Here is another question that many have pondered. What is the point of the church? There are those that believe that the church is no longer useful. There are others that think that the church is an unnecessary restraint on human freedom. There are many that believe that humans would be better without the church. So what is the point of the church?
We must begin with a Biblical definition of the church if we are to understand the point of the church. Jesus first took a word that was used in the Hebrew and Roman culture of that day and utilized it to refer to His followers. The word was originally used to describe the gathering of citizens, an assembly, a public meeting. It was also used to describe the assembled people of Israel as a congregation. Jesus used it to describe those who would be assembled in Christian community. The first thing we learn about the “Church” is that the description refers to a group of Christians. The term is used to speak collectively of all Christians throughout all ages and it is used more commonly to speak of local bodies of Christians working together in their community. The first thing that I want to point out is that the church is not a building, it is not necessarily an organizational structure. It is a group of followers of Christ working together to carry on the work of Jesus in a geographic location. This will serve us for now as a simplified definition of the church. The church is a group of followers of Jesus working together to carry on Jesus’ ministry.
Let me share three observations on the point of the church. First, as I have already mentioned, the church is to be the voice, hands and feet of Jesus. Jesus instructed his followers “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20 ) The general meaning of this commission is that Jesus’ followers are to represent Him in their communities. What we often miss today is that Christianity is a team sport not an individual one. The focus of the book of Acts is a history of the working of the local churches. The majority of New Testament letters were written to local churches. And even the letters written to individuals were written to those individuals that were part of local churches. When Jesus told Peter, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) he was stating that He would work through these local assemblies of His people!
Second, the church is the place God has chosen to make His truth known. Paul reminds Timothy and us, “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15 ) Paul’s point was just as temple to a false God was constructed with a foundation and pillars to erroneous teaching so the Church, the local body of believers, is the place where people could find the truth about God. The church is the institution that Jesus established to communicate His truth to humanity in this age. Paul is not speaking of a building where Bibles are kept, but of a people in whom this truth is loved, learned, lived and shared! This must be the primary purpose of the church today even when Biblical truth conflicts with cultural practices and opinions.
And third, the church is a place where lives are changed. Again we must wrestle against thinking of a physical building. Our focus must be in the work that God does in individuals, families and communities when Christians working together live and share the truth of Jesus with others. Your local body of Christians needs you and you need them!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson