Lately in my thoughts about unity, I have thought a lot about what the church is for. What is the purpose of the church? What should its impact be?
I am looking forward to Thursday night because at the FC college devo we are going to talk about the church. Some of the questions I hope to pose to the college students are: Is the church relevant today?, Why do your friends not continue to go to church?, Why do you continue to go to church?, In a post-denominational age, do you find any significance in your background in Churches of Christ or would you be excited to worship anywhere?, What is the purpose of the church?, and How is our generation of Christians going to make an impact in our post-modern world? These are questions that I think of often that I am excited to discuss with others my age who may not think so often of these things.
There are many purposes of the church. Many today find successful churches to be those in which their numbers are growing and budgets skyrocketing. I guess this is a way of judging things. Others have tried to chart their growth by the spiritual transformation of their membership. This has to be one goal of the church to make disciples of all who are regular attenders.
However, I believe there is a significant problem with many ideas of the church's purpose. Most churches are trying to further the name on the sign in front of their building than the kingdom of God. This aim is subtle, yet real. No one verbally states their purpose as this, but the actions prove otherwise at times. There is no sin in wanting to grow, but the purpose is not to further a certain church or denomination. The purpose is to lead more people on the journey of the Christian life. The purpose of a church is not to gain numbers or notoriety, it is to partner with God and others in adding people to the kingdom.
Worship is all about re-envisioning the world as it should, and as it truly can be. Then, worship must lead to a mission led by the ambassadors who have been apart of the worship experience. Worship leads us to action wherever we are whether it be our jobs, at the supermarket, or at our kids' ballgames. The church is not sent out for the sake of the church. The church is sent out of church for the sake of the world. We don't share our message in a selfish effort to have more members. We share our message to make an impact in the corner of the world God has placed us.
This is why partnering with other faith communities is so important. Every community should have a group of churches, despite their background, working together in the name of Christ not in order to boost attendance at their particular location, but in order to further God's kingdom. This is the subtle difference. Do we evangelize under the name of Christ or under the name "Anywhere USA Church of Christ?" Is this about a numbers game in our churches or is it about a real desire to be sent out as Christ has called us for the sake of the world? This means we are not in competition with other churches to the point of not talking and working with them. We are partners with others who share the name Christian because it's about more than bringing others to our church.
I hope I have communicated this clearly. Simply put, are we looking to bring people to saving relationship with Christ even if they don't attend our church or denomination? Even if it doesn't benefit the numbers of our buildings, any real missional church will work for God, not for its own name.