What is the purpose of Church?
Rachel Snell considers the role and meaning of the Church, and gives her view on its purpose.
We have different understandings of the word 'Church'. We talk about the local church, the church in the neighbourhood, also drawing people who feel a connection to that gathering. The role of the local church is service to people in the community, while remaining a part of the entire Body of Christ, the Church. It works with and acknowledging other local churches of different denominations and churches throughout the world, the world-wide church.
We know the Church to be 'the Body of Christ'. Biblically the church is a collection of people who, in response to His invitation, are united in mind and heart to Christ and His message and His commitment on the earth. This understanding that we are part of God and imitating Jesus showing facets of him here, now to the world is still the strongest contender for an accurate understanding of the word Church.
The local church and the world-wide church are there to enable those who are and desire to be part of Christ's body to grow in the knowledge, understanding and experience of God, and to be enabled to reflect and live out that relationship to Christ's body in the world.
The message of Christ has never been 'Go to church.' The message was and is 'Go into all the world and tell the Good News to all creation.' The message of Christ is 'Come unto Me', 'Come to Me the Lord Jesus, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest', and not 'Come unto church'.
With 'go to church' or 'come to church' the emphasis is on meeting together. We meet to worship and give thanks to God and to break bread together, and for mutual encouragement to love and do good deeds. We can then respond to either the command to 'Go into the world' or the command to 'Come to Jesus when I am weary and over laden'.
The love and encouragement keeps His body the Church alive and the message of Christ fresh in us. It acts as a deterrent that 'going to church' becomes a mere habit. In order to come away from church better equipped to 'Go into all the world and tell the Good news' we need to be connected to Christ's message. We need to be affirmed, built up as being part of Christ's body, so that we function as Christ intended and 'do greater works than he did'.
The Body of Christ is not for building churches. Jesus told us He would build His Church. So, the church local and world-wide - what are they for? They are to 'bring in' for the purpose of making disciples, and then 'send out' to bring more in. They are to enable the Body of Christ to be a better expression of Christ, becoming completely united with the Father in order that 'the world might believe.'
The reason we are instructed to 'Come to him, Christ Jesus, all those weary and over laden' is that He promises to give us rest and a joining to him such that we can learn, be strengthened and reinvigorated in him.
This surely is the model for the Body of Christ, the Church.
Rachel Snell is a Norwich-based writer, oil painter, speaker and poet, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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