|What Does Your Church Do?
WHAT DOES YOUR CHURCH DO?
What is church? What does church do? What images does the word "church" conjure up in your mind? A building? A boring worship service? A long sermon? A duty to do?
We tend to think of "church" according to appearances. Some people don't like church because they have known hypocritical members of churches. Some people don't like church because they don't like the preacher or the elders. Some people don't like church because they were offended by some church member on one occasion.
The problem with judging according to apperances is that it does not come close to what the church really is. The church is not defined by its external characteristics. It may be marked by them or identified by them, but it is not defined by them. The church is not fundamentally a church program, or the administration of the Lord's Supper, oe preaching on Sunday morning. The church is something much more heavenly, more divine and more practical than that.
What is the Church?
The church is the presence of Christ in the world through the Spirit. The church is the Spirit-filled people of God who represent Christ before the world. They are the body of Christ in whom the Spirit of God dwells. As the body of Christ, we are his presence in the world. Christ is present through his church and fills the earth through our presence in the world. Just as God sent Jesus as his presence in the world, so Christ has sent us. We are follow Christ into the world. We are God's light and salt in this world. We fulfill the ministry of Christ.
The church is a holy fellowship of God's people on earth. The church is a community of believers; a family whose heritage is of the Lord. The church is the body of people who live together in covenant with God. They are united by the Spirit who dwells within them and express their love for God in community with each other. We are a community that is in the world, but not of the world. We are a holy people, a people who belong to God and to each other. We are a koinonia (a fellowship), and what we have in common is the Spirit of God who dwells in each of us.
The church is a manifestation of God's kingdom on the earth. The church is intended to be heaven on the earth. The church anticipates the fullness of God's kingdom and is a present sign of God's reign in the world. God reigns through the presence of his people as they live in the light of the gospel. The church is supposed to be heaven on earth, or at least, a foretaste of heaven on the earth. We manifest the kingdom, but we also anticipte the kingdom's ultimate unveiling at the second coming of Christ when we will dwell upon a new heaven and a new earth. The church, therefore, anticipates and hopes in the future of God's kingdom which Jesus will bring with him when he comes again.
What is the Mission of the Church?
The mission of the Jesus Christ is the mission of the church. Since the church is the body of Christ and represents the presence of Christ in the world, the mission of Jesus Christ is the mission of the church. The church learns its mission and role in the world from Jesus Christ. He is the one who came into the world. He was sent by God, and now Jesus Christ sends us. He formed a community of disciples to fulfill the work of God in the work--to complete the work of Christ.
The best illustration of this is the relationship between the books of Luke and Acts. They actually constituted one book in two volumes. Acts completes the story of Luke, and Luke anticipates the story of Acts. The two are intertwined because their subjects are intertwined. The story of Jesus in Luke is the story of the church in Acts. The ministry of Jesus in Luke is the ministry of the church in Acts. When we read about the mission work of Jesus in Luke, we also learn about the mission and work of the church. When we see how the early church fulfilled the mission and work of Jesus in Acts, we see them following the pattern of Jesus Christ. The fundamental pattern of the book of Acts is found in Luke. The church in Acts fulfills and extends the mission of Jesus Christ found in Luke.
A Worshipping Community
Luke 4:8, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him'." Jesus' life was devoted to prayer. He came up praying out of his baptism (Luke 3:21). Before he choose his disciples, Jesus went out to pray in solitutude on a mountainside (Luke 6:12). Jesus often prayed alone and with his disciples (Luke 9:18,28; 11:1; 22:40ff).
The church was a worshipping community. Acts 2:47, they praised God. Acts 4:21 they "praised God for what had happened." Acts 11:18, they praised God because God had given repentance to the Gentiles. Acts 13:2, the church was gathered worshipping the Lord and fasting. The church was devoted to prayer, even before the descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and after (2:42). The apostles prayed befdore the selected Matthias (Acts 1:24) and before they selected the seven (Acts 6:6). The church gathered for prayer (Acts 4:31; 12:5,12). Paul and Barnabas were sent out on their missionary journey with prayer and fasting (13:3), and they appointed elders with prayer and fasting (14:23).
A Holy Community
Jesus was born as the holy Son of God (Luke 1:35) upon whom the Holy Spirit descended at his baptism (Luke 3:22); he was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). God remembered his holy covenant when he sent Jesus (Luke 1:72). God acted in holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:75). Jesus is described as "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1), and said to have "rejoiced in the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21). The demons call Jesus the "Holy One" of God (Luke 4:34). Jesus Christ was the "holy and righteous one" who the elders rejected (Acts 3:14). He was the holy servant of God (Acts 4:27,30).
The Holy Spirit is a gift God has promised to give to his children, to those who ask him (Luke 11:13). The church receives the gift of the Holy (Acts 2:38), and the Holy Spirit is given to all those who obey God (Acts 5:32). The church is filled with the Holy Spirit, and individuals reflect that fullness in their actions and life, as Peter (Acts 4:8), the seven deacons who were full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5), Stephen (Acts 7:55), Paul (Acts 9:17; 13:9), Barnabas (Acts 11:24); the disciples were filled with "joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52). The church experienced the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31).
An Evangelizing Community
Jesus began his ministry in Nazareth where he taught in the synagogues (Luke 4:15), and he continued this habit (Luke 4:31,44; 13:32). He defined his ministry as one of proclaimation, telling the good news (Luke 4:18; cf. 4:43; 8:1). When in Jerusalem for the last week of his life, he was teaching in the temple every day (Luke 19:47; 21:37).
The church, as given in the Great Commission, was to be a people who proclaimed the message of God's forgiveness (Luke 24:47). The church was a witnessing community which testified about the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The apostles were Jesus' witneses into the whole world (Acts 1:8; 4:33). The apostles taught new converts (Acts 2:42), and continued to preach in the temple like Jesus did (Acts 4:2; 5:21), every day even (Acts 5:42). When the church was persecuted and scattered, they went everywhere, men and women, preaching the gospel (Acts 8:4). They went preaching Jesus, as Philip did in Acts 8:35, Paul in Acts 9:20, the Hellenists in Acts 11:20. They taught unbelievers and the church (Acts 11:26), staying with the church in Corinth 18 months teaching (Acts 18:11). Paul stayed with the Ephesian church teaching (Acts 20:20).
A Serving Community
Jesus was a servant of God. He served God by serving others, by fufilling the ministry and work God had given him. Jesus went out into the world not only to proclaim, but to heal (Luke 5:17; 9:2.6). Jesus was anonited with the Holy Spirit, and so he went about "doing good" (Acts 10:38). Jesus was so concerned about doing good that he event broke some established customs and traditions--he did good on the Sabhbath (Luke 6:9).
We are God's servants too (Acts 4:29). The church contined Jesus' healing ministry as "good deeds" (Acts 4:10). They were involved in the good works of sharing their possessions (Acts 2,4), in assisting the widows of the church (Acts 6), and Dorcus exemplified the model believer by making garments for widows (Acts 9:36). She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. The church is a community of servants. We, especially those in positions of leadership (Luke 22:26-27), are to be servants to one another.
The church reflects the life of God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. The church is the dynamic organism, the body of Christ, which exists in the world to be Christ in the world, to represent Christ in the world. It is a worshipping community of love which serves, witnesses, lives holy lives in the world before God as God's people. What does the church do? It fulfills the mission and ministry of Christ to the world.
The church is the holy community of God's people who praise God, serve others and proclaim God's redeeming message. The church is a community of disciples who follow Jesus into the world to minister to it.