Why does our church exist? Before we can answer this we need to answer the bigger question: Why does the Church exist? Time and time again we hear some preachers say that the only reason the Church exists is to evangelise the lost. While this is necessary and perhaps paramount, it is not the only reason the Church exists.
Any local church must have a heart for people and especially the people beyond it's own. We must care deeply with Christ's love for all people to come to know God and His salvation. We should pray for those who have not yet received the grace of God's salvation to do so. We should be ready to share with people the Good News of God's loving rescue mission on their behalf. When we meet together, particularly on Sundays, we should be prayerfully seeking to welcome in any who do not yet know Christ - whether they be completely unaware of Christ and the Gospel, or whether they are a backslidden prodigal wondering if they can come home. But this is not the start and the end of a church's purpose. In some smaller communities it is literally possible to have presented the Gospel to the same people many times without them receiving it. If we reason that the church only exists to evangelise, then a church in a situation like this might wonder what their ongoing purpose would be. But I would like to suggest 7 good reasons why the Church (universal=Church) exists and then briefly explore how this is manifested in a local church (local=church).
1. To be a community of worshipers declaring God's praises.
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:4-6)We are created to worship and easiest way we worship is focus on God by singing. Singing and music is far more powerful than most realise. It has the power to transform lives. It has spiritual power that can result in salvation, healing, blessing, deliverance, and revelation. It is all the more powerful when we sing in the midst of the congregation with the congregation.saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (Heb. 2:12).
2. To bring reconciliation to a wounded society.
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2Cor. 5:19)The Church models reconciliation. We are comprised of people who were formally hostile to each other. But Christ ha broken down the dividing walls between us and reconciled us to be one new people. We bring healing to wounded souls by firstly reconciling them to God and then to each other. "Love your neighbour as yourself" demands that we care enough for our community that we get involved in bring help and healing to our society. This is why we encourage everyone in our church to get involved in the marketplace, our parliament, their school, hospitals, nursing homes, sporting clubs, Neighbourhood Watch, and any other groups that provides a practical opportunity to love thy neighbour.
3. To express the manifold grace of God through spiritual gifts to one another.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:(1Peter 4:10)God has ordained that the usual way His grace (provision for our need) is ministered to us is for it to come through His Body, the members of His Church. We all have needs. Some of these needs can be met by the immediate grace of God on our lives, but more often than not, God ministers His grace through others to us. This is a major purpose for the Church. We ache with those who ache and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12), but we also minister to each other the grace God has given each us. John Piper suggests that since God graces some with certain gift-ministries, such as healing, we should look to those who have this grace on their lives to particularly lay hands on and pray for the ill.
4. To teach a generation the ways, will and Word of God.
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2Tim. 2:2)The Old Testament is replete with stories of how one faithful generation failed to teach and train the next generation and society was made the worse for it! Someone has said that takes about 3 generations to implement a positive social change among a society but only 1 generation to implement a negative change. The local church exists to teach the ways, will and Word of God in conjunction with its other 6 purposes.
5. To nurture the faith of believers to Christlikeness in a community of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1Th. 5:11)The local church is the means of God to develop a community of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Whenever you have anything to do with people you are going to have to learn to get along! The local church is called by God to be the community where this modelled.Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor...
Live in harmony with one another... (Romans 12:10, 16)
6. To announce God's Word prophetically to the world.
The local church is called to be in the world but not of the world. This will sometimes mean that we take a stand against positions put forward by our rulers when these decisions are against the express will of God for a society.Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph. 5:11)Matt. 5:13 ¶ “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.Matt. 5:14 ¶ You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden."
7. To preach the Gospel to a lost and dying world.
Rom. 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Rom. 10:14 ¶ But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
It is my hope that we can be even more fruitful in our witnessing and evangelism. But it is not the only reason that you and I comprise a local church. There are at least 7 good reasons to be a part of a local church that are instrinsic to God's plan for the world. At Legana we sum all of these purposes into four statements: To Enthrone - To Encourage - To Empower - To Engage.These are 7 good purposes for us to be focussed on for the glory of God. And this brings us to the ultimate purpose for any local church: the glory of God (Eph. 3:21).
Lord Jesus, You have called us to be salt and light to this world that more often than not rejects You, Your Word, Your will and Your ways. Help us to fear You and to not be intimidated by the opinions of men. May we be shaped by Your Word and Your Holy Spirit. Help us to develop the qualities found in Romans 12:9-21 which demands that we humble ourselves, love Your church, care for the world, and serve each other. Increase our saltiness. When we fail, bring us nearer to You than where we have to be in order to fail You. Forgive us for sins. Cleanse our hearts and fill us afresh with Your Spirit to Your Salt and Light to the World.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.Amen.