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Summary: Study with me the five purposes of the church – five experiences that can make us strong disciples, able to serve our Master.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NRSVA)

Spiritual maturity comes in a lot of different packages. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, is pastor of Saddleback Community Church in California. It is one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, with some 20,000 members attending multiple weekend services. Fewer than half of their membership comes from people transferring from other churches. They win and baptize over 50% of new attendees.

But numbers alone is not the only thing for which Saddleback is known. That church is also a pacesetting example of high expectation. Members are expected to do more than attend; they are expected to grow as disciples and use their spiritual gifts in service. That is stated in the covenant new members sign when they join that fellowship.

So, what does the pastor of a vibrant, growing, discipling and church-starting church have to say about growing strong as believers? This:

“The truth is that it takes a variety of experiences with God to produce true spiritual maturity. In addition to Bible study it takes worship experiences, ministry experiences, fellowship experiences, and evangelism experiences. In other words, spiritual growth occurs by participating in all five purposes of the church.” [1]

Where did Rick Warren get such an idea? The Bible!

This morning I want to take Pastor Warren’s statement, and our text, from which he draws the five purposes of the church, and invest our time looking at the process of becoming a mature disciple of Jesus Christ.

Incidentally, I want you to know [up front] that I agree with Rick Warren about these five purposes for all members of the church. I also want you to know I have a goal for this message. That goal is your heart. The goal is to have God’s Word and purposes clearly capture our hearts this morning so that we will turn to following Him more closely than ever. The goal is for us to become “purpose-driven” people for Christ.

Study with me the five purposes of the church – five experiences that can make us strong disciples, able to serve our Master.

1. Worship Experiences

Worship was pretty exciting for the first church, especially the first service they had. Three thousand got saved and baptized that day! There was a sense of awe and reverence that gripped the whole group. I’ll bet they just couldn’t wait to get to church each Sunday. In fact, I know they didn’t wait til Sunday; Scripture tells us they had church every day.

I have to admit that going to church service every day may sound a bit “over-the-top”. On the other hand, that constant exposure to the Word of God and worship made the church so very strong and vital then. They were so full of Jesus that people were getting saved every day. We could use a little of that “over-the-top”!

I’ve been a pastor a long time, and I’ve encouraged a multitude of folks to get regular about worshipping. But I’ve also been told a similar multitude of times, Preacher, you don’t have to go to church to worship.

Now, I would say that that is true; I am also certain that if you say you believe that, you really need to say the whole sentence, which is:

You don’t have to go to church to worship,

but if you don’t you probably won’t.

Can we talk? Aside from spending time with my wife, golf is my major hobby (if you can call something you do twice a year a bone-fide hobby). I will tell you this, I cannot recall the last time I recited the Lord’s Prayer or the Shorter Westminster catechism before the first tee.

I have prayed – to make a good shot; at least to not embarrass myself in front of a good golfer – but mostly I am not worshipping! I am thinking about back-swing, follow-through and putting. I have never thought of the Book of Discipline, or sung a hymn of praise to Jesus on the golf course. And it is certain the only offering I’ve ever given on the golf course was required – they called it “greens fees” – and they didn’t use it for missions!

Friend, you can use that “don’t have to go to church to worship” thing any time you want…just don’t do it with a straight face when you’re talking to God – He doesn’t buy it. He knows it means, “I really don’t want to worship God, and I’m gonna talk my way out of it if I can.” You can’t!

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