.
The same thing is true of the church.
When everybody is doing their own thing, eventually everything falls to pieces.
People get frustrated, angry, and many even quit the band altogether.
But when everybody is aiming at the same target—a common purpose---there is harmony, and cooperation.
We get a lot more done together than we could ever do separately.
3)    A common purpose enables evaluation.
It’s hard to know if you’re doing a good job when
you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.
Purpose helps you evaluate what you do.
How do we know if the church is doing what Jesus wants us to do? Clarifying the target helps us see how close we are to the bulls’ eye.
But the next question is: /who decides what the purpose of the church is? /The answer, of course, is /Jesus does.
/After all, it is Jesus Who said
*Matthew 16:18* /I will build *My* church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it./
/            /Jesus is the Founder of the church, and He is the One Who gives the church its purpose.
Not you, not me, not our ancestors, not our denomination but Jesus.
It would be foolish for us to get together and try to combine all of our ideas about what the purpose of the church should be and then vote, because ultimately, as Paul observes in
*Col 1:18* /And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence./
If Christ is not the Head, don’t call it a church.
Call it a social club, or a religious organization, or but don’t call it a church.
/Our job is not to create the purpose of our church, but to recognize Jesus’ purpose for our church.
/            /Having said that, I also want to add while nobody but Jesus can /formulate/ the purpose of the church, we can /personalize/ the purpose of the church.
We can put Jesus’ purpose into our own words which can help us understand and communicate His purposes for Gray’s Chapel.
In other words, we can express His purpose for our church in many different ways, as long as we are expressing */His/* purpose, and not just our own opinions.
Which brings up the all- important question: /what is the purpose of the church?
/Out of all the words of Jesus recorded in the Bible, how do you narrow down Jesus’ words about the purpose of the church?
I’m a real basic kind of guy.
I like to look for simple, easy, obvious answers to simple questions.
So when I think about Jesus’ purpose for the church, I think about 2 passages that I believe sum up what He expects out of all Christians.
His purpose for the church is really a multiplied version of his purpose for each of us.
So to keep it simple, let me suggest to you Jesus’ purpose for the church from two very familiar  passages of Scripture: The Great Commandment in *Mark 12:29-31* and the Great Commission *Matt.
*Let’s unpack these verses:
/1)    /The purpose of the church is to worship God.* Mark 12:30* /And you shall// love the Lord /
/your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
            I don’t know if you will find a better definition of worship anywhere in the Bible.
Worship is not just what you do, or a place you go—/worship must come from a heart of love for the Lord.
Everything we do at church ought to be an expression of love for our Lord—from the songs we sing to the prayers we pray, to the money we put in the offering.
This is why the church exists: /to bring honor and glory to Christ.
2)    The purpose of the church is to love others.
*Mark 12:31* /…You shall love your neighbor /
/as yourself…/  In *Luke 10*, somebody follows up Jesus’ words here with a question /Who is my neighbor /to which Jesus replies with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and then adds /go and do likewise.
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