God himself created and established the church. Paul refers to it as the body of Christ, of which Christ himself is the head. Since the church is a divine institution with a divine origin, only God determines its purpose. The purpose of a local church, then, is to be discovered in God’s Word, not invented by the will of man. The New Testament gives numerous insights into this purpose; however, the purpose of the New Testament church can be well summarized in two key passages:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
"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 that I have commanded you...."
The first passage reveals two aspects of the church’s purpose: worship ("Love the Lord your God...") and ministry ("Love your neighbor as yourself.").
Worship is a vertical aspect: it is focused on how we relate to God. He wants our worship to be a lifestyle of submission to his will. He wants us to worship by being a reflection of his love, which involves ministry.
Ministry is horizontal: it is focused on how we relate to those around us. Three more aspects of purpose comprise the second scripture: evangelism ("make disciples"), fellowship ("baptizing them in the name," which was a means of identifying believers with repentance and the body of Christ), and discipleship ("teaching them").
The latter three aspects are the logical outgrowth of truly loving one’s neighbor, which is in turn an expression of loving God. These five aspects, then, comprise a single purpose. The composite of the five aspects (worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship, and discipleship) may be aptly expressed as glorifying God. (This is a clear theme of both the Old and New Testaments.)
This biblical purpose is reflected in the purpose statement of Real Life Community Church. We worship God by living out this purpose and reflecting his love. Evangelism is the sharing of the good news that God loved us enough to send Jesus to take the punishment our sinfulness deserves. We do this through relationships that attract others to the Savior by real, open, and authentic Christ-like living. Real relationships comprise all three remaining aspects of fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. Real relationships involve fellowship--a kinship or connectedness. Real relationships foster spiritual growth (discipleship) by helping to guide each other into better, more mature relationships with Jesus. Finally, real relationships minister by serving the needs of others, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
We accomplish this purpose in relationships that reach beyond our personal likes and dislikes, beyond our own comfort zones, and strategically seek to impact lives for Christ. Such relationships look after the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others. They pursue those who lack a personal faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ; therefore, the daily process of "doing church" must be guided not by what the members prefer, but by what will provide the best opportunity to connect the most hearts with the good news of Jesus.
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