Remembering Our Purpose
The church is God’s vehicle to change the world. It’s His vehicle to stand up to the evils that enslave and enforce others, and its members are those who are called to lay down their lives for the Kingdom of God.
In all the political and emotional turmoil as of late, it’s important to be reminded of what our mission as the church truly is. It’s easy to lose sight of the purpose Jesus gave us and the work He’s invited us to partner in.
First, I suppose, we can label what is not the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is not merely to grow bigger (although sometimes that’s all we talk about).
A pastor’s job is not simply to add members to the flock, as if reaching a certain numerical mark is the essence of ministry.
What I’ve noticed over the years is that it becomes increasingly easy for churches to be internally focused. Instead of placing our sights out into the world we’re called to love and serve, we think about change by addition, measuring success by how many we get through the doors.
Now, growing bigger can be a sign of fulfilling the mission. But it can also be a really good distraction. Because if the only way we measure our impact is in relation to church size, we’re missing something.
Also, the purpose of the church is not to control/appease/change government or even dictate the morals of society.
Jesus has a lot to say in Scripture about our response to the powers of the world. We are called to love and serve, to stand up for the oppressed, to remember that His kingdom is from another place.
As Jesus followers, we’re not called to fight people, but to fight for them. We are in a battle, but not a battle of flesh and blood, but a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12).
This is why it’s of utmost importance that we remember who the enemy is. It’s not those that disagree with us or represent politics we don’t align with. The enemy is not people or leaders, but the spiritual forces of evil we encounter.
You see, the purpose of the church is to impact the world by proclaiming the reality of the Kingdom of God.
At times, the church has fought so adamantly for laws and measures to be passed, placing hope and confidence in political leaders, not realizing that if the church was truly being Christ’s body we would create change. Our world would be different.
The question the church needs to ask constantly is: Are we making the world a better place? Are our communities changing because of our presence?
If our communities wouldn’t notice if we shut our doors, then why are we here?
Jesus showed us the way–a path forged with love and service and humility, not force, intimidation, or power. It was, as John Yoder says, a “power under” way of living as compared to the “power over” way of the world.
The world gets things accomplished by coercion, force, and the threat of punishment. It is meant to control behavior. Jesus, however, came to serve, to love, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
He knew that behavior modification was never God’s goal. Violence and force cannot change hearts. Only sacrificial love can do that.
It’s all too easy for the church to mimic the way of the world. We become overly business minded trying to resemble what is shown to us in this kingdom. We seek comfort and power. But we’re not called to be like everyone else.
We are called to be salt and light, to be a community living on purpose.
What if we counted attendance and success not by how many people show up at church, but by how often we go and love the people in our city…by how often we show up and serve…by how often we promote peace and love…by how we choose to talk out against the evils of our world.
The gospel will change no one unless we have been transformed by it. I’ve been reminding myself that it is impossible to lead people where we haven’t been before. If we desire to lead others onward, it’s going to look like us going there ourselves.
If we want to make the world a better place, it’s going to look like us loving and serving others well. It means we have to know our communities, to walk in sync with them, to align with the rhythm of the city.
It’s going to look like the church being bold enough to say we are operating in another kingdom.
Let’s fight not with violence or coercion or power, but with prayer and love and service. We have a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, at times, we are going to be associated with a lot of things that are not consistent with the message of Jesus.
Let’s prove whose we are.
Let’s live out our true purpose.
Let’s be the church, the church that is for all people.
Let’s be bold enough to respond in love, and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.