The Purpose of the Church

What is the Purpose of the Church? Ask most Christians about the purpose of the church and they will say that it is for the fellowship of believers, preaching the gospel, for prayer and most importantly, for worshipping God. If you listen carefully, it becomes clear that most view the church as a place, a building or an institution.

The New Testament, however, says that Christians are the church. It is the fellowship of believers. Jesus is the head of the church and every believer is a member of the body. Not once is a place of worship called a church. In fact, the NT knows only one church, the one just described. The New Testament church is not a building or denomination. It is composed of believers who learn about God and discover his will in fellowship with one another. I am not critical of having meeting places ("houses of worship") or organized Christian fellowships and institutions, but we dare not confuse these with what the Bible calls the church.

While it is true that the churches' most important role is to worship God, we must also be aware of the biblical definition of worship. True Worship is a vital aspect of our faith and relationship to God. When we worship an object or person, we offer ourselves in humble submission. This can be understood both spiritually (attitude of the heart) and physically bowing in submission.

When we worship, we show recognition of a superior nature, force and character. Both the Hebrew and Greek give the idea of falling prostrate or kneeling submissively before the object of worship. "O Come Let Us Adore Him" is a popular Christmas Carol, but many see only a cute little baby in the manger. The shepherds and wise men saw the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We would do well to critically analyze our own Christmas celebration. Is it worship or idolatry?

True biblical worship and adoration recognizes God for who he is. Worship has the aim of serving and pleasing God. True worship is based on faith. We also trust God to care for and provide for us, but worship is about what God desires and not what we want.

Idolatry is the exact opposite of worship. It has the aim of getting or doing that which delights or pleases the "worshipper." How much of our so-called "worship" is about us? Do our prayers seek God's will and direction, or do they have selfish ends? Do we ask God for opportunities to witness, or do we just request healing, material provision and that which gives us pleasure? In many church prayer meetings, prayers tend to be of a selfish nature. Personal prayers are even more likely to be self-centered.

The purpose of the church is not to eliminate or even reduce the amount of evil in the world. If Godís purpose had been to eliminate evil, we must conclude that he failed miserably! Neither the flood, nor the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, nor the judgment of the cross eliminated sin and evil.

An Eskimo was watching workers build a lighthouse on the rocky Alaskan coast. "What are you making?" he asked. They explained that there was much fog in the area and many ships had been wrecked on the rocks. The lighthouse should dramatically reduce such casualties. The Eskimo replied simply, "It won't work!" Several months later, the workers returned to make a few adjustments and to clean the lens. They saw the same Eskimo and asked, "Well, what do you say now?" The Eskimo replied, "I told you it wouldn't work!" Baffled, the workers asked for an explanation. The Eskimo said, "We have had just as much fog as ever. The lighthouse doesn't make any difference."

The church has one and only one purpose in this world. It is to preach to lost souls about sin, judgment and of God's grace though Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus left his church behind when he ascended into heaven, and it is why he sent the Holy Spirit on that memorable Pentecost Day. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and that is still his desire. The purpose of the church is missions and the purpose of missions is the salvation of sinners.

Ralph V Harvey