Summary: The sole purpose of the church is to be the dynamic, living body through which God can accomplish His work to His glory.
Defining The Role Of The Church
Scripture Reference: Matthew 16:13-18
We are talking about the subject of church today. And speaking about church, a couple of months back we conducted a survey within the congregation to help the ministerial staff to preach a series of relevant messages to the congregation.
The results are finally tallied and today begins that series. The first statement that was asked sets up these messages because without clearly examining our thoughts concerning it we won’t be around for the other statements to be examined and expounded upon.
The first statement was, “When I come to church, I come for…46% of you who participated responded with praise and worship, 23% stated fellowship, 18% wrote down to learn more about God/to study the Word of God, and 13% of you recorded “to receive spiritual guidance and healing.”
So the overwhelming majority sees praise and worship as a priority for coming to church, while the other responses are way behind. So that tells me that praise and worship must be relevant on Sunday morning, but it can also tell me that if praise and worship is off you are more apt to skip church on Sunday.
Allow me to challenge you on what the church should represent to us beyond praise and worship. There is nothing wrong with praise and worship, I love it and value it’s place in the service. I also highly value the other responses to the survey. But lets see how it all comes together.
In his book, Spiritual Disciplines Within The Church, Donald Whitney asks the question, “Did you go to church last Sunday? If you did, you are in the minority of Americans. Although Americans has one of the highest percentages of churchgoers of any nation, more than half the people in this country did not go to church this past Lord’s day.”
Ask why people didn’t attend church and you’ll get a variety of responses, but most of them fall into about a dozen categories. Some say they don’t go to church because they are turned off by what seems the endless asking for money.
Others stay away because church services are boring. A percentage of those who have no interest in church say the sermons are irrelevant to their lives. Some refuse to go because when they do attend they leave feeling guilty.
Some stay because they feel their lifestyles are too unacceptable, and still for others it is because Sunday is their only day off and they want to spend it recuperating from working all week to maintain a certain lifestyle.
It has been discovered that a crisis or some catastrophic event can drive people to church but not necessarily keep people in church. After September 11, church attendance surged all across America. By year’s end, however, the mainstream and religious media alike reported that church attendance has dropped back to pre-September 11 levels.
That is in spite of all the Bible translations, all the study materials, all the Bible teachers, all the Christian radio and television broadcasts, all the Christian bookstores, scores of Christian colleges and universities, and hundreds of different Christian ministries, pastors and staff, church still seems to mis-defined in our culture today.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build My church.” On the surface it appears that He has indeed built quite a church. According to the American Church List (1989), we have 330,000 Protestant churches in our nation, with a total membership 112 million people. The Gallup organization reports that 50 million Americans claim to be “born again.”
Let me give you a pre-definition for what the church is. For we have mistakenly defined itself in terms of a building where people gather once a week so they feel good enough to make it through the next week. That’s not the purpose of the church; it’s merely a benefit.
The sole purpose of the church is to be the dynamic, living body through which God can accomplish His work to His glory.
I. Understanding Who Jesus Is
Towards the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus had a heart-to-heart talk with His disciples about His identity. He wanted to know what His disciple’s thought of what other people said about Him and they personally understood about Him.
Jesus wanted to know if there was any difference between what the world thought about Him and what they thought about Him.
Anybody remember how the disciples responded? They in essence said, “On the streets some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Then Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, always the first to speak, jumped right in and answered for the group: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”