This post is part of a series based on the book The New Christian’s Handbook by Max Anders.
What Is The Church Supposed To Do?
The church is composed of all who choose to follow Christ. Its purpose is to do what He did. And if you get together with other Christ followers on a regular basis, you are part of a local church. Your church is never the building you meet in, it’s you. Some questions come to mind before considering what the church should be doing: What is it doing? What do I see true followers of Christ doing in the world? What am I doing? What are you doing?
Here’s what I see happening at my particular church:
- We have Sunday morning worship service, with music and a sermon.
- We have Sunday school classes for all age groups.
- We have weekly Bible study groups.
- We have regular events for people to socialize.
- We help support people in need financially.
- We show up and help people with other types of needs.
- We send people to a local homeless kitchen to help out.
- There’s lots of bonding and sincere friendships within the church.
- Seekers who are not yet followers of Christ come and feel welcome and generally comfortable attending and coming to terms with our faith at their own pace.
- New believers continually appear in the group.
- People are growing and practicing their faith, rather than just giving it lip service.
- We let the community use our building as a polling place for elections.
- People young in their faith are active in the work, not waiting until they achieve some spiritual level before jumping in.
- The leaders are loving godly, and effective.
- Those who harm others in the name of religion or personal agendas are confronted and dealt with to protect the group.
- There is freedom for open discussion of complex things, keeping mindless groupthink at bay.
- Communion; the Lord’s supper; is practiced regularly.
- New believers are baptized.
I’m pretty happy with what I see in my church. It seems very much like what Christ intended, to me. It’s not perfect. I defy you to find a perfect group anyway. We’re people.
Me personally? I’m also trying to follow Christ. I try to live it out day by day. I’m attempting to use the gifts God gives me here in this blog and by teaching an adult class at Church. I try to be loving and compassionate. I try to practice the faith I claim to have. I’m semi-successful at all of these. I’m not sure I will ever exceed semi-successful in this life, but my faith is in Jesus to get through it.
Practice is much harder than preaching. That’s why practice should be the focus of our attention. Everybody is on the same playing field when it comes to actually doing the things Christ showed us we should do. It’s where the rubber meets the road and the truth about our hearts is revealed. Yet, we are all different, within the body of Christ. We serve different roles contributing to one purpose: Love. Love God. Love others. (Matthew 22:34-40) All our differences are used by God to help us collectively do what the church should do.
What The Church Should Do
1. The Church Should Teach Truth
The Great Commission
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus said, “I am the truth, the way, and the life.” (John 14:6) and “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Christ sets captives free from enslavement to sin and error with truth. Equipped with truth, we are empowered to live free and escape further bondage.
Christ calls his church to teach truth to so that people can be freed from the chains of sin and death.
“For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Romans 10:13-15
2. The Church Should Promote Close Fellowship
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Real love is loud. It calls to you. You need it. You want it. Where it is present, people want to be. Since God is love, the church should be a place of active loving fellowship. Loving relationships are like tendons in the body of Christ. They form strong bonds that hold us together when storms come.
The church is about loving fellowship. God does not intend his people to go it alone. We are members of a body, the hands and feet of Christ in the world. That’s not just for the sake of winning the lost, but for the benefit of one another. It is vital to the health of the body that we experience Christ in other believers. Fellowship makes God’s love visible.
3. The Church Should Minister
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Everywhere Jesus went people flocked to him. He was the world’s greatest doctor, healing them of every kind of affliction. He performed miracles, but he was also quite practical. He honed in on people and saw what they most needed. He gave them what he had to give. The church is called to do likewise.
Ministry comes in many forms. There are spiritual needs, physical needs, and emotional needs. Ministry covers all those bases. In the church, God provides people equipped to supply these needs. Some people are really good and saying just the right word at the right time to lift people up. Some people have money and can command resources. Some are great at the bedside, holding a patient’s hand before surgery. The scope of ministry is wide open.
Jesus still heals today. He speaks. He encourages. He helps in his body.
4. The Church Should Worship God
Worship is a funny word. Some folks don’t get it. “How can God be so petty as to demand that I worship him? What kind of God needs my praise?” Dude, you’re getting it all wrong. It’s not about his need. It’s about ours. We need to worship God. It lifts us towards him.
Worship is honor, adoration, and respect. Without it, we are belittling and dishonoring God. That makes us evil. It’s like taking something incomprehensibly great, spitting on it, and slapping a crown of thorns on its head. It’s just not right.
A bride should be full of love for her husband, as the husband is for her. The church should cherish and honor God with love and admiration.
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20
“Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.” Psalm 98:1-6
Note the word “joy” used over and over. Worship brings joy. It allows us to experience the wonder and awe of God.
And most importantly, God deserves our praise. We should acknowledge that.
“For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:4
5. The Church Should Baptize
Water baptism is a symbolic rite. Jesus called us to do it. He did it himself as the perfect example.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’
Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism is a statement. It testifies that one has chosen to renounce sin and follow Christ. The Bible teaches that we do it to declare our faith to the world. It is an outward symbol of our faith in the saving grace of Christ. It is not, however, a prerequisite for salvation. Salvation is through faith in Jesus, not through own good deeds, not even baptism. Nonetheless, we are commanded to do it.
The act itself illustrates dying to sin with Christ through the cross and rising with him from spiritual death, as Christ arose from the dead. Entering the water illustrates death, coming out illustrates new life in him.
The church must baptize new believers to honor the command and publicly testify to faith in Christ and the decision to follow him.
6. The Church Should Honor The Lord’s Supper
Communion is an intimate ceremony initiated by Jesus before his death. It’s from the Passover meal at the last supper (also highly symbolic… read Exodus 12).
“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Before this, Jesus said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) We call it communion because it is about the connection we have to him in his death on the cross. This is Jesus saying, “See how I love you. Remember this.” It points us back to the way of salvation. He is the way.
7. The Church Should Discipline Itself
Error and wrongdoing in the body cause great harm. Lives can be destroyed. People can be led into great error with lasting, even eternal impact, unless the church disciplines itself.
Accountability is necessary to keep people from going off into the trees. This is not the same as legalism. All people sin, including in the body of Christ. What is necessary is to counter teaching and behavior that is contrary to scripture when needed to protect and sustain the body as a whole.
Not all who claim to follow Christ are really his. Some are following the enemy. And even the well-intentioned need correction. We all do from time to time. By following the directives of scripture it is possible to exert reasonable discipline to protect what is good and build people up for better things. Sometimes discipline is simply training to do what’s right. Sometimes it is outright correction. Sometimes it is punishment to deal with someone who is willfully rejecting the testimony of Christ and harming the body.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:28-30
““If your brother sins against you,go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
What did Jesus mean by “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector”? In that day, tax collectors were known to be thieves, charging people more than they ought. Pagans are unbelievers who give no thought or honor to God. In both cases, expectations are set. You know one will try to steal from you and the other will trample what you hold sacred. It simply means, “Watch out. Be on your guard. Note who they are and what they do.” This is not explicitly Christian in nature. It applies to life in general. We take caution with those who show themselves up to no good… especially if they claim to be Christian.