(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?