Thursday, November 13, 2014

Functions of a Church

What are the functions of the Church?

Following up on yesterday's post, what are the functions of the Church, and what are the ultimate priorities. I came up with five:
  • worship
  • discipleship
  • witness
  • service
  • fellowship
I think that's the ultimate order, but I'm not completely at peace about it. Glad for push-back. Like the body of Christ, a specific local church might emphasize one or the other more. As individual Christians, we might emphasize one or another more.

1. Worship
Surely the ultimate priority of the Church is to give glory to God. Isn't that the ultimate priority of all Christians, to love the LORD will all our heart, mind, soul, and strength? "To glorify God and enjoy him forever"? I think many would want to emphasize that we can worship God through witness, through service, and so forth.

But it seems to me that God has to come first.

2. Discipleship
I debate inside whether witness or discipleship within the church is the more ultimate priority. "Make disciples" in the Great Commission is about way more than the narrow sense of evangelism that we've grown up with. "Making disciples" is not just baptizing but "teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you." So even the Great Commission is more about long term discipleship than with "getting people saved."

3. Witness
Witness to the world, whether it accepts Christ or not, is a major function of the Church. The apostles were called to witness to the resurrection in the early Church. In the 1700s, it became a focus again with the English revivals and the Great Awakening in America. In the mid-1900s the neo-evangelicals brought it to the forefront again. We have to guard, however, against a shallow sense of witness (pray the sinner's prayer and you're good) based on proof-texts ripped out of the Bible and made into memory verses.

4. Service
One of the ways the Church witnesses to the world is by serving it, by doing good in the world, following the example of Jesus. "As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people" (Gal. 6:10).

5. Fellowship
Humans need fellowship, and we shouldn't make light of the social function of the Church. It can make all the difference between a Christian who makes it to the kingdom and one that doesn't. It can make all the difference between a Christian whose life becomes like Christ and one that gets choked by weeds or scorched without roots. Fellowship is the glue that attaches a person to the Church so that the other functions can take place.

There are structural elements that facilitate these functions. So leadership is not exactly a function of the Church, but the Church needs leadership and management for these functions to happen. It needs a structure.

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