“What is the purpose of the Church?”
The question gave me pause. I didn’t have a memorized answer I could just spout off when I read those words a couple of months ago. I guess that’s because I hadn’t really taken the time to consider the purpose of the Church… I knew the purpose of a Christian – to know God and to make Him known (Exodus 9:15-16, John 17:3, Matthew 28:19-20). That answer I had worked out long ago…
The Church is just a bunch of Christians, so I reasoned the answer should be the same: a Christian’s purpose and the Church’s purpose is to know God and to make Him known.
Eight weeks later I’ve realized that, while my answer is technically correct, it’s slightly too vague. It’s too vague for our churches to implement, and it’s certainly too vague for our post-modern world to realize it must be understood within biblical terms of who God is.
A more specific answer is the purpose of the Church is to make disciples. Unfortunately, people have wildly varying ideas on what a disciple is.
Too many Christians, even Christian leaders, confuse disciples with church-goers or self-identified Christians or people who have prayed to receive Christ as their Savior or people who have been baptized or people who know a lot of Bible stories or people who serve their communities while wearing Christian t-shirts.
To be sure, all of those things are things disciples should do (although, we could stand to leave our “Serve Team” shirts at home…), but none of those things make someone a disciple in and of itself.
Jesus said to the original disciples, “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,” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Do you see the part we usually skip? We may go, we may share the Gospel, we may baptize converts, but then, at least in the culture I’m in, we stop… we don’t follow through and teach new converts to “obey everything [Jesus has] commanded”.
Oh, sure, we may preach tremendous sermons and offer fantastic Bible studies – really meaty stuff that teaches people the Word – but that’s not the litmus test for whether or not we’ve taught anyone to obey everything Christ has commanded…
When our people are telling others about Christ, training them in the ways of the Bible, showing them how and challenging them to live obediently to the scriptures, we’ve made more than converts – we’ve made disciples.
And the cornerstone way in which a true disciple obeys Christ is by going and making more disciples who will mature and make more disciples who will mature and make more disciples who will… you get the point.
With a weak voice I have to ask, Church, are we doing that? Am I doing that?
The stats show, as a whole, we aren’t. And when I look around my community – Bible Belt, USA – I see a lot of believers doing a lot of good things, but not many doing the main thing – making more disciple-makers.
It’s time to stop being content with entertainment “Christianity” where our churches’ main focus is making sure people have a satisfying “experience” on Sunday mornings. It’s time to stop preaching the Gospel, helping people convert, and then letting them fall through the cracks of the mega church machine, never to be heard from again. Believers, it’s time to stop being content learning more Bible but not doing anything with that knowledge.
We are fooling ourselves if we think we’re living the Great Commission but we’re not 1) currently investing time and love into a relationship with an unbeliever in which we both model the Christian life for him and, when the Spirit leads, verbally share the Gospel with him, 2) walking a younger believer through his next steps in growing in his relationship with Christ, and 3) helping more mature believers take that final step of obedience by equipping and encouraging them to reach out to the lost, share the Gospel, teach and model the scriptures to younger believers, and help equip them to duplicate the process in someone else.
In short, we’re fooling ourselves if we think we are disciples but we aren’t making any disciples.
In the words of Michael Jackson, it’s time to make that change.
If you’re interested, I recommend reading DiscipleShift for a more detailed explanation of what I’ve summarized. If you’re super interested, I recommend reading Disciple Making Is… next. If you’re still interested and/or refuse to read books, shoot me an email below and I’ll send you a short paper or two on the subject. And, lastly, if you’re local to me and want to be a part of making a change in how we do discipleship in our area, let’s chat.