The Purpose of the Church & Why It Matters -
What is the purpose of the Church and why is knowing the purpose important to anyone looking for a new Church?
(Response by Dr. Bill Hull)
The most wonderful thing that has ever happened to the world is Jesus. After that, the most wonderful thing is His presence in a community of people called the Church. Many have been critical of the Church, many more have given up on it, and still others stand against it. The church will always vacillate between the glorious and the grotesque. Grotesque Webster says is " Characterized by distortions or striking incongruities in appearance, shape, manner, fantastic or bizarre, strange, eccentric, ridiculous and absurd. I think I use grotesque quite accurately, it would take less than a hundred readers of this statement to thoroughly document each part of the above definition. But then there is the glory and then there is the stunning fact that there is nothing else. As Elton Trueblood put it, "however poor [the church] is, life without it is worse."
Let me steer you away from the notion that Church exclusively means a group of people who gather on Sundays in order to go through a religious routine. Instead think of millions of people who are called by Jesus to follow Him. Part of answering the call and claim of God on their lives is to gather regularly in homes, rented buildings, restaurants and parks, in groups no smaller than two or three. Where they are gathered Christ is present and they stimulate one another to love God and the people around them.
So why should you become a part of a Church? There is only one reason, to answer the call of Jesus on your life to follow Him.
What makes a Church is a group of followers of Jesus who form a community. A community exists where they are committed to a common pattern of life together. They will submit to one another under the authority of Christ, they will be dedicated to form relationships built on trust. They will create an environment of grace rather than judgment or critique. They are devoted to helping each other keep their commitments to God. And the primary commitment is to follow Jesus and to live the life He lived.
The Church exists for others; this is true because the Church is composed of disciples, followers of Jesus. Jesus came for others and his live was a gift to the world. Therefore, followers of Jesus have no other calling than to give their lives as living sacrifices. Therefore, followers of Jesus are called to live the life He lived and to make other disciples. And, this is done through love and an extended hand.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." There are far too many people who have agreed to a set of religious facts about Jesus who have not committed themselves to Christ. A non-discipleship Christianity is now accepted and preached in too many Churches. When we begin to think that discipleship or following Jesus is optional and not necessary to salvation, we have entered into a Christ-less Christianity. Because discipleship or following Jesus is the evidence that we have committed to Christ, it is more than signing off on the idea. Non-discipleship Christ-less Christianity is the reason that the Church has lost its power and attraction to so many.
So why should you become a part of a Church? There is only one reason, to answer the call of Jesus on your life to follow Him. "If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for me will save them. What good is it for you to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit your very self."
These words return us to the original idea that since Christ's life exists for others that his follower's lives exist for others; therefore, their community or the Church exists for others. But the beauty of it is that a life devoted to others is also a life that meets the deepest need of a person. You get everything you desire by giving up the tyranny of the immediate. Joy and fulfillment then are by-products of living for others. I can't imagine a better deal, give your life to Christ and live the life for which you were created.
Think of the Church this way: The Church is a group of devoted disciples who are intentionally living life as a response to the love of God and learning from Jesus to:
- Believe what He believed - [transformed mind]
- Live the way He lived - [transformed character]
- Love the way He loved - [transformed relationships]
- Minister the way He ministered - [transformed service]
- Lead the way He led - [transformed influence]
Can you imagine a group of people who actually lived that way? I close with the words of the once stimulating Quaker Scholar Elton Trueblood who now resides in the presence of Christ. "What we need is not intellectual theorizing or even preaching, but a demonstration. One of the most powerful ways of turning people's loyalty to Christ is by loving others with the great love of God.
We cannot revive faith by argument, but we might catch the imagination of puzzled men and women by an exhibition of a fellowship so intensely alive that every thoughtful person would be forced to respect it. If there should emerge in our day such a fellowship, wholly without artificiality and free from the dead hand of the past, it would be an exciting event of momentous importance.
A society of genuine loving friends, set free from the self-seeking struggle for personal prestige and from all unreality, would be something unutterably priceless and powerful. A wise person would travel any distance to join it."
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About Bill Hull:
Bill Hull's mission is to call the church to return to its disciple making roots. He is a writer and discipleship evangelist calling the church to CHOOSE THE LIFE to which Jesus called every disciple. That life is one of spiritual transformation and service. Bill has not only written ten books on this mission, he also spent twenty years working it out as a pastor.
Bill founded T-NET INTERNATIONAL, a ministry devoted to transforming churches into disciple making churches. The core of Bill's writing has been Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, The Disciple Making Pastor and the Disciple Making Church. Bill now spends his full time working to help leaders experience personal transformation, which will lead to church transformation. Bill and his wife Jane have been married thirty-four years. They are blessed to have two sons, a daughter in law, and a grandson. They live a not so quiet life in Long Beach, Californian.
The "Choose The Life" Journey Bill's current ministry includes "Choose the Life". We are invited to join Bill in exploring the kind of faith that embraces discipleship; eg. Choose The life in order to Experience The Life. The "Choose The Life" Journey begins with Changing Direction, then Changing the Mind, and once that has been done, you can Experience the Life; Making "The Jesus Way" A Habit. This will challenge you simply and change you deeply.
For Further Study:
Choose the Life by Bill Hull (Baker Books, May 2004)
Jesus Christ Disciple Maker by Bill Hull (Baker Books, Twentieth Anniversary Release February 2004)
The Disciplemaking Pastor by Bill Hull (Baker Books)
The Disciplemaking Church by Bill Hull (Baker Books)
Straight Talk on Spiritual Power by Bill Hull (Baker Books 2002)
Revival that Reforms by Bill Hull (Baker Books 1998)
Building High Commitment in a Low Commitment by Bill Hull (World Baker Books 1995)
Seven Steps to Transform Your Church by Bill Hull (Baker books 1993)
The Purpose-Driven Church by Rick Warren
Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders by Aubrey Malphurs
To learn more about Bill Hull and his ministry, go to:www.billhull.com
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