Summary: What is the unique calling, the reason for being, the one defining purpose of the church?
For the church
If the Church of Jesus Christ, the universal Christian Church, not just this church but all churches that are Christian…were to disappear today… would anyone miss it tomorrow?
Is there anything about the Christian Church that makes it unique… that makes it “indispensable”… or that gives us our “reason du etre” or reason for being?
Every organization needs a cause, a special purpose that gives it a reason to exist.
Even the Church faces the possibility of merely duplicating the work of other organizations.
If we are not making a unique contribution to the world, we might as well disband our churches and cut down on the clutter of benevolent groups that solicit our time and money.
Or do we have a vital purpose, a unique ministry that cannot be carried out by any other group?
From the very beginning, the Church has championed moral education and reform. The gospel contains a power that can turn the most decadent people around, people like those from Corinth, a city that had the moral reputation of the seamy side of San Francisco. They were known as immoral, adulterers, homosexual perverts, thieves, greedy, drunkards, and slanderers. But when Paul wrote to them he said, “. . .that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11). The Church gave these people a new power and code of ethics to live by.
But if we look at moral education as our unique mission we’re looking in the wrong place.
Christians are not the only people interested in promoting ethical behavior. There are various scouting organizations and community organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis. In fact, the Superintendent of Schools in California wants to see ethics included as part of classroom curriculum. So ethics may be an important element in the Christian’s life and work, but moral reform is hardly unique to Christians.
Another long-standing work of the Church has been the ministry of social compassion. The early Christians ministered to hurting people, such as widows (Acts 6:1–3); and that concern for the poor and suffering has continued through the ages. Christians have founded hospitals to help heal the sick. We have established schools to educate the ignorant. Today, the Church reaches out to all sorts of hurting people: the divorced, drug and alcohol addicts, teenaged mothers, the physically abused, the malnourished and hungry.
But again, hospitals are erected and schools built without the input of the Church. The chemically dependent and the physically abused, among others, have all sorts of groups to whom they can turn, groups that have no church affiliation. Christians are not the only people who send food to famished Africa. The ministry of social compassion, although integral to the mission of the Church, does not constitute its unique mission.
Well then… if moral education is not our purpose, if social compassion is not our unique calling, if none of these other important ministries are what God established and commissioned church to do and be, then what is?