Friday, July 25, 2008

What is the Purpose of the Church?

Some say it is for worship--but I can worship with my family or a group of friends. My entire life is to be characterized by worship.

Some say it is for evangelism and missions. Jesus did come to "seek and to save that which was lost" after all. But, we have so many other organizations that are so much better at doing this than the church.

Some say it is for fellowship--but I have much deeper fellowship with my family and with my tight circle of friends than I do in the broader congregation. There is a much deeper level of accountability and prayer support there as well.

Some say it is for discipleship. I'm not persuaded this happens very much at all, much less at church.

Perhaps the question goes much deeper than relevance.

20 comments:

Karma Shuford said...

I guess one of my reasons is partly selfish.

Much of my week, outside of family, is interacting with people that do not believe, or have really strange beliefs. Going to church helps me remember I am not in this alone.

Another reason, is that I know it encourages others if I am there. Not so much because, "Whoa, Karma is here!" but because I've been in positions where if no one shows up, it is a real downer, and you start thinking what you are doing isn't so great.

Alan Knox said...

Tony,

I'm not trying to be pedantic, but I want to make sure that I understand what you're asking. Are you asking about the purpose of the church or the purpose of the meeting of the church?

-Alan

Tony said...

Karma,

So, how often do the folks at your church say, "Whoa, Karma is here!" ;)

I think you are right on both counts. It is more about cultivating and developing relationships rather than bolstering attendance, I think.

I have put a lot of time and energy into a particular project before and then get disappointed when only a few show. Its really easy to just pass it off and say, "Well, where two or three are gathered..." That is what brings me to the question and my conclusion--that its about more than relevance; people than what I have prepared.

Alan,

Please feel free to share your opinion about either facet of your question.

Karma Shuford said...

So, how often do the folks at your church say, "Whoa, Karma is here!" ;)
Every time the doors open, it seems.
:P


That is what brings me to the question and my conclusion--that its about more than relevance; people than what I have prepared.
I don't understand.


alan -- my answer was about the meeting of the church. my answer about the purpose of "the" church would probaby be somewhat different

Bernard Shuford said...

Chicken population control.

Karma Shuford said...

And you thought I was the snarky one.

Tony said...

Karma,

I guess I wasn't really as clear as I wanted to be. My question about the "purpose" of the church, whether it be the church itself or the meeting, should rise above the relevance imposed on it by our culture.

Are the five purposes I stated really the purposes? Maybe to an extent--but they are an appeal to relevance. Church (itself and the meeting) are relevant in and of themselves.

And in appealing to relevance, "people" are relegated to second status. I know--it sounds weird, doesn't it?

Bernard,

I like chicken.

Karma Shuford said...

I think I understand. To me, as a Christian, church is already relevant without a program or gimmick to get me there.

But, what about the person to whom Christ is totally irrelevant (they think)?

Karma Shuford said...

Do you like banana pudding as well?

Tony said...

But, what about the person to whom Christ is totally irrelevant (they think)? We cannot make Him relevant to them. Only the Spirit can do that. That isn't a cop-out answer, though. But, in our striving for relevance, do you think we may be making Him irrelevant? I mean in elevating the church (itself AND the meeting) over Him?

Do you like banana pudding as well? Is the Pope Catholic? :)

Karma Shuford said...

So, it would seem to me, that rather than instituting "this" program, or "that" meeting, or using little gimmicks to "attract" people to our church, we would be better served to hit our knees and start repenting and seeking God's direction in the things that we do, corporately, as a church, AND to petition Him for those that are lost.

Like you said, that is also not a cop-out. For if we never get up off our knees and go love and serve our neighbor, are we truly doing what God commands us to do?

I honestly believe that when a church acts as a true representation of Jesus, people WILL be attracted, and their lives WILL be changed.


Do you like banana pudding as well? Is the Pope Catholic? :)
Figured that. I haven't met a Baptist preacher, YET, that didn't like chicken and banana pudding. ahhahaha

Tony said...

I don't disagree at all whatsoever. I think in all of our praying and repenting, we don't listen real good though. :)

(That includes me, by the way.)

And what, you don't like chicken and banana pudding?

Karma Shuford said...

Or, we have our "answer" before we ever pray and then just project that God has given us our answer (my MO, btw). :/

Tony said...

I don't mean to sound overly pious or anything, but I want--need--to start being real. When I say I'm going to pray about something, I don't want it to be the cop-out or the pat answer but a genuine response to God's leadership. Well...I want it to be THE response first of all.

Then I want to follow through--here is where I fail. I probably am not making a lot of sense right now, and if not, I apologize. Thanks for walking with me through this thread, Karma!

Karma Shuford said...

Actually, you make a lot of sense. Maybe because it is an area I fall way short in a lot of the time -- I think a lot of Christians do, but they don't even realize it. :(

It can be scary being real though, because that brings us face to face with Jesus, and that means something has got to change. We cannot encounter Christ and remain the same. And change hurts, sometimes, even when it is for good.

Bernard Shuford said...

Being "real" has a lot of baggage that most of our acquaintances and church members really don't want.

The only ministers that "get by" with "being real" are youth ministers. Youth can see right through that facade that most senior pastors feel is necessary. That's one reason they never connect with "big church". They see a lot of fake people and they know they're fake. Successful youth pastors have the huge advantage of having youth who expect them to identify with them, and who are quick to forgive when they mess up.

Whether that has the slightest connection to "the purpose of the church" is a dubious thing.

I honestly think that one of the primary purposes of the church is accountability. As Christians, we do a lot of things together because we have similar interests and purposes, but it's hugely necessary for Christian A to be drawn toward the kingdom tasks because he knows that Christian B and Christian C are trying to do the right thing. In other words, like Karma said, we NEED to know that other people are hammering at this thing too.

Tony said...

Nard,

I think the thread detoured--being "real" probably doesn't have anything to do with the post.

Neverthless, I think my idea about being "real" is more about how I am responding to God right now more so than the people I serve. Your observations are spot on, though.

And ones that necessarily entail being real also with the people I serve--if I'm not real with them, I probably am not being completely real with God.

I have a lot of scrambled up thoughts right now but what Karma said has done me a lot of good the past eighteen hours. When you come face to face with Jesus something has gotta give.

selahV said...

Tony...off the top of my head...I'd say the church assembly is there for feeding the sheep under a shepherd called with the prophetic powers to impart to listeners (his gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose) of God's truth. To put it another way, should a pastor be feeding his sheep door to door, or does it better serve the sheep to be fed together? Given that we are to "not forsake the assembly", I'd say the purpose is to get together to do all of the above aforementioned things. Worship Christ, edify others in knowing the fullness of Christ and His power, evangelize the world for Christ, give to help grow the church for the sake of Christ, fellowship to build one another up in Christ , encourage one another in Christ that they not grow weary, and to support, love and meet brothers' and sisters' needs to express the love of Christ.

Jesus spent a great deal of time in church. The early Christians met daily and worshipped and prayed and broke bread as a church body. Jesus died for the church. Seems if it was important enough for the disciples to build upon by adding to it, then it is probably still relevant to build upon today--but only when Jesus is the Head and we remain His body. selahV

selahV said...

Tony...by the way, I loved the fried chicken and banana pudding...but my favorite is country cooked green beans and coconut cream pie. yummy.

Tony said...

Mrs. V,

Every time two or three Baptists are gather together, a bird has to die!

Thanks for your contribution here. I love drawing from the well of your experience, deep as it is!

I love your emphasis on the "one anothers". I think those are so important and when we are attending to those Christ is truly glorified.

P.S. Don't change your writing style! ;-)