[by Greg Perry]
I want to pick up where I left off on this subject here: What is the Purpose of the Church?, Part 1.
I’ll continue this series every once in a while until I’ve shown Biblically that the church has one primary purpose. That purpose is virtually never followed by almost every church in existence today and hardly any Christian knows what the purpose of a church is.
Note: As I said in Part 1, I’m talking here about the place we go, the people gathered together, typically on Sundays in America although that day is being challenged lately as perhaps not being the “Lord’s Day.” (I have absolutely no care whatsoever about the day you go to church.)
Showing My Hand
Did you ever watch the Columbo detective shows? They are most excellent, I highly recommend them. What distinguished them from most mysteries is that at the very start, you would watch the criminal commit the crime. You know who did it and what he or she did. For the rest of the hour and fifteen minutes or so, you’d then watch Detective Columbo solve the crime.
I’m going to pull a Columbo on you, except I won’t commit a crime. I’ll give you the answer, the punchline so to speak, and tell you the purpose of the church now. For the rest of the series I’ll show you the Biblical evidence. It’s massive evidence. And I’ll go so far as to say that the purpose most people think the church is there absolutely cannot be located in God’s Word.
Feed, Lead, and Teach the Sheep
The purpose of the church is simple. The congregation – the flock – needs to be taught the Word of God.
This may sometimes require personal guidance and counseling and correction of its members, but always with a purpose to do so strictly according to God’s Word.
There is no other purpose of the church.
What Church Isn’t
Church is not a place to take the unsaved to be saved.
There I said it. When you start arguing, please provide only Scripture to support your claim. If you can do that, I’ll pay attention.
“Then Where Does Evangelizing and Service Fit It?”
I once called to find out more about a church close to us. We drove past it and considered visiting. So as not to waste our time I called the Pastor to ask about the church before we went.
“Oh, we’re a service-oriented church! We’re there to serve the community. That’s what we’re known for! More often than not, we’ll meet for church but someone will mention a need in the community and we’ll all just get in our cars and go help with that need. We feel that unless we’re out there serving the people then our church is a failure.”
Okay. But… where is that described in Scripture?
Note: I’ll write more about this problem of “serving the community” in another article
Yes, God’s people should serve others. Serving others is the highest calling on earth.
But there’s a reason why the Bible shows church as being a place where the flock are taught the Word of God. Without a solid foundation in the Bible, I ask you: What difference is that service-oriented church from any local United Way organization?
The congregation aren’t being taught the Word so they’re all out there just guessing at what a Christian should be. (Most guess wrongly.)
Other churches tell their members to go bring the unsaved to church to get them saved. Really? Why don’t those members go to the unsaved, as everybody in the Bible does, and witness to them? (One answer is they don’t know how because they aren’t taught the Bible in church.)
The church’s purpose is to give us the tools to do just that. The church is not to be an evangelical organization, we are to be evangelists everywhere we go into the world and to everybody we meet.
The Unsaved in Church
It’s true there’s no way to guarantee 100% of your members and attendees are saved. But if your church is doing its job, the unsaved won’t want to be there. For the same reason a thief doesn’t like to hang out in front of a police station, the unsaved don’t like to hang around churches that make learning God’s Word a priority.
If your church doesn’t spend 90% or more of its time teaching God’s Word to its flock, your church is a failure.
I’ll repeat: your church is a failure. Why don’t you stop pretending? Just close your doors or just change the sign to read “Community Organization.” Because you’re a failure as a church. And your Pastor is a failure at his job.
Wolves in the Flock
What happens when you bring the unsaved to your church?
Well, what happens when a wolf enters a flock of sheep? Do the sheep improve? Is it easy for the shepherd to lead his flock? Is the flock safe?
This is the turmoil that the unsaved do in a church.
Evangelizing is the excuse Pastors and congregations use to not learn God’s Word. Most don’t know that is an excuse but it is.
Now those church members who are saved can sin and bring turmoil to a church. We’ll discuss that later too. But it’s not the focus.
Stop Playing Holy Spirit!
When you violate God’s Word and take people to church to get them saved, you feel pious and you have a reason not to do what’s needed: grow in God’s Word. Also, you give over your job as an evangelist to someone whose primary job it isn’t: your Pastor and elders. It is your Pastor’s job to teach you, not to save your friends! That’s your job.
What happens if a church primarily makes the teaching of God’s Word its focus?
The members go out into the world properly tooled to do their jobs. That’s when service for others can count for something because you will be armed with the Sword of the Lord – Scripture – and the Holy Spirit then can work through you.
There’s a consequence of a good church: most will be small. That matters not. When church growth becomes your priority, you are playing Holy Spirit again. It’s His job to grow the church and He’s better at it than you are.
We’ll get back to this sometime. (I focus just on the wrongful community service aspect here: What is the Purpose of the Church? (Part 3))