Summary: The five purposes of the church, as displayed by 5 images Jesus used to describe the church, and how Christians fit into the picture.
Ephesians 4:1-16 – Can I Believe in the Church?
I’m told that in a museum in Greenwich Village, Detroit, MI, there is a huge steam locomotive. Beside this complicated machine, there is a sign showing boiler pressure, size, the number of wheels, horsepower, lengths, weight and so on. The bottom line indicates that 96% of the power generated was used to move the locomotive, and only 4% was left to pull the load. Some churches are like that. It takes so much energy to keep the people within happy and “blessed”, that there’s no energy left to reach out to others.
Charles Dickens began his book A Tale of Two Cities with these words: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Could that be said about the church? You certainly don’t have to look far to see sickness in the church. The church is seduced by power, pride, and popularity. The majority of church -goers don’t tithe 10%, even 5%. We idolize sports and music, and the famous people involved in them. We cling to tradition out of fear and lack of faith. We are indifferent to people’s needs, we cater to please ourselves or others. We complain and criticize. We lack passion and compassion. We want to be blessed, but refuse to be a blessing to others.
And yet, some are faithful. Some tithe, even above and beyond the expected 10%. The church in places around the world takes the Great Commandment and the Great Commission seriously. That is, love God totally, love your neighbor, and go make followers of Christ. Some churches pray as if it all really depend on God. Some churches are obedient to the Holy Spirit in all things.
You see, the church is bigger than what you see around you. The Bible says the church is a radiant bride, preparing to meet her Lord. Sometimes she is less than sparkling, but she is still the church. And you are part of it. Tell me, do you add to, or subtract from the church’s radiance? Let me ask you this… if everybody in this church gave like you, attended like you, prayed like you, served like you, worshipped like you, or complained like you, what would this place be like?
Today, we’ll take just a moment to look at the church as we continue on in our series through the Apostles’ Creed. We read the phrase: “I believe in the church.” Do we? Do you? Is the church worth believing in? Let’s read what God says about the church. Paul paints a picture of what the church is supposed to be in Ephesians 4. The question is, are we helping or hindering this picture from becoming reality? Ephesians 4:1-16.
This passage gives us an idea of what God wants the church to do and be. V11 tells us that the Holy Spirit gave special abilities and gifts to everyone, so that, v12, we would all serve God in our own ways. That’s God’s plan: that we all serve Him, not just show up for Him. V13 tells us that He wants us to be unified and mature in Him.
V15 tells us that God wants us to grow up to be like Him. And v16 tells us that we are joined to each other. We are to hold each other strong. We are to grow and we are to build each other up. This only happens when each part does its part. Makes me think that perhaps coming to church isn’t about you. Maybe you rob us of a blessing when you’re not here.
We go back to the first part of the chapter. Paul tells us to live a life worthy of what God called us to. That is, be who you really are. God called you to be humble and gentle; do it! God called you to be patient; do it! God called you to be unified, not to stir up trouble; be unified! Be who God called you to be!
You see, God used different images to portray different jobs that the church is to do. And folks, if it’s the church’s job, who is the church? Is it this building? Is it the bunch of folks down the road? Is it the churches with a few hundred in attendance, even a few thousand? Is it the people overseas? No, it’s us. We are the church. If you call Jesus Lord, if He has forgiven you, you are part of the church. So what God says about the church, He says about you. What He says to the church, He says to you. God’s purposes for the church are God’s purposes for your life. And God’s description of the church is His description of you.
So what did He call the church to be and do? Of course we use the word RIVER to describe God’s purposes for us here. We believe that God has called us to Reflect God’s love to others, Increase in the knowledge and image of Christ, Value Christ highly thru worship, Encourage others thru relationships, and Reach out to others thru service. Taking this word RIVER, we’ll look at God’s purposes for the church. And we’ll match each purpose with an image from the NT of what the church is to be. Ready? Let’s go.