What Is the Purpose of the Church?

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  • What Is the Purpose of the Church?

    As a new Christian in the late 80's, I was indoctrinated to believe that if the Church were really operating as the Bride of Christ, we would be largely supplying the needs of needy families in our community. There would be a decreased need for state run entitlement programs, such as welfare or food stamps, because Christians would be meeting those needs. After all, wasn't that the purpose of the Church, to advance the Kingdom of God through charity works? I even dedicated my life to poverty in service others, for over a decade, to what I deemed as a pious commitment for this call and purpose. I grew in spiritual pride about my external conformity and simple means as a statement, "This is what a real Christian looks like."

    Looking at Matthew 25:42-45, nowhere does Christ allude to the “purpose” of the Church in this passage. The gospel instead mentions caring for others as a function of the Church, a litmus test proving the inner change of heart. I found that my Christian-view was challenged, realizing that I had been seduced to perceive the Church as a NGO instead of a medium to declare the Gospel. Good works had superseded evangelism, where I found myself submitting to a different, if not a secular gospel. Matthew 28:19 was the Great Commission, coupled with Matthew 25:42 as an extension, but the post-modern Church still insists it was the other way around! What a dilemma, either go along with mainstream or stand my ground on the Word of God with the courageous few.

    God always has a remnant people in a darkened culture. Even in the worst of times, he continually raises up a testimony of light amid darkness. There is a major problem in the Church today regarding our mission. The progressive church has taught us to perceive our obedience to his Word as a means to gain his favor and blessings rather than enter into an intimate relationship of His divine love. That’s idolatry, plain and simple; it puts material gain and fleshly satisfaction before a holy, loving God. Jesus becomes an accessory for a purpose; a good life and a free ticket to heaven.

    Paul had to confront these false doctrines, which catered to the flesh rather than show a way to godliness. He reminded Titus, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:3-7).

    Make no mistake, the Christians of Crete (Titus 1:10-11) for example like many of us today were converted to a living faith. Nevertheless, they remained immersed in a flesh-driven culture that emphasized physical appetites instead of the personal depths of God. Here was Paul’s straightforward instruction to Titus: “Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (1:13). C.H. Spurgeon, the famous 19-century preacher, saw the same spirit of the world creeping into churches during his time. He wrote: "The time will come when instead of shepherds feeding sheep; they will have clowns entertaining the goats.”

    Do you ever wonder why the Church does not operate in stirring power today? Why do we have such a weak testimony in a world desperate for hope? Moreover, why does the Church often seem more like the world than uniquely different from it? It is because we have settled for a diluted Christian purpose, one driven by fleshly goals rather than godly ones. How can we preach a gospel of light when a diversion is presented as a substitute? How is it that many Christians have been so utterly seduced, where they are oblivious to awaken from their spiritual slumber? Many of us have been indoctrinate by teaching and example, to perform good works as a means to represent a relationship in Christ, instead of the other way around.

    When we love, care for, edify, equip each other we are living the life of Jesus. While I applaud efforts by Christian organizations to feed the hungry and cloth the naked as Messiah Missions International does, we are to share the Good News as to bring internal transformation, where external and physical assistance alone does not lead souls to eternity. I dedicate money of compassion every month but those funds do not enlarge the life of Jesus in me or the person the money is helping. It is an easy fix for the conscience as being proactive, but it is not food for the soul. It is my prayer that we stop and evaluate our journey. Does our lives consistently correlate with the Word of God? Do I have a proactive relationship with Jesus or am I catering to a institutional religious system by lip service alone? Not a judgment call, but an opportunity to honestly reflect.

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