How would you respond if someone asked, “What is the purpose of the church?” Maybe you have never thought about it but if you are a Christian this is an important question. What we believe, whether we can put it into words or not, affects what we do and how we spend our time.
Two former pastors have shaped my thinking on this subject. One pastor would ask, “When are you going to make Jesus’ last command your first priority?” This question was to both the church and the individual.
What was Jesus’ last command? In one word it was to “Go” from Matthew 28:18-20. This is the first purpose.
All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father
and the Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.
In the early church, making disciples was a primary function, even though they suffered for it. Persecution for the gospel did not shut them down. When told to stop speaking the name of Jesus, “Peter and John replied … we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The second is the communal purpose of the church. It comes from the early church model found in Acts 2:42. It is made up of four activities that begin with the word “to.” The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Together these four purposes are called worship.
They devoted themselves
to the apostles’ teaching and
to the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and
The third purpose is related to the first. As we “Go” making disciples, we also help others with physical needs. The spiritual has primary priority. The temporal has secondary priority. Every need mentioned in Matthew 25:34-36 (below) is both a spiritual and physical need.* When the physical is being met, the spiritual dimension can be spoken of.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
naked, and you clothed Me;
I was sick, and you visited Me;
I was in prison, and you came to Me.
When lining up the early church with today’s church, outreach has changed to something not found in scripture. The church is doing outreach separate from the gospel or instead of the gospel.
The purposes of the church mentioned here are: what the church does; worship and outreach. My next post will be about who the church is. Please stay tuned. 🙂
Dr. Gordon Evoy (Dallas Willard)
Matthew 28:18-20 (italics added)
2 Timothy 2:8-9
Dr. Thomas Schacher
Acts 2:42 NIV, 1984 (italics added)
*Hunger & Thirst (Matthew 5:6); Stranger (Ephesians 2:12); Naked (Galatians 3:27, Romans 13:14); Sick (Jeremiah 17:9, 14); Prison (Romans 7:14)
Matthew 25:35-36 NASB, 1960
DISCLAIMER: I am not a part of the clergy. I do not have a degree in divinity. I am merely a Christian.
© 2019 Lena Rae