Summary: Why is the Church Here?
Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16
Series: Great Expectations
We live in a day and age when it seems that the church is becoming less and less important in our society. Many argue that the greatest challenge the body of Christ faces is not in becoming extinct (Remember: Christ will build his church, so that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it--See Matthew 16:18), but irrelevant. By the way, this is not all the fault of the new generation which by and large has come to believe that they have better ways to spend their time on Sunday mornings. We are told that only 17% of all Americans regularly worship. Assuming this number is accurate, this means that 4 out of 5 people do not feel the need to attend a church of any kind. Much of the responsibility for our current spiritual condition falls squarely on the shoulders of those of us old enough to have molded and shaped Christianity over the years. What God intended to be a dynamic relationship with Him that would transform our lives and relationships, has in some circles, become nothing more than the practice of religion with little or no bearing on the way we live. I’m reminded of the mom who was trying to persuade her seven-year-old son to go to church with her. "Daddy doesn’t go," the boy said. Thinking quickly the mother replied, "Well, when daddy was your age, he went every Sunday." "Is that true?" the boy asked his father. He was assured it was. "All right, I’ll go," he said, "but I don’t think it will do me any good either."
So what are we to do about this? We need to decide exactly what the church is here for. What is the purpose of the church?
It is not uncommon in the last twenty years for churches to spell out what they exist for, and what they intend to do through Vision and Mission Statements. Shoals Christian Church’s is as follows:
• Vision Statement
o The Shoals Christian Church will be a beacon in our community and in all the world to lead every one into God’s family.
• Mission Statement
o Gather as God’s family.
o Grow in faith, love, and service.
o Go into the world as disciples glorifying God.
The next step is to get a list of goals and a timetable to accomplish them by. You then measure to see if they have been accomplished. That sounds like modern management but really it is as old as Ephesians 4. This passage states God’s Purpose for the church and Paul mentions Christ’s goals and Objective.
If I were to ask what is the purpose of the Church I imagine I would get quite a few answers. Each would come with conviction and each would come with insight.
Some would give us a missionary Mandate- They remember the words of Mark 16:15 that say to us to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
This command is repeated various times in the gospels and in the book of Acts. It is neglected at our own peril. But is this the purpose of the church? Those who think this see the church as a mighty Army waiting for a great world wide invasion and they see the church as militant.
Some would give a social concern Mandate- They remember that Jesus spoke of separating the sheep and goats based on whether or not they clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned, welcomed the lonely, fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, and looked after the sick (Matthew 25:31-46). Most who see this as the purpose look to the church as a massive social organization. But is this the purpose of the church? Is that the proper emphasis?
Some would see the church as a retreat- they see the church as a fortress. A place to be protected from the harsh world, to lick our wounds, and help each other heal from the weight of a very harsh world. We are encouraged to fight another day. But is this the purpose of the church? Did God establish the church as a place to come and hide from earthly conflicts?
Paul gives us exactly what God’s purpose for the church is. I don’t think Paul or God would have a problem with any of the ideas we have talked about. Those are all jobs the church is called to do and areas we are called to function in. However, “Purpose is a more embracing concept.” Paul sees the purpose of the church as God developing wholeness and maturity in his people. God wants us as His Church to be built up (11-13).
We know that God has great expectations for His Church. Of course the Church is you and me. Somewhere along the way we as a Church and as individuals have stopped growing. So as we begin 2007 I want us to look at the last three chapters in Ephesians. Chapters 4-6 tells us exactly how we can grow up in Christ and make ourselves and the body of Christ both universal and local bigger and better and more important more relevant. The hardest thing for established conservative churches to do is being relevant and getting in touch with culture.