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The Purpose of the Church – Part 1

While I have been studying this topic, I have come across many purpose statements written by Christian churches, colleges, and organizations. While there are some common ideas, you might be surprised at how diverse the statements were. One website listed fifty church purpose statements which varied from only two words to 42 words. Some of them were odd. But many of them didn’t include things I felt were important.

As we consider what our church’s purpose should be, we don’t want to simply copy what someone else has said (no matter how good it may be), we want to find what the Bible says about our purpose. When we discover that, then and only then will we know what God’s purpose is for our local church.

  1. What is the Church?

    Before we consider the purpose of the Church, we should consider what the Church is. If we understand who we are, we will better understand what God wants us to be and do.

    We are the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:15-16).

    The Body of Christ refers to all believers collectively. Although each of us is an individual with different gifts and ministry positions, all of us are part of the same group. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul pointed out the need for each individual believer to play his part in the Body. In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us that we are the Body but our Head is Jesus. So each individual must follow His leadership to accomplish God’s purposes for the Church.

    This picture gives us two specific ideas. First, we are the body and not the head. The human body is controlled by the brain inside the head and it does whatever the brain says. In the same way, Christ is the One who leads what we, the Body, should be doing. Second, we are individuals which together make up the Body. This means that we have to consciously work together to accomplish God’s purposes for us.

    How can we apply this? Perhaps we should take some time this week to figure out where we fit in the Body of Christ. What gifts has God given you individually? What gifts has God given us collectively? How can we work together as a Body to accomplish the purposes Jesus has for us?

    We are the People of God (2 Cor. 6:16).

    The People of God is another collective term referring to those whom God has called out of the world to be His special people. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds us that we are now God’s people and should choose to be separate from lawlessness, darkness, unbelief, and idols. When we do that, He will be a Father to us and we will be His children.

    This picture gives us two ideas as well. As the People of God, we are both special and different. We are special because God has chosen us to be His people, His own children. This shows us that He loves us and has a special relationship with us. As His People, we are in the process of becoming more and more like Him. But this also means that we are different. Having been called out of the world, we are often reminded that we have no business acting like or conforming ourselves to our former, sinful past.

    How can we apply this? We all appreciate what God has done for us. But the temptations offered by the world are constant. We need to be careful that we remember who we are and what God has done for us. Knowing God’s promise to be a Father to us should give us the comfort we need to persevere.

    We are the Bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:32; Rev. 19:7; 21:9)

    In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul likened the Church to an engaged virgin. He wanted these believers to keep themselves pure for Christ as a virgin keeps herself pure for her future husband. In Ephesians 5, Paul used the same idea when giving instructions about the relationship between a husband and wife. The husband is to love his wife and the wife is to subject herself to his leadership. This is based on the love Christ has for the Church and the Church’s willing subjection to His leadership.

    This picture gives us two ideas. As the Bride of Christ, we need to keep ourselves pure for the Lord. This means that we must avoid sinful actions and attitudes that would cause us to become impure. When Christ returns, He wants to have a Bride who has kept herself pure for Him. We also need to consider ourselves as the Wife of Christ. There is no doubt that Jesus has loved us perfectly and still does today. But our response should be to willingly follow His leadership as He knows what is best.

    How can we apply this? We must remember that Jesus could return at any time. With that in mind, we need to keep our guard up against things that would embarrass us at His return. As Peter said in 1 Peter 1:13, we need to rest our hope in the grace that will be revealed to us at His return. As we do that, we will find the motivation to be pure for Him.

    The Bible refers to the Church as the Body of Christ, the People of God, and the Bride of Christ. In each title, we see both our Leader and our place. Now that we understand who we are and our relationship to God, we should consider what purposes God has for us as a Church.