The Purpose of a Church

Dear Reader,

Our pastor mentioned in a sermon recently that he is not happy with our church’s stated purpose or reason for existence. Now the blurb he is talking about is part of the congregation’s by-laws,  a document required by the state we are in. As such, it is not really the foundational document of our congregation. We wouldn’t hae it, I presume, if it weren’t required by them.

Nonetheless, the by-laws exist. What they say is something along the lines of our purpose is to “maintain and promote the public worship” of God. It does fall a little flat, doesn’t it? It seems very small to me. I picture two believers hanging on in some old, dark building while the world goes on around them. Which unfortunately, mat be the state of things in a lot of churches. But still, though no one else may care, they are there “maintaining” the worship.

What our pastor was noting, in the context of his sermon, is that Paul in Philippians and elsewhere is focused on spreading the gospel. Evangelism, in other words. So our pastor was saying that something more along those lines should be our main and stated purpose.

Now, I will admit that to say our purpose is evangelism makes me a little nervous. There are too many churches who are so focused on getting people in the door and getting them to make some profession of faith that I think they end up erring in other ways. They begin to market to the seekers rather than keeping worship biblical. And they tend to count numbers and base success on new converts without seeking to build up those who are already in the church. There is no emphasis on spiritual maturity and growing in Christ.

In terms of Sunday morning worship, which is the main thing though not the only we do, ours is as I think it should be aimed at God’s people. There is always some expression of the gospel message there and some call to the unsaved. But the sermons we hear are not dumbed down. They have plenty of meat for believers. And the rest fo worship as well is not a show to attract non-believers, but a conversation between God and His people.

And yet if we are not reaching out and preaching to the unsaved, we are not doing what we are supposed to.

So what is the purpose of a church? Our pastor said that we could not just put an “and” there. He was not happy with saying “maintain the public worship” and preach to non-believers. I am not sure I would be so quick to dismiss such an option. But it does seem a bit like serving two masters. If we have two purposes connected by a conjunction, we are likely to emphasize one over the other.

Is there any way to combine these two? Anything that holds them together? If this were a Venn diagram, I would say that these two purposes, which overlap somewhat, are both contained within a larger circle. And this larger circle I would call “giving more and more glory to God.” Our purpose, as individuals and as a body, is to glorify our Maker. We do this as God’s people by worshipping Him and growing in grace and Christian maturity. We do this also by bringing others into the fold, by preaching to the unsaved and hopefully seeing them come to faith.



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin on April 24, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I came here through the scm discussion forum and am loving your blog! Our church’s mission statement is “preparing people to meet Jesus ” which i love becaue it encompasses believers and unbelievers, evangelism, worship, discipleship, etc. Just wanted to share. 🙂


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