What is the purpose of the church? What function does it fulfill in the world? How are we supposed to know what that is? These are questions that I have been asking lately. With so many model's of church out in the world, which one is right? Which one is the true church founded by Jesus over two thousand years ago? I drive through my city and see church after church lining the street corners. With their own little marketing slogan for the outside world. I saw a clever one yesterday that said "What is missing from ch ch? UR!" Well it made me laugh. But, on Sunday mornings, I have looked around the churches, my own included, and see too many empty seats. Nearly empty parking lots. Large church buildings with few people inside. So I ask, what is the purpose of the church?
The word church is from the greek word "ekklesia." It means a gathering. Sometimes officials would call citizens out of there homes to a public meeting or hearing and that was ekklesia, the gathering. But Jesus had other ideas. He was literally calling people out of their homes to meet together. His gathering, His church or ekklesia, was going to be different. But, what was the purpose?
It's not an easy answer. Not to say that many places in scripture point out parts of the answer. But, what is the purpose? I Timothy 3:15 tells us that; "but if I am delayed, [I write] so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The church is the pillar and ground of truth. That's what it is. That is what Paul declares the church to be. The Pillar and ground of truth. That's like saying that I have ten fingers, or brown hair, it is part of me, but it is not my purpose. Would you say that your purpose is having brown hair? No, oh corse you would not. So the church is the pillar of truth, but that is not the purpose, that is an aspect. So what is the purpose of the church?
We know who's in charge, or who owns the church. It's Jesus. It's His gathering. In Colossians 1:18 Paul says, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." So Jesus is in charge, it's His body. It's His gathering. But what is the purpose? We could say that the purpose of the church is to be the body of Christ, but that sounds again like declaring what it is, not what the purpose is?
If the church belongs to Jesus, and it is the pillar of truth, then He must have given the church it's purpose. The purpose of the church is not what it is, it's what it was made to do. The purpose of the church is to act out something. Jesus said to Peter, "Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed [this] to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Here we have the reason for the gathering, and the purpose of the church. It is exactly what Jesus says it is, to storm the gates of Hell with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's the purpose of the church.
If the church get's sidetracked from this, everything falls apart. If we decide to make what we are, the Pillar of truth, and the body of Christ, our purpose, we short circuit our true purpose. The church must be the body of Christ, and the pillar of truth, but we can never forget our mission. Our purpose. Jesus is kingdom minded. He is full of Grace and truth. It seems like we have lost our way some. It seems like we tend to swing toward one or the other, either all truth and no grace, or all grace and no truth. But, we are the body of Christ, and the pillar truth, and we cannot ever forget that, but we, the gathering, and broad body of Christ, must always be pushing beyond making sure doctrine is correct. We must move beyond making sure that we are serving. We must move beyond the checking of facts and love. We must engage culture with the gospel. We must confess to the world, in absolute love, and tenderness, that Jesus is the Son of God, came and died for our sins, and rose again on the third day. We must break down the gates of hell, and advance the kingdom. We must move past our own shortcomings, and failures, and march on this world in the love of God. Only then will we actually be fulfilling the true purpose of the church.