These consIDered questions come from an open forum conducted at Main Street. These questions were not addressed at that forum due to the constraints of time. I pray that these answers are helpful as we seek to walk rightly in this world.
First, allow me to define ‘Church’ as the gathering of those who are God’s family by adoption through Jesus’ work on the cross and His resurrection. It is the family of the redeemed. The Church is not a building, or a particular time, or a set of programs. Most people confuse what the so-called Church does with who the Church is. The two should be closely aligned, but they are not the same. It is my belief that if the Church is who it is supposed to be then what the Church does will reflect the mission or purpose given to it by Jesus.
There is a lot of Scripture to draw from, but I will limit myself to Romans 12 as a sufficient summary of Jesus’ teaching and the Apostle’s obedient response. These are the traits of being that should describe the purpose of the ‘Church’ applied to everyday life. Although every word is vitally important, key terms are in bold.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.(Romans 12, NLT)
The purpose of the Church is to be the people who both reflect and teach what is contained in this passage toward the end of acting out that character both within the gathering AND outside the gathering. If the Church made these things priority in the content of its teaching and the expectation of its programming the transformation of the communities outside the space of its gatherings (by this I mean buildings) would have difficulty ignoring Jesus the way they do at the present time. If Jesus is not ignored, then He is drawing people to himself and adding them to his ever growing ‘Church’ family.