Over the past two weeks we’ve looked at three questions:
#1. What is the church?
#2. What is the purpose of the church?
#3. How do we fulfill our purpose?
We determined that you and I are the church, our purpose is to love God and be loved by Him, and we fulfill our purpose by surrendering everything to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we want to look at a fourth question,and that question is: What are the expressions of the church?
Before we explore the answer, let’s make sure we understand the question. What are the expressions of the church?
You may remember back two weeks ago when we were looking at the purpose of the church, I told you about how I had written up these five “purposes” of the church. They were worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & evangelism. But then we clarified our understanding and said actually, our purpose is to love God and be loved by Him. So if that’s our real purpose, what are those five things that I listed as purposes earlier? I think they are best described as expressions, and here’s why.
The word ‘expression’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘to press out’. Think about facial expressions for a minute. When we are experiencing deep sadness or grief, that feeling of sadness wells up within us, is pressed out upon our face. Tears flow and our face involuntarily distorts itself to express that feeling. Or when someone tells us something funny, that feeling of laughter wells up within us, and presses itself out on our face and we smile and laugh. We don’t try to laugh, it just comes out. It’s our feelings pressed out on our face. It’s a natural reaction.
And these five things – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & evangelism – work the same way. When we are living in a growing, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, surrendering our whole life to Him, these five things will just flow out of our lives. They are the natural expressions of the Christian life.
So this morning I want to look at these five things, not so much as a list of things we should be doing, but rather as expressions of our relationship with Christ.
So let’s begin by looking at the first expression of the church – Worship.
First of all, what is worship? I think most of us immediately think of singing when we think of worship. We might listen to a worship CD, or go to a worship service.
We read in Psalm 100:2 – “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
But you know, you can worship without singing. And you can certainly sing without worshiping.
Worship is our expression of reverence and adoration for God. It can be through song, and it can be through prayer. It can be through participating in communion, it can be through the act of Baptism.
We looked at Hebrews 12:1 last week. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Anything we do out of reverence and adoration for God is worship. As we surrender our bodies as living sacrifices and daily live our lives to please God, anything that we do can become an act of worship. Washing the dishes, if done out of reverence and adoration for God, can be an act of worship. Fixing the lawn mower can be an act of worship. Taking out the garbage can be an act of worship. Doing your homework can be an act of worship. Did you know that, _______? Doing your homework can be an act of worship!
For people who are growing in an intimate relationship with Christ, worship happens, not just on Sunday morning, but all throughout the week and all throughout the day. As we experience God’s love and get to know Him more and more, reverence and adoration well up within us, and we burst out in worship, where ever we are, and whatever we’re doing.
Can I challenge you then, that if you find yourself only worshiping God at church, only expressing your reverence and adoration for God on Sunday morning, perhaps you need to examine your relationship with God. If worship doesn’t naturally flow out of your life, maybe its a sign that something is missing.
So that’s the first expression of the church – Worship.
The second expression of the church is fellowship. God did not design man to be alone. Right from the beginning, God said in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone.” And so God provided a family.
And not only does God provide us a physical family when we are born to help us survive from infancy to adulthood, but He also provides us with a spiritual family when we are born again and become a Christian. This family is called the church and fellowship is when we spend time with our family.
Sadly, in a day when many physical families are torn apart and broken, likewise many Christians fail to see the importance of their spiritual family.
Hebrews 12:12 says “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Each of us are a unique part of the body of Christ – each of us has a unique role to play in our spiritual family, the church. We depend on others in our family to build us up and to encourage us, and they depend on us in the same way.
When Christians choose not to fellowship with other believers, it’s like an eye choosing not to be a part of the body. The eye can’t do much without a body, and the body is severely limited without an eye. God has given each of us different gifts and abilities that God intends for us to use for the building up of His church.
Are you fulfilling your role as a part of the body of Christ? I can see that you’re here on Sunday morning, (and that’s certainly an important step) but are you using your gifts and abilities to build up the church? Fellowship, this belonging to the family of God and using the gifts and abilities that God has given you to encourage and build each other up, is a natural expression of an intimate relationship with God.
And it works hand in hand with the third expression of the church – and that is discipleship. Fellowship and discipleship are so closely related that I considered combining the into one, but they are still distinctly different.
Where fellowship is belonging to the family and fulfilling your role in it, discipleship is helping those in your family to mature into the likeness of Christ.
As we personally grow deeper in love with Jesus Christ, we become more like Him. And as we become more like Him, we begin to have the same desires as Him. One of Christ’s desires is to make disciples.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As we mature in Christ, we too, will want to help others mature in Christ. The first step in this is, of course, evangelism (Helping others begin a relationship Christ in the first place – and we’ll talk about that in a few moments.) But after they become a part of the family of God, they need to grow up.
I surely hope my kids don’t stay little children forever. I hope they grow up and mature. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. My job, as their dad is to help them grow up – disciple them, if you will.
As Christians, we too have the responsibility of helping each other grow up. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been a Christian – we are all at different stages in growing up to become like Christ. Everyone should be discipled and everyone should be a discipler.
Does discipleship flow out of your life? Do you yearn to be more like Christ and seek out people who will help you do that? Do you make yourself available to help others become like Christ or even pursue them?
That’s the third expression of the church – discipleship.
The fourth expression is ministry.
This one, I think, is really important to God. When you become like Christ, and you start loving people the way He loves people – ministry is just going to gush out of your life.
Look at what Jesus did. Everywhere he went, he ministered to people needs. If you were blind, He’d make you see. If you were hungry, he’d feed you. If you were an outcast, he’d welcome you. And if you were a sinner, He’d save you.
You can tell it’s important because Jesus said that loving others was the second most important thing you could do – with loving God being the most important.
Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
You and I may not be able to do miracles like Jesus did, but there are so many ways we can love our neighbor. Shovel their walk, remember their kid’s birthday, be friendly, invite them out for coffee, pay for their groceries – the list is endless.
Does ministry flow out of your life? Do you love your neighbors like Jesus would love them?
Because if we do, the next expression of the church will happen right behind it. And that’s evangelism. Nothing paves the way to people accepting Christ as their Saviour like someone pouring out Christ’s love for them.
It all comes back to our purpose – to love God and be loved by Him. That’s the purpose of everyone – they just don’t know it. Our job is to tell them, to show them, how much God loves them and pray that they too will accept God’s love. That’s evangelism.
Too often people think evangelism is going door-to-door with Bible tracks or preaching on the street corner. God may use those methods, but that’s not His expectation for you and me. We don’t have the be an ordained minister, we don’t have to go to Bible college – all of us are qualified and expected to be evangelists.
1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Our responsibility is to love our neighbors and then be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. That’s evangelism.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but each one of these expressions works together with the others in a kind of continuous cycle that God designed to build His church. Let me try to walk you through it.
When we become a Christian, we surrender our whole life to God (which is our spiritual act of worship). And when we do that, we find ourself adopted into God’s family and can enjoy the fellowship of other believers. As we enjoy that fellowship, we are discipled by other Christians so that we grow up into maturity in Christ – becoming more like Him each day. As we become like Christ, His love flows through us and we minister to the needs of others around us. When they experience Christ’s love through our ministry, they start asking questions about this God we love so much and we can share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ. Then, when they accept God’s love and surrender their life to Him, the cycle begins again and the church grows.
That’s God’s plan for the church. That’s God’s plan for our church.
So where are you in this picture? Does your relationship with Christ cause these five things to get pressed out of your life? Is worship as natural for you as eating lunch? Do you love the fellowship of the church and pour your life into it? Are there people in your life that disciple you and do you disciple others? Do you continually minister to the needs of others because of how much you love them? Do you find yourself eager to share the good news of Jesus Christ with anyone who may listen?
Because all of these expressions are evidence of a healthy, growing relationship with Christ. Just as our facial expressions are evidence of how we feel, these five things are evidence of our relationship with God. Do we see these things in our life? Do we see these things in our church? If we don’t – if these things are not evident, then something’s a matter and we need to examine our relationship with Christ. But when these things are evident and they do flow out of our lives – that’s when our church, that’s when God’s church will flourish.