Purpose of the Local Church
by Gil Rugh
If a church desires to concentrate on its God-given mission—teaching the Word—its members must use their time wisely. Many churches have a distorted view of the believer’s role in working to solve social or cultural issues.
A church’s decision to limit its involvement in these things comes from the desire to obey God. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to change lives. When the Word of God is taught and applied in a life, two things result: salvation and spiritual growth.
The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When people are exposed to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit has an opportunity to use the Word in their hearts to bring about salvation, which is sometimes called new birth. Exposure to the Word of God is necessary for anyone to be saved from the punishment for sin.
Peter compared new believers to newborn babies who have an unquenchable hunger for milk. It is the church’s duty to provide the spiritual food (the Word of God) that will allow Christians to grow to maturity in Christ. “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).
The pattern for spiritual shepherds was established in Israel in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 3:15 says, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.”
Those shepherds served as pastors who fed spiritual food to the flock of Israel. In a similar manner, the Apostle Paul instructed the leaders of the local church: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to the exhortation and the teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).
Because people did not have personal copies of the Scriptures, Timothy was instructed to read, exhort and teach God’s Word.
The mission of the church is the same today. The local church is to focus its ministry on presenting the Word. Pastors are to communicate the Word verbally, equipping the saints to perform works of service, which build up the body of Christ (see Eph. 4:11-13). The Word is central to the ministry of the church, and our resources are limited, so we must measure everything we do in light of whether it carries us to our ultimate goal of teaching the Word of God.
The church’s divinely appointed purpose is to reach the lost with the message of salvation and build believers to Christian maturity.
Community & Social Issues
In the past we have been approached about getting involved in various community or social issues. “If Indian Hills would get involved,” organizers say, “it would make such a difference!”
Yes, our involvement may help their cause, but it would take strength and energy away from our God-given task—teaching the Word! Churches have been uniquely called to present the Word of God.
That is our appointment and no other organization has the same mandate. We must focus our energies on the work that will make a real difference!
Each believer has a conscience and the freedom to decide before God what he will do with his time and energy. It is not unbiblical for a person to get involved in organizations outside of the church. However, each individual has limited time and energy that are greatly needed in the work of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
If a Christian is involved with an organization, it should be because he wants his testimony and the impact of his life as a believer to be felt there.
It would be great to have a better society with fewer social problems. However, we must be wise and not diffuse our strength by addressing only the symptoms and miss fixing the real problem.
The real problem is that people are sinners who need the Savior!
We have been entrusted with the “cure” for social ills. We know that when a person is transformed on the inside, the change is permanent. Any other cure is at best temporary, superficial and illusionary.
The church as a whole and individual believers are specially commissioned to share the truth. We must invest our lives in that which is eternal—sharing and teaching God’s Word.
In one hundred years what will matter is whether a person heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ.