What is the number one responsibility of the church? Is it to have a one-, two-, or eight-hour service on the Sabbath once a week? Is it for small group or youth group programs? Is it to entertain or uphold the traditions of the previous generation? Is it to be a Band-Aid for broken lives?
None of these are the reason we are called to be the church. Rather, the church is called to reflect God’s kingdom realities. That’s nice mission statement material, but here’s what it means.
The purpose of the church today, and in any age, is to be the vessel through which the influence of God is channeled to a lost and dying world. The church should be something drenched in the Spirit of God, but too often it reflects the hopeless culture it resides in. The church is where sin is supposed to be continually defeated in the lives of the members as individuals and as a community, where that victory would be contagious to any who look on or jump in. Church is any place God reigns, rather than mediocrity, selfishness, pride, lust, and innumerable sins. Where this happens is not in a building owned or rented. It does not occur in the sacred actions of the people who go there but in the hearts of sinners. They gather at least once a week to set aside their work to worship God, but the rest of the week the church is to be on the move, influencing all those around them by the witness of God’s power in their transformed lives. Second Corinthians 4 and 5, among other passages, bear this out.
Now the real question becomes “Why isn’t this the church most of us experience?” Several reasons have already been stated. We think church is a service on Saturday. We think it is programs. We think it is traditions. We think it is entertainment. We think it is a Band-Aid. We think it is a place of works on our part, rather than a life of grace on God’s part. We think; therefore, it is.
So what is the solution? Give up the church. Put it back in God’s hands. Stop forcing it to meet our expectations and be what we want it to be. Let God be the leader. Let God define it. Let God be the initiator and us the faithful servants to carry out His will.
But then, there’s one last problem: We will not let God take charge until we truly have come to know Him, until He completely reigns in our lives. This relationship develops just as any relationship. We are introduced to God, perhaps by someone who knows Him. We can read God’s thoughts and actions, not in status updates but in the Bible. We can talk to God in prayer — not a formal prayer but a conversation. We can observe the effect God has on others who know Him. We can spend more and more time with God and with those who have been changed by Him. If we allow this process to happen by the Spirit and wisdom of God, His church would fall into place — in His hands, not ours.