Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Church Reform - Purpose

(I will be leaving with my family to drive from Georgia to New York State over the next few days. We are happy to be able to visit with Alice’s parents over the next week or so. During our trip, my access to the internet will be sporadic at best; therefore, I may not be able to moderate comments or post again for a few days.)

Let me say up front that I am not a fan of Rick Warren. However, that does not mean that he hasn’t done some good. One of his books, The Purpose Driven Church, has caused some people to do something they may never have done before: look at what the purpose is for the church.

While I do not agree with all of Warren’s conclusions, the very popularity of his book illustrates the need for churches in America to look at why they even exist, and why they do what they do. We all know that many churches gather a few times a week and do nearly the same things each time with no thought given as to why they do what they do. It is easy to do things just because they have “always been done that way,” and haven’t been altered for years.

Most of us have been able to visit, as we have traveled about to see family and friends, many different churches in our lives. Some of these local bodies seem to know why they do what they do, while others do not ever give it a thought. This raises an important question that all bodies of believers need to routinely ask: What does the bible say about the purpose of the church? Is there a core purpose around which the church should rally?

I believe the answer is yes. If we look in Ephesians, where Paul focuses quite a bit of his attention on the church, we get an answer. In the first three chapters, Paul deals with different doctrinal issues (much of it is about what God has done). In chapters four through six, Paul writes more about the application of biblical doctrine – how the Ephesians should live out the truths of chapters one through three.

At the end of chapter three, just before Paul transitions to application, he offers a short doxology to God. Keeping in mind that Paul has been talking about what God has done for his people (the church), we read in 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

The primary purpose of God’s church is well stated in the phrase, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” The main reason for the existence of the assembly of God’s people is that he be glorified and honored for who he is and what he has done.

Paul echoes this in another doxology, Romans 11:36 (again just prior to a call for application). In this verse, Paul writes, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

As the church, we should, therefore, be striving to glorify God through all we believe and practice. All of our gatherings, services, events, activities, etc. should be designed to honor the triune God.

Is this what we see in the church today? The answer is that it is very “hit-and-miss.” Some local bodies appear to be focused on this goal. Others have no idea what they are doing and don’t seem to care. My guess is that most churches fall somewhere in the middle.

So what needs to be done for a local assembly of Christians to focus on glorifying God in all they do? I’m suggesting the following:

1) Those with teaching responsibilities within the church need to directly teach from scripture what the purpose of the church is. Obviously, the two texts mentioned above are good starting points.

2) Based upon scriptural teachings, the church should develop a short vision statement that focuses on God’s glorification. This statement should be regularly stated by the church as a body and preferably memorized. Ephesians 3:20-21 would be great for this.

3) Using the vision statement as a guide, the church should work together to devise a mission statement for the church. This would be more detailed than the vision statement. It should be reviewed regularly to determine whether or not what the church is doing is focused on bringing glory to God.

4) Regularly remind the body that the vision is accomplished most readily when the body lives out the “one-anothers” stated in the bible. The body needs to avoid at all costs the temptation to rely on church programs for God to receive glory.

5) Avoid pragmatics.

6) Model church life after Acts 2 and 4.

What do you think the primary purpose of the church is? Do I have it right, or does scripture teach something else?

Do you have any other scriptures that would support the assertion that God’s glory is the main purpose of the church? What bible verses might suggest otherwise?

14 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Eric,

You said: "Regularly remind the body that the vision is accomplished most readily when the body lives out the 'one-anothers' stated in the bible." I agree with this statement completely. However, I know many who believe that the purpose of the church is to glorify God, but they disagree with this statement. However, I think 1 Peter 4:10-11 speaks specifically to this issue: God is glorified when we serve one another.

Thanks for another great post!

-Alan

Joe Blackmon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Greathouse said...

Have a great trip. I am looking forward to dwelling through your blog and learning from you through some of your insights.

Rhea said...

Regarding the purpose of church, I've noticed something recently that I think is a bad trend among many churches. I'd like to start off by saying that I think that the churches that are doing this are VERY well meaning....they're trying to do what they think is right, but I think that ultimately when you look at scripture, they're missing the boat.

What I'm talking about is churches that seem to think that the entire Sunday morning meeting is all about lost people coming to church and getting saved. I don't know of any scriptural basis for this. What I see in the NT is believers (the church) gathering together....when they do, they exhort each other....they encourage each other....they correct each other when necessary. The point of them meeting is to help the BELIEVERS, not see lost people come to faith in Jesus. When I read the NT, I see that the believers WENT OUT and preached the good news. The Book of Acts has believers going out telling everyone and their Grandmother about Jesus.

I think that so many times Sunday morning meetings have become all about lost people coming to faith in Jesus b/c MOST Christians are not "going out" and sharing their faith. Most Christians expect their pastor/preacher to do all the work. Most Christians don't seem to want to do anything more than invite their neighbor to church with them, if even that. Now, why is this? I think that part of the reason is something that you mentioned in your last post regarding doctrine. Too many people who claim to be Christians simple do not know anything about Christianity....they are so ignorant of what the Bible says about EVERYTHING, that they feel unable to share their faith with others (and in truth, they probably ARE unable).

Brian said...

It is still in process since we've only been here three months so far, but visit our church website and let me know what you think of the mission statement: www.grandcayonassembly.org

Eric said...

Alan,

Thanks for those two verses. They really speak to the heart of this issue. Thanks also for your encouragement.

Eric said...

Jeff,

Thanks for your kind words. If you have any feedback or ideas about the church, please let me know.

Eric said...

Rhea,

You are correct in pointing out this problem. Most churches have it all backwards. They act as if people get saved while the church gathers.

In the bible, as you say, the church gathers for edification and encouragement, and then goes forth into the world to proclaim the gospel.

We can try to change this by speaking the truth and then living it out.

Thanks for your input.

Eric said...

Brian,

I like your statement because it sounds active. Also, it focuses on Christ and the needs of others.

Eric said...

Joe,

I had to post your comment briefly in order to figure out how to get to your blog. After I found it, I deleted the comment.

I'm looking forward to reading your blog. It is always good when people blog through scripture such as you are doing.

Jeff Greathouse said...

I just wanted to let you know that I linked this article from my latest post: The E Word.

I really think that we have made the church concept way to complicated and I have been part of the machine. I am trying to get off of it.

Joe Blackmon said...

Eric

No big deal about the prior comment. Thanks for the add. I think the thoughts you have about thinking about church were spot on. I think the more we focus on giving glory to God we will find that we are less inclined to think about ourselves and our preferences.

Eric said...

Jeff,

Thank you for the link.

I agree with you that we have made church much more complicated that the writers of scripture intended. Getting off the "machine" is something we all probably need to do to one degree or another.

Eric said...

Joe,

It seems that when churches suffer from division it is because they are focused on self. When they focus on God first and others second, things go much better. It is a simple formula; why do so many churches ignore it?