What is the Purpose of the Church?

This question is asked in several different ways such as why should I go to church?  Or, can’t I worship at home in my own way?  There is a growing dissatisfaction among people that the church is not what it should be.  Particularly among young people there is a movement away from the church.  There are people who still have a strong interest in Christianity but are fed up with church politics and many things that occur in the church that weren’t a part of the early church.

For starters, the church exists for the fellowship of believers.  Hebrews 10:25 tells us “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  It is important for the encouragement of one another that believers continue to gather together.

The church is also a body.  1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the church body is made up of many parts and that each one of those parts is to function according to how they are gifted.  Essentially the church is greater than the sum of its parts.  In any church there are people who are gifted teachers, gifted evangelists, those with gifts of service, mercy, and numerous other gifts.  Individually each person can only do so much but the church as a whole has a much greater reach because we help each other out with our gifts.

At some point in the 1900’s many churches stopped using their gifts to their fullest potential.  Many sat back and said that it was the pastor’s job to do those things because that’s what he’s paid for.  The pastor became expected to not only be the authority on God’s Word and to preach but he was also expected to handle the administration of the church.  The pastor is expected to visit the sick and shut in and follow up with every person who hasn’t been at church for two weeks in a row.  If the church isn’t growing, then it is often blamed on the pastor because he hasn’t made enough contacts in the community and has invited people to church or hasn’t planned enough outreach events.  Today the pastor is expected to excel in preaching, teaching, evangelism, mercy, and administration.

Compare this to how the church operated in the book of Acts.  The apostles were not utility men, they were specialists.  In Acts 6 they encounter a problem that is causing them to be pulled away from the ministry of God’s Word.  Rather than try to pick up the slack, they find other people to do the work while they continue to work in the area that God has gifted them.  Acts 6:2-4 says, “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

The primary function of the apostles was to administer the Word of God.  They didn’t declare that other things were not important.  Instead they made sure that they were taken care of but that they were not the ones to do it.  The purpose of the church is to use their gifts for the glory of God.  When the church starts doing this once again we can expect to see it be blessed like in the New Testament.