Monday, June 17, 2013

What is the purpose of the Church?

Matthew 28:18-20 [HCSB]
18Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:8 [HCSB]
8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”.”

When we think about the ‘purpose’ of the church, so often our thoughts immediately go to that building where we meet in on Sunday mornings. Or they may venture toward the pastor who leads the congregation and other staff members that the church may employ. The thought process of many believers/church members today is that the church is the building where we meet and the staff is who does the work of the church. However, I challenge you to begin to look at church (the body of Christ) as Jesus saw her. As a servant, doing the will of the Father!

I want us to notice the focus of Jesus’ comments are here in Matthew 28:18-20. They are NOT focused on an organization, but are aimed at the people to whom He was speaking. Jesus was not addressing a building here, he was addressing people…real life, flesh and blood individuals who had professed Him as their Messiah and proclaimed Him as the Son of God! These individuals had recognized and affirmed that Jesus had died on the cross and had risen from the dead, and that now He was calling on them to go out into the world to tell others about Him.

When we look at the Great Commission from Scripture (Matthew 28:18-20) we see first the preeminence of Jesus and then His commandment toward all who profess Him as Lord. His first instruction is an ongoing active function that must be the first thing that all believers do and continue to do and that is “GO”. We are called to go into the world, to be active in the sharing of our Savior with the world around us! The ‘church’ will not grow with that good ole’ Southern charm catch phrase of “Ya’ll Come!” we are called to GO and tell…

We are called to ‘go’, but in that 'going' we are called to go do some very specific things. The first thing we are called to go and do is to make disciples. We are called to win people to the Lord through evangelization (telling others about Jesus). We must be faithful to share Jesus with others and He will provide the harvest, but the harvest cannot be realized if we sit and do not ‘go’! So we are first called to go make disciples!

Second, we are called to go and baptize those newly converted disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The Greek word used here for ‘baptize’ is baptidzo which represents a full immersion (entire body below the water) baptism. This instruction for baptism gives us some insight on the importance of baptism for those who profess Christ as Savior and become disciples. Baptism provides a public forum of personal confession of Christ as Savior and establishes an identity in Christ and with a local fellowship of believers. Baptism is not a part of salvation, but it is an extremely important and significant act of obedience on the part of the new believer! Baptism is a symbolic representation of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and when we partake, we partake in that death, burial and resurrection with Him. 

We are called to go make disciples (evangelism) and to baptize those who become disciples. Finally Jesus commands that we then ‘teach’ these new disciples to observe all that He has commanded. This represents discipleship and spiritual maturity for those who have come to profess Christ as Savior. This is where many local fellowships have fallen short in so many ways. We (as a church) have a plan to go and tell, as well as, a plan to have them walk the aisle and get baptized! However, after those things, our plans (most fellowships) do not adequately follow through as commanded by Jesus. “...teaching them all the things I have commanded you”, is a very wide and broad command given by Jesus and it will not happen overnight. This is actually an ongoing and lifetime commitment each fellowship of believers must commit to so that they are obedient to the calling of Christ!

Why do we do this? In Acts 1:8 Jesus reveals this as He has called us ALL to be His ‘witnesses’! The church is called to ‘testify’ through our changed lives, our specific actions and our intentional words of this Jesus whom we profess as Savior! The church is called to become an active witness for Jesus in this world, and it begins in our "Jerusalem" (which represents our community or neighborhood) then to our "Judah and Samaria" (which represents our local town/city, our county) then to the ends of the earth (which represents our State and literally the rest of the world). Actively sharing Jesus with the world is not a suggestion, it is a command of Jesus for all believers to do! The church is NOT called to simply have church services and hire staff to make things happen! The church, the body of Christ... the local fellowship is called as a witness for Christ and ALL members of that body are called to GO, baptize, teach and train! 

Now I want all who read this to understand that this represents the MAIN focus of the church, but it is not all the church should be doing. However, if a church is doing other things and neglecting these things, they are being disobedient to the calling of Christ! We do these things first (Matt 6:33) and all the other ministries of the church (the local fellowship) fall into place out of the blessings that God produces for the body of believers that remain faithful and obedient to His calling! When a local body of believers is submissive and obedient to the calling of Christ upon them, lives are touched, souls are forever changed, and the love of Jesus is proclaimed in many forms. Through an obedient church, needs are ministered to, lives are touched and people are changed... all for the glory of God (Matt 5:16)!

What is the purpose of the body of Christ? It is to be active in ‘going’ and doing what Jesus has commanded! It is getting involved in the ministries of your local body of believers and following the leadership God has installed at that fellowship. Submission to the plan of Christ and to His Lordship is difficult for us as humans but it is a necessary part of who we must become ‘IN CHRIST!’ Are you willing today to submit to His calling? Are you willing today to submit to YOUR PURPOSE in Christ, as His church?

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