Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Helen Keller was asked one time, “What would be worse than being born blind?” She quickly replied, “To have sight and no vision.” John Maxwell says, “Successful people are motivated by a dream beyond them.” It is something that constantly keeps them going for they are always reaching higher and higher to ultimately reach that goal.
One of the diseases that can affect the church today is to have no vision. To not have something that is bigger than they are. The church can then become complacent and happy in a comfort zone. This is a dangerous place to be for a church for they will begin to feed on one another rather than being occupied with fulfilling the vision. A complacent church falls in love with itself and the rest of the world does not matter.
Isaiah 6:1-9 – In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
- Isaiah saw God. When he saw God, he saw a holy God.
- He saw himself. He saw that just as God was holy and perfect, he was needy and imperfect.
- He saw others; he looked at the multitudes around him.
- He allowed God to change him.
- He began to stretch himself. He began to say, “OK God, allow me to be part of this vision. Allow me to reach out and be what you want me to become.”
Like, Isaiah, once you have had a glimpse of what God can make of you, you will never be satisfied with what you now are. God has given to every church a mission, a vision and when we grasp that vision and begin to share it, the church will never be satisfied with status quo. It will change our attitude and our outlook.
Church growth/evangelism is not gaining people from other churches. That is not any different than Farmer Brown moving cows from one feed lot to another.
One of the biggest problems that has stunted the growth in most churches today is the lack of understanding of the divine purposes of the church. The church is more than a Sunday worship service, or a social club, it is the house of God. Jesus Himself said, “I will build my church.” Let us take a look at two scriptures that give us the understanding of the purpose of the church.
Matthew 22:37 and 40 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
Matthew 28:19-20 – 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.
- Love the Lord with all your heart – #1 is very easy to grasp! It is simply the worship of God. As a church we are called to worship Him. Jesus said of worship, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” The Father is literally seeking worshipers. We are the church and one of our great purposes is to worship Him. Worship is not a duty, but a joy!
- Love your neighbor as yourself – #2 is a beautiful description of ministry! The church simply exists to minister to people. People have needs, all kinds of needs. We are to be in the need meeting business. We demonstrate God’s love by meeting the needs of those around us, and this means more than just their spiritual needs. It means emotional, relational and physical. In the book of Ephesians, we find again this purpose defined in this manner, “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ministry is the work of the church! Unfortunately, very little ministry takes place in many churches. Faithfulness is often defined in terms of attendance rather than service, and members just sit, soak and sour. Wrong. We are to edify, encourage, exalt, equip, and evangelize.
- Go and make disciples – #3 is simply called evangelism. It is our responsibility to let the world know of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and then to point them to Christ. A true disciple maker is one who makes disciples and then teaches them to trust in Christ and Christ alone. As long as there is one person in the world who does not know Christ, the church has a mandate to keep growing. Growth is not optional; it is commanded by Jesus. We should not seek church growth for our own benefit, but because Christ wants people saved.
- Baptizing them – Why is baptism so important to warrant inclusion in Christ’s Great Commission? It is because it symbolizes one of the purposes of the church: fellowship-identification with the body of Christ. As Christians we are called to belong, not just to believe. As we relate to those who are being baptized in our churches, this is a symbol of the death of the old man and coming alive as a new reborn person. Your life has changed and now you are identified with the people of God. Our people must belong to this body. They must identify with the body of Christ. If in our churches they are simply a number or a face in the crowd they lose out on their importance in the body of Christ. They must be brought into the fellowship of the brothers and sisters in Christ and find their place in ministry. In other words, the church is here to help them have a sense of belonging.
- Teaching them to obey – Dr. Paul Laverne Walker says, “In the scripture we find the word ‘disciple’ listed 320 times.” This reveals to us the tremendous responsibility God gives the church today. We are to make disciples. The church exists to edify, or educate, God’s people. Discipleship is the process of helping people become more like Christ in their thoughts, feelings and actions. The apostle Paul said, “So everywhere we go we talk about Christ to all who will listen, warning them and teaching them as well as we know how. We want to be able to present each one to God, perfect, because of what Christ has done for each of them.” Colossian 1:28
We are called to reach them and teach them! To bring them to spiritual maturity where they may be able to listen and obey the voice of God. We disciple them to be ministers of the gospel. One of the saddest things we find in the church today is the difference we make between the ministry and the laity. We are all ministers of the gospel, and we all have our place in the work of the kingdom. We are to make disciples and help everyone to find their place in the work of the kingdom.
These are the purposes of the church today. They will be met in different ways by different churches but the purposes remain unchanged. We exist to “Edify, encourage, exalt, equip and evangelize.”
IF WE DO NOT DO THAT WE HAVE FAILED!