Summary: Fourfold purpose of the church: 1)Worship God 2) Show love for others 3)Proclaim the Gospel 4)Help Christian grow in their faith.
A few weeks ago a woman called the church office. She said she had heard some real good things about our congregation and was interested in attending, but she had one concern. Someone had told her that you had to pay money, annual dues, if you wanted to come to this church. Barb, the church secretary, explained that this was certainly not the case, and I hope this individual does start attending our church, even if she never puts a penny in the offering plate. That phone call reminded me how the church, including sometimes First Baptist Church, is often misunderstood by people around us. Even folks who have been active in a church for many years can forget, or become confused, as to "why we are here" and what our purpose is as a church. For example, some see it primarily as a social club. Dr. Laura and Dear Abby often encourage single people to go to church to meet potential dating partners. A few folks see it as a great place to make business contacts. Others view it as a piece of family history. This is the place where my parents were married, my grandparents were buried and where I was baptized. Some see it as primarily an extension of the county welfare program, which houses soup kitchens and clothes closets. Or, as Mark Twain once said, "The church is a place where a nice, respectable person stands in front of other nice, respectable people and urges them to be nicer and more respectable." Now, that probably is a fairly accurate description of some congregations, especially here in Minnesota. It may also be what some folks would like a church to be, but there certainly should be something more to the church than that. So, what we are going to do for the first few Sundays of the new millennium is try to clear up any confusion. We are going to explore what the Bible says the purpose of the church, specifically First Baptist Church, ought to be, and we will be looking at very practical things the church should do to fulfill the purpose to which the Lord has called us. Let's pray that God would speak to us through His Word today.
I want to start with quick answers to a couple of preliminary questions that might be asked. First: Why look at the Bible to see what the purpose of a church should be? Well, we go to the Bible because it is God's Word. The church belongs to God, and the Lord Jesus is the head of the church. The most important question is not what do we want our church to do, but what does God want our church to do? "But," you might say, "that Book is 2000 years old, and the church's purpose has certainly changed in that time, hasn't it?" No, I don't think so. In the Bible, the Lord spells out the purpose of the church from Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Acts 2, to that day when Jesus Christ returns to establish His Kingdom. Yes, 2000 years have gone by, but remember, 2 Peter 3:8 says that with the Lord a thousand years is as one day. Besides, if Jesus is the head of the church, no one else has the right to re-define what the church is about. You can't get a focus group together or take a survey of the American people to figure out what the church should be doing. You can't call church leaders together every ten years and have them come up with an agenda for the next decade. No, as Ephesians 2:20 says, the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." It is the apostles, prophets and Jesus Christ Himself who determine what is the church's purpose. They speak to us through the Bible, and that is why we look at this Book to determine why we are here as a church.
The second questions is: Are we going to be talking about just why First Baptist Church is here, or about what the purpose of every church should be? Both. I suspect almost everything I say would apply to any Christian church. However, I have no intention of pointing fingers at other congregations. My primary concern is that we at First Baptist Church would be doing what God calls us to do. Now, I think in most ways we are doing that. I received a note a couple of days ago from the Eberts, a couple who moved from here a few months ago, and they said that in their city, with a couple of dozen evangelical churches, they did not know if they would find one which is as good as First Baptist Church of Chisholm. That is a wonderful compliment. However, even though the Eberts are wonderful, godly people, it is God's evaluation of a church, not theirs, not mine, not yours, which really matters. If I were to speculate, I think the Lord would say First Baptist Church is doing a good job in the community. But, there is a lot of room for improvements. So our focus will not be on what they need to learn, but on what we need to learn.