Christian Living

What is the Purpose of Church?

Make Sure Your Faith Community Focuses on the Right Thing

We need to examine the purpose of church. Why do we meet each week? What are our goals when we come together? What should our focus be? Though people will give various answers, the responses fall into two broad categories: ourselves and others.

Church Is for Christians

Some people feel the purpose of church is to serve its members, the saints who’ve been made right through Jesus. Their right standing in him places them on the inside. They expect church to meet their needs and their wants. If the church disappoints them in the slightest, most will go church shopping and leave for another destination that better matches their expectations.

If the purpose of church is to serve its members—and to a lesser extent, its attendees—it has an internal focus. It seeks to serve itself. Some people call this navel gazing.

The church’s initiatives seek to meet the preferences of its members. It does this by feeding the flock each Sunday morning (never mind that we’re supposed to feed ourselves), providing programs that the members want, and having a pastoral team that jumps whenever a member calls.

Churches for the Lost

Others say that the purpose of church is evangelism, to rescue the lost who need Jesus to save them. In this case, these churches have an external focus. They want to reach the world for Jesus, to convert sinners and bring them into the fold.

This fulfills Jesus’s final instruction to his followers to go out into the world and tell people about him (Matthew 28:19-20). We sometimes call this command, the great commission.

Churches Are for Both

Most churches claim to be for both the Christians (the insiders) and the lost (the outsiders). This is a more appropriate position with the implicit intent being to prepare the insiders to go into the world to connect with the outsiders.

Yet this seldom happens. Or if it does only a small minority follow through by going out and telling others about Jesus.

Most churches that claim to have both an inward and outward focus, however, major in meeting the members expectations and minor in telling the world about Jesus.

Though their ideals say one thing, their actions and investments counter that claim.

The Purpose of Church

The purpose of church should be to prepare its people to go into the world. In doing so they serve as a witness for Jesus through their actions and their words.

Though many people worry about the words they will say, their initial concern should be about their actions. This is because few will listen to what we say if what we do turns them off first.

Do our actions honor Jesus by following his commands? If not, this is an ideal place to start.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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