Last week we began a conversation about the purpose of the church. With COVID-19 forcing us to make so many changes to how we do church and ministry over these last months, I think it’s important for us to remind ourselves why it is that the church exists.
We live in a rapidly changing world and it’s important that we be able to change and adapt how we do ministry to make sure that what we do is useful and effective – but at the same time, it’s even more important that we never lose sight of why we do that ministry in the first place.
In other words, our methods can change, but our mission must remain the same.
The purpose of the church never changes. The purpose of the church in Paul’s time is the same purpose of the church in our time. Of course, the activities of the those churches probably look very different – but their end goals are always exactly the same.
And so that’s what I want to look at for the next few weeks: What are the end goals of the church? Why do we exist? What is our purpose?
Because only when we understand our purpose can we effectively determine what activities will help us accomplish that purpose!
And so we started two weeks ago, first of all, by defining the church. Sometimes there is confusion even about that! What exactly is the church?
Well, we looked at three ways the Bible describes the church. First of all, it describes the church as a family – the family of God. The Bible teaches that from the moment we accept Christ as our Saviour, every believer is then adopted into God’s family. We read in Ephesians 1 that God loved us and chose to adopt us even before time began – and this gave him great pleasure! I always find it incredible to think that it filled God with joy to adopt me into his family. But that’s what the Bible says. We are adopted into His family and we are all now brothers and sisters in Christ.
So that’s one way that the Bible describes the church – as a family.
The second way that the Bible describes the church is as the body of Christ. Just like the human body has many different parts that all work together as one body – so it is with the body of Christ. We are all completely different from one another – we have different backgrounds, different ways of seeing the world, we have different interests and passions – different skills and abilities. And God has put us all together – united in Christ Jesus – to function together as one body. We are all necessary parts of God’s church.
So that’s the second way the Bible describes the church – as the body of Christ.
And then the third way the Bible describes the church is as an ekklesia. The New Testament was originally written in Greek – and in the Greek language, the word ‘ekklesia’ simply means “an assembly or gathering of people”. You could use that word to describe an angry mob or the crowd at a rock concert or any kind of gathering. But it’s that word “ekklesia” that gets translated in the Bible as ‘church’. So anytime you’re reading in the New Testament and you see the word ‘church’ – the original greek word that was written there is “ekklesia” – an assembly or gathering of people.
And of course, when he Bible talks about God’s ekklesia, it has a specific kind of gathering in mind – a gathering of God’s family – an assembly of the Body of Christ.
We read in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus said:
“On this rock I will build my church.”
Christ is building his ekklesia. He is assembling his family. He is putting together the body of Christ.
And so that’s kinda the idea that we’ve latched onto for this series.
Ekklesia – the assembly of God’s family. The church is not a building. It’s is not a charitable organization. Church not an event that we attend each Sunday morning. The church is the gathering of God’s family – it is the assembly of the body of Christ. And Christ is building His church – he’s adding more and more people to the family – adding more and more parts to the body.
But the big question still remains: Why? What is the purpose of this assembly? Why is God building His church? If God has put us together as one united body of Christ – what exactly does He want this body to do?