Purpose of a Church
What is the purpose of a church?
Our pastor told us yesterday that 90% of clergy believe that the purpose of a church is to reach out to people outside of the membership and that 90% of laity believe that the purpose of a church is to take care of each other.
I don't know about those numbers. I don't think that they reflect the viewpoint of our church in particular, but what I want to write about today is the necessity of the purpose of a church being BOTH of those functions.
In preparation for our first Visioning meeting yesterday, several of us were "internet hopping," looking for vision statements -- not to copy, but to help us define what a vision statement is. In the course of this research, JtM came across a page on the church web site for Wesley UMC in Morgantown, WV. The page is called Growing in Faith -- it's a cool page -- check it out. If you do, go all the way to the bottom of the page, to a section called, "The Primary Task and Basic Flow of the Church, The Body of Christ."
For the purposes of this blog post, I'm going to summarize what it says, but it is a good piece on its own.
- First, people respond to some kind of call and come to a church, where they should be welcomed and made to feel at home.
- Next, people begin to establish a relationship with God, learning about God as well as ways to become closer to God. They grow in grace and discover their gifts.
- People, as they begin to share their gifts, enter into ministry. They learn to witness to their faith and to continue on their faith journey.
- Children of God become lifelong disciples. They move into the world as Christ's ambassadors, becoming his hands and feet in the world.
It's a circle. People hear God, see God as they learn about him, follow him and then share him with the world. Once they go out in to the world, they become Christ to the next person. That person then sees God because of the one who is the disciple.
None of that happens in a vacuum. We are a community. We care for each other so that we all grow in faith, heading out into the world to serve God. If we only reach outside of our church, how are those who hear God going to grow in the faith? If we only take care of each other, how are we to show Christ to the world? The circle must be complete for the church to fulfill its purpose.