Summary: The church exists to evangelize.
Why Are We Here?
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Why are you here today? There could be as many answers to that question as there are people present. Some would say, "I'm here because my parents made me come." Others would say, "I'm here for my children." Still others would say "I'm here because I have responsibilities." Some are here for the fellowship, others for the worship, others for the teaching. I'm always aware that some are here desperately wanting to hear a word from God.
Why are you here?
I've got another question to ask you, it is, in my opinion, more difficult to answer, "Why are WE here?" Next year we will celebrate 60 years of this Church's ministry on the Monterey Peninsula. Though we've met in several locations and have changed our name more than once, the Lighthouse Baptist Church was established by its founders for a reason. Why? Why are we here?
A church whose members can't answer that question is destined to walk along the path of least resistance. It becomes a ship tossed by the waves or a leaf blown by the wind. Without clear direction we will drift and possibly capsize. Without a clear answer to my question, "Why are WE here?" we will fall prey to whatever force can speak the loudest or with the greatest passion.
Take a look with me in our rear view mirror and think about our origins. With Peter's profession of faith, Christ established His Church. He said, "That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Jesus said, "I will build MY church." A few moments ago, I said, " . . . the Lighthouse Baptist Church was established by its founders for a reason." Really, the reason the founders established this church is not as important as the reason "the Founder" established His church. Notice that Jesus didn't say that he would establish Peter's Church, He said I will build "my church."
As we glance back at our rear view mirror, let's all agree on this one thing, the Lighthouse Baptist Church is Christ's church! It doesn't belong to the preacher. Amen? It doesn't belong to the deacons. Amen? It doesn't belong to the permanent residents. Amen? It doesn't belong to the officers or the members; this church belongs to Christ. It is His Church.
Some people start to feel like they have a certain amount of ownership of the church. Maybe it is because they've attended for a long time or have made significant contributions over the years. Maybe it is a feeling of having "sweat equity" built up. You may be able to convince me of the fact, but I doubt that you can convince Jesus of that fact. He bought the church with his precious blood and I don't think he is willing to share ownership with you or me.
Before we move on to the purpose of the Church, I want you to see one more thing, Jesus said "I will BUILD my Church." Do you ever feel pressure to make our church grow? The emphasis has changed in recent years from church growth to church health. I applaud that change. I never felt comfortable with the sterile programmatic approach of the church growth movement. It was almost as if we had the programs, we didn't need God. The authors guaranteed results if churches would follow the specific directions.
Growing a church isn't like baking a cake. It isn't a matter of adding certain ingredients together in the right proportions. Jesus makes it clear in this text that He will BUILD His Church. No doubt He will use our efforts and programs, but He will do the building, not us.
Now the phrase we've been waiting for, the one that comes after Jesus' bold declaration that the Church belongs to Him and He will build it up. He said this, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
We often gain comfort from this Scripture believing it teaches that the forces of hell cannot invade the church. As if God was promising believers a safe haven from the storms of life and the evils of Satan. We get a picture of the Church being a fortress that offers sanctuary and protection to its members. But, that is a misreading of the text.
Look at it again. Jesus doesn't promise that the church will withstand hell's charge, it is the opposite. He promises that hell can't withstand our charge.
This text is a call to arms. It is a clear trumpet sound to charge Hell. Jesus promises that He will build the church and Hell will not be able to withstand the church's force when it beats up against the gates of Hell.