What Purpose Does the Church Serve?

 I.         So often we do things simply because that is the way it has been done in the past.

            A.        Since we no longer question “Why?” we have forgotten the answers and the reasons that others have discovered before us.

            B.        Traditions of men slowly creep in and gain a firm hold.

                        1.         Some are never questioned because we fall out of the habit of questioning. We are comfortable with the ways things are.

                        2.         Some are never questioned because we fear the answer. Perhaps it will shake our faith, causing us to doubt.

            C.        I’ve been mulling over many things that we take for granted. Some are questions that you have asked for which I did not have an answer that satisfied me. Some are points that I have run across that has me thinking how to answer the points from the Scriptures.

                        1.         Unlike most religions, the true religion of God encourages its believers to question its practices. Not to question God, but to question ourselves to see if we are living up to God’s standards.

                                    a.         The Bereans were commended for questioning the teachings of Paul - Acts 17:11

                                    b.         I John 3:24-4:1 - Test every spirit to see if they are of God

                        2.         By a relentless pursuit of the truth, we continually window out the chaff of human traditions that forever creeps in among us.

                        3.         The duty and the necessity of elders is not to run the church, but to be the source that keeps the congregation faithful - Tit 1:9

            D.        In the up coming weeks, I will be presenting studies on topics you may disagree with. I will not be presenting them for controversy’s sake, but to encourage each of you to be like the Bereans. Take up your Bibles and see if these things are so.

                        1.         Past traditions will not matter, only the Word of God.

                        2.         If I have misunderstood God’s teachings, show me the better way. But I warn you in advance, only God’s Word will make a difference.

                        3.         If you find we are wanting, then let us correct our course. Let us remove the chaff that we might be presented to Christ without spot or wrinkle come Judgement.

II.        With that type of build up, today’s lesson may disappoint you. Many of you already have shown yourselves in agreement. However, I use it to illustrate my point.

            A.        Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is?

                        1.         We have often mention the purpose of man on this earth is to serve God. - Eccl 12:13, but what function does the church serve?

            B.        Peter Drucker, a business management expert wrote in “The Practice of Management” that the most dangerous and destructive thing any business manager can do is to forget what the company’s business really is.

                        1.         Many years ago, in Alabama a man started a lawn mower sales and repair business, which became very successful. He was honest and did good work. His prices were high, but he did not lack business because he attended to business in a dependable way. The man grew old and had to step down. He turned his business over to his son whose only interest in life was scuba diving. Within a year, the son divided the showroom in half, reduced his lawn mower stock, and reduced his employees. The new half was devoted to his scuba diving business. Business decline and a reputable competitor sprang up. No one would have dared earlier, but now the opportunity was present. Within a few years, the business closed. The son had killed the goose that laid the golden egg because he forgot and neglected what was his true business.

                        2.         Now the church is not a business, but we have a purpose. When we focus on that purpose, we will do well. When we lose track of our purpose, we will fail.

                        3.         As Jesus said, we must be about our Father’s business - Luke 2:49

            C.        Jesus’ business was to seek and save the lost - Luke 19:10, that is the business of the church as well.

                        1.         I Tim 1:15-16 - Christ came to save us, and we in turn must spread that example to others.

                        2.         Paul instructed Timothy to teach others this business - II Tim 2:2

                        3.         We must learn to go and teach - Matt 28:19-20

                        4.         The early church scattered and taught everywhere - Acts 8:4

                        5.         The shortage is not in work, but in workers - John 4:34-38

            D.        In general, the world of denominational Christianity has forgotten the purpose of the church.

                        1.         For many, the church is a social club where people get together for entertainment

                                    a.         In many of the denominational buildings I have been in, the gymnasium is larger than the auditorium.

                                    b.         Large sums of money is poured into kitchen facilities and banqueting items.

                                    c.         Sermons are designed to make people feel good. Services are advertised as to which entertainment group will be bring songs, or perhaps it will be a dramatic play, or a puppet show. One group even advertised they were giving out gifts during the holidays, delivered down a slide.

                        2.         Some see the church as place for social activism

                                    a.         The church becomes mission control for the spread of goods to help combat poverty.

                                    b.         Some churches even apply for government grants to help fund their distributions, and this is even among those who wear the name of Christ!

                                    c.         Churches advertise their support groups and their counseling ministers.

                        3.         Yet, what is odd that when it comes to teaching the gospel these same groups would rather send money to other organizations to accomplish this work on their behalf.

            E.        If you think I’m stretching things, please find a verse for me that says the church is in these businesses. At one time, when I asked for justification, people would look embarrassed that they could not think of a verse. Too often today, those I ask don’t care so long as they believe it is a “good work”.

III.       It is easy to wag tongues at others, but are we much better?

            A.        True, we don’t spend funds on things that God has not authorized, but are we doing all we can on the things God has commanded?

            B.        Have you noticed that after the door has been slammed into your face a few times, it is easy to think no one cares — no one will listen?

                        1.         Yet the Lord has told us the fields are white for harvest.

                        2.         If one is not interested, move to another

                        3.         A soldier does not win a battle by deciding he has been defeated in the middle of the foray.

            C.        We live in such a materialistic society, that we lose the concept of the value of a soul.

                        1.         We will spend thousands of dollars searching for the body of a person lost in the mountains or down a river, but we barely give the person a thought while he is alive and among us.

                        2.         We place value on retrieving a body, but what value is a man’s soul? - Matt 16:26

                        3.         Author unknown: “There are many things in life worth winning, but when one is won over to the side of truth, we beat the devil in the battle over the eternal soul of man. This will outshine and outlast all the achievements of the world put together.”

                        4.         Paul grieved over his fellow Jews lack of response. He sometimes wished himself accursed that they might be saved. - Rom 9:3. How badly do we want to win a soul for Christ?

            D.        We expect others to do the work. After all that is why we hire a preacher.

                        1.         The church was not built in the first century by the teachings of preachers alone. We read in Acts 8:4, that all Christians taught the word.

                        2.         “A store owner went to a convention. Someone asked him what business he was in. He replied, ‘My business is to serve Christ and win souls.’ Then he added, ‘I run a hardware store to make a living.’”

IV.      Jesus made a comment in Matthew 16:18 that we are all familiar with

            A.        Notice something that many overlook: What does Jesus mean that the “gates of hell will not overcome it?”

                        1.         Many talk about how Satan’s army cannot overcome the church.

                        2.         But read this again. Which side is attacking and which side is defending?

                        3.         It is Satan and his dominion that is behind the gates! It is the church that is attacking! In other words, Satan can’t keep the Lord’s church out of his domain.

            B.        The reason that Satan is gaining ground is not because his superior strength

                        1.         He is gaining because the Lord’s church - you and I - are not attacking!

                        2.         We have become lackadaisical, indifferent, and timid.

                        3.         Is anyone here willing to prove me wrong? What have you done recently as the Lord’s solider in the battle for the hearts and minds of this world?

V.        Sometimes I think we fight so hard to keep error out of the church that we forget that our first order of business is to bring people to Christ.

            A.        Truth must be taught. Error must be opposed.

            B.        However, let us not lose sight of the bigger picture.

            C.        We can’t just expect people to wander in and discover the truth. As our Lord has done, we too must seek and save the lost.