Summary: 4 of 18 messages on moving toward greater health as a church
The Purpose-full Church: An Overview
I. Discovering the Purposes of the Church
A. Purpose-Driven vs. Program-Driven
B. Why Be Purpose Driven?
C. The Great Commandment
D. The Great Commission
Years ago on a variety show, a guest appeared who was a body builder. The crowd went crazy as he entered the stage with his huge muscular body and began to flex his muscles and show his power. After a brief demonstration, the body builder sat down and prepared to receive some questions from the audience. The first question asked of him was this: “What do you use all those muscles for?” Without answering, the body builder again stood up and began flexing his muscles while the crowd cheered wildly.
A second time, the question was asked, “What do you do with those muscles?” Again, the body builder flexed his muscles and the crowd became almost ecstatic.
After asking three times, “What do you do with all those muscles?” the body builder just sat in silence and had no answers. The man possessed a tremendous amount of power, but his power had no purpose other than to show off and bring attention to himself.
I believe there are a lot of people in the world today that are asking the same kind of question as they look at the Church. They look inquisitively at the average church gathering and say, “I see the beautiful building and the list of activities. I hear the joyous music and notice the smiles on people’s faces. But what do you really do? Why do you get together every week? What are you really accomplishing? What is your purpose for existing?” And, like the body builder, many Christians don’t have answers to these questions. But these are questions that have answers and deserve to be answered.
Last week we looked at the definition and biblical basis of the Church. We took special note of the fact that Jesus told His disciples that He was in the process of bringing something new into being. He said to them, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18b). In this declaration, Jesus promised that His building project would be successful and that these men would be instrumental in bringing about its full realization. This call to partner with Christ in His building project was not limited to the first disciples, but it has been given to each successive generation until the return of our Lord.
The Church that Jesus is building in not without reason. He is not just building a Church because He thinks it’s a nice idea, or because He is bored with what He has created up to this point—like a child bored with a box full of old toys. Rather, He is building His Church on purpose and it is “purpose-full”—that is, it is full of purpose. This morning we will focus on this idea of the purpose-full Church by giving a rationale for being “purpose-driven” and with a discovery of the purposes of the Church.
Discovering the Purposes of the Church
Much of what I will be giving to you this morning is based upon insights gleaned from Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Church. To give you a little background, Rick Warren is the senior pastor at Saddleback Church in southern California. He has been used by God to help hundreds of churches across the US and around the world get back to the basics of NT Christianity and become purposeful in their approach to ministry.
Purpose-Driven vs. Program-Driven
Doug Fields, youth pastor at Saddleback Church, summarizes the major premise of The Purpose-Driven Church in this way: “all churches are driven by either a verbal or nonverbal emphasis. A church may be driven by tradition, personality, finances, people, or programs, but none of these will build health…. A healthy church must be built on the five New Testament purposes” (PDYM, p. 45).
I believe that one of the main reasons that people outside of the Church have a difficult time understanding what the Church is all about is because of the people inside the Church. (Now, before anyone gets offended by that statement, I want emphasize the fact that I am one of the people inside the Church—so I’m not pointing my finger at anyone without first pointing it at myself.) So, why do I see it this way? Why do I view church people as a chief cause for misunderstandings about the Church by those who do not claim any association with the Church?
It originates from the fact that most church people perceive the Church from the vantage point of what they see as “the drive” behind their particular church. We associate what drives our church as our church’s identity. And our local identity then becomes the identity of the Church. Let me give you one example.