bits from bob....

Why does the Church Exist? (2)

by Robert J. Young
©, 2006, Robert J. Young

[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

The previous article introduced the concept and importance of understanding the purpose and mission of the church. Four major activities of the church were identified and explained. This article continues an analysis of the church's mission and seeks to understand how the activities of the church contribute to accomplishing its biblical mission.

How does one decide what are legitimate activities for the church? What items may be included? Are some items not suitable for inclusion? These are difficult questions. Reading the mission statements of churches suggests other possibilities for activities. Two church mission statements I have recently read included stewardship and equipping as descriptions of the mission of the church. We must ask whether stewardship qualifies as a major activity or mission of the church, or is rather a principle to be encouraged in the lives of Christians and non-Christians. Equipping reflects a leadership task (Eph. 4:12) and may be similar to nurturing and helping Christians serve. A church leader observes, "If the church is involved in worship, education, fellowship, and proclamation, shouldn't the church train and encourage its members in those areas?" Certainly the church will have to teach how to worship, how to teach, how to serve, and how to proclaim, but is this training different from the educational and teaching task, or is it included in that task?

Some churches have approached the question of the church's purpose by considering what should be the results. What is a reasonable expectation? Over the course of several or many years in the life of a local church, what can the church expect to accomplish? What is the answer when someone asks, "What has happened?" How does a local church know whether it has succeeded or not? What does God expect of us? My short list of possible results would include at least these two items: (1) God's people should be upright citizens in the community-examples of good, moral people, (2) God's people should be examples of healthy relationships in families and workplaces, living lives above reproach.

Recognizing the simplicity and inadequacy of such an answer, I want to expand the list. What might I expect of the church over 30 years? My list, while expanded, is not significantly different from the items identified in Part I of this series.

FAITH NURTURING AND DISCIPLESHIP. To have present in the church the children who have remained in the community, showing the church as a place to grow up and mature in the context of faith.

EVANGELISM. To have new families from those who have moved in and from those who have been influenced by the life and friendship of the church through local evangelism.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING. To be faithful in their growth in the word of God, knowing how the gospel speaks today to the community in which they live today.

WORSHIP. To have a shared worship experience that appeals to the members and to the community, to have a cross-generational worship experience that speaks to all Christians.

FELLOWSHIP AND SERVICE. To have a meaningful fellowship and sharing that allows members to know and encourage one another at times other than worship assemblies, to demonstrate a commitment to serving one another and the community.

MISSIONS. To participate in global missions as God provides opportunities.

These may be summarized by observing that biblically the church is ekklesia (assembly), koinonia (fellowship or sharing), kerux (herald or proclaimer), and diakonos (servant or minister).

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Last updated November 7, 2006