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4. What Purpose Is There In Church?

The most wonderful thing that has ever happened to the world is Jesus. After that, the most wonderful thing is His presence in a community of people called the Church. Many have been critical of the Church, many more have given up on it, and still others stand against it. The Church will always vacillate between the glorious and the grotesque. Grotesque, Webster says is “characterized by distortions or striking incongruities in appearance, shape, manner, fantastic or bizarre…strange, eccentric, ridiculous and absurd.”[1] I think I use grotesque quite accurately; it would take less than a hundred readers of this statement to thoroughly document each part of the above definition. But then there is the glory, and there is the stunning fact that there is nothing else. As Elton Trueblood put is, “however poor it is, life without it is worse.” Let me steer you away from the notion that Church exclusively means a group of people who gather on Sundays in order to go through a religious routine. Instead think of millions of people who are called by Jesus to follow Him. Part of answering the call and claim of God on their lives is to gather regularly in homes, rented buildings, restaurants and parks, in groups no smaller than two or three. Where they are gathered Christ is present and they stimulate one another to love God and the people around them.[2] What makes a Church is a group of followers of Jesus who form a community. A community exists where they are committed to a common pattern of life together. They will submit to one another under the authority of Christ, they will be dedicated to form relationships built on trust. They will create an environment of grace rather than judgment or critique. They are devoted to helping each other keep their commitments to God. And the primary commitment is to follow Jesus and to live the life He lived.

The Church Exists for Others

This is true because the Church is composed of disciples, followers of Jesus. Jesus came for others and his life was a gift to the world. Therefore, followers of Jesus have no other calling than to give their lives as living sacrifices.[3] Therefore, followers of Jesus are called to live the life He lived and to make other disciples.[4] This is done through love and an extended hand.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”[5] There are far too many people who have agreed to a set of religious facts about Jesus who have not committed themselves to Christ. A non-discipleship Christianity is now accepted and preached in too many churches. When we begin to think that discipleship or following Jesus is optional and not necessary to salvation, we have entered into a Christ-less Christianity. Because discipleship or following Jesus is the evidence that we have committed to Christ, it is more than signing off on the idea. Non-discipleship, Christ-less Christianity is the reason that the Church has lost its power and attraction to so many.

So Why Should You Become a Part of a Church?

There is only one reason: to answer the call of Jesus on your life to follow Him. “If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for me will save them. What good is it for you to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit your very self?”[6] These words return us to the original idea that since Christ’s life exists for others, his follower’s lives exist for others; therefore, their community or the Church exists for others. The beauty of it is that a life devoted to others is also a life that meets the deepest need of a person. You get everything you desire by giving up the tyranny of the immediate. Joy and fulfillment then are by products of living for others. I can’t imagine a better deal. Give your life to Christ and live the life for which you were created.

Think of the Church this way: The Church is a group of devoted disciples who are intentionally living life as a response to the love of God and learning from Jesus to:

  • Believe what He believed [transformed mind]
  • Live the way He lived [transformed character]
  • Love the way He loved [transformed relationships]
  • Train the way Jesus trained [transformed habits]
  • Minister the way He ministered [transformed service]
  • Lead the way He led [transformed influence]

Can you imagine a group of people who actually lived that way? I close with the words of the once stimulating Quaker Scholar Elton Trueblood who now resides in the presence of Christ:

“What we need is not intellectual theorizing or even preaching, but a demonstration. One of the most powerful ways of turning people’s loyalty to Christ is by loving others with the great love of God. We cannot revive faith by argument, but we might catch the imagination of puzzled men and women by an exhibition of a fellowship so intensely alive that every thoughtful person would be forced to respect it. If there should emerge in our day such a fellowship, wholly without artificiality and free from the dead hand of the past, it would be an exciting event of momentous importance. A society of genuine loving friends, set free from the self-seeking struggle for personal prestige and from all unreality, would be something unutterably priceless and powerful. A wise person would travel any distance to join it.”[7]

[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd college edition, (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984), p. 617.

[2] Hebrews 10:24, 25; Mt. 18:20

[3] Mt. 20:28; Romans 12:1, 2; Luke 9:23-25

[4] Mt. 28:18-20

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984), p. 67

[6] Luke 9:23-25,

[7] Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility, (New York, NY Harper & Brothers Publisher 1948).

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