Category Archives: Fellowship 101

Fellowship Basics

Spiritual Growth of the Church – “The Bridge”

The Spiritual Growth Bridge.

Many people believe in God.  Many more are interested in getting to know Him. They know He is out there somewhere. They are just confused at how to get to or find him.  And life, with all its problems, conflicts, paradoxes, confusion and inequities, stands like a great overwhelming river flowing between themselves and God.

 The basic underlying question many are asking is, “How do I get across the river?”  Sadly enough, even the “Church,” historically speaking, has been a part of this muddy river. Many discouraged, and for the most part understandably so, by what they perceive to be the church’s irrelevancy concerning their own problems and needs, or by their own negative personal experiences growing up in church, are searching for a real and genuine way to know and experience God.   But in the final analysis, many are still not sure how or where to find him.  Many are still lost. And many are sure they will not find him in the organized church.  And yet the search continues.  How do we cross the river?  How do we come to know God?  Has God given us a vehicle, a tool, a bridge by which to cross this mighty river?

At Fellowship we do believe God has given mankind a vehicle to help come to know and discover him.  It is the “Church”!  But because many have never taken the time to honestly read the Scriptures, and what the Scriptures say concerning the purpose and environment of a church, many are still clueless in developing a deeper relationship or stronger bridge to God.

At Fellowship, we are seeking to restore the church’s credibility in building that bridge across the difficult rivers of life.  By returning the church to a biblical philosophy of ministry, as described earlier in this study, our goal is to build a bridge that is strong enough to consistently support those pilgrims interested in seeking to cross the river and to develop a deeper intimacy with God. This bridge, using other bridge builders, or believers themselves, seeks to span the great divide between spiritual interest in God to spiritual maturity and purpose with God.

 

The Bridge’s two major towers or supports include:  the Sunday Morning gathered experience of the Body, including our Children’s Learning Center, and our smaller, but more powerful Home Churches and various supporting ministries.

First Supporting Tower:  Sunday Morning

 •On Sunday Mornings we seek to put together the best possible large group experience among believers that we can.  We desire to create an emotionally stirring corporate worship –a worship that inspires –a worship that motivates the individual to get alone with his God — to come clean –to become clean once again — to be restored once again to the belief that God is indeed the sovereign creator of the universe — that he loves us very much — that he is indeed the standard of truth for the universe — and that if we once again readjust our lives to his “level of truth,” we will again rest in his strength.

•Our teaching and sharing seeks to stir listeners to be a little different than when they walked in because they have encountered His truth in a fresh, real and relevant manner.

•Members are also given the opportunity to use their gifts on Sunday Morning through Worship, the Discipleship of our children in the Learning Center, or a variety of other support ministries such as welcoming, greeting or assisting newcomers or visitors.

Second Supporting Tower:  Home Churches and Ministry

 •Fellowship’s smaller Home Churches serve an even more vital function.  People desire relationships.  And it is within the smaller home church that believers are able to develop deeper, more satisfying and accountable relationships.  In fact most of the commands such as: to love; teach; encourage; honor; be hospitable to: rebuke and forgive each other; were all written to smaller New Testament house or home churches.  And it is in this context of the home church that true “koinovia”, or fellowship, and genuine spiritual growth seem to flourish.

•The next series of classes following this class, our Home Church Classes, go into more detail as to what a Home Church is, how it best functions, and how you can become involved in one.  We believe that in the end that these families of believers are the best long term vehicles for growing up believers.  We believe that this was the early church.

 

The Middle:  InReach and 101

 •In between the Sunday Morning Gathered Church experience and the smaller Home Church experience is Fellowship’s InReach Ministry.  This is where we help interested attenders and seekers in becoming more involved in Fellowship.  This class is a part of the InReach Ministry.  Our hope is to help newcomers become members of the Body, find a suitable place of ministry, and ultimately become involved in a Home Church.

The Beginning of  the Bridge: OutReach or Attraction

 •At the beginning of the Bridge is our OutReach Ministry.  It is our hope that by whatever legitimate means possible to not only cultivate, or renew an interest in God, His Word, and the church, but also to attract a lost and confused world as to how they can come to know God in a very real, practical and credible manner.

 

The Destination: Mission, Leadership and Intimacy with God

•On the other side of the bridge is one’s personal mission and leadership.  It is our hope that as a persons begins to walk the bridge, they discover the God-given gifts God has equipped them with and the personal call or mission God has personally created them for. As that person begins to unwrap, discover, and develop their individual giftedness, they will discover their mission or purpose.  For many, ultimately, this includes guiding and leading others through the process of discipleship and growth or making an impact in their community.  Ultimately the goal is not to just be a bridge walker, but a bridge builder, so that others may benefit from your own personal growth and ministry, as the bridge grows stronger and stronger

 •Included as a part of this course is Your Style of Influence Questionnaire.  This is a short, non-threatening survey that allows you to understand your style of influencing others. It identifies four major ways of relating to others.  And because you have a greater understanding of your giftedness, or the way you relate to others, your will be better able to find your place of ministry, influence and service within the Body, “as each part (you) does it work (or job).”  Eph. 4:16.

The Environment of a Church – “The Ships”

The Environment of a Church: Acts 2:42-47

The word “environ” means “to surround.”  Environment has to do with the “sum total of something’s surroundings.”  Just as it takes the proper environment to grow a child or a tomato, so there is a proper spiritual environment to grow a believer into Christ-like spiritual maturity.

 So when we ask what is the proper biblical environment to produce spiritual growth, we are asking, “what are the biblical surroundings of the church?”  In other words, just as a garden requires the right environment–such as the right amount of sunlight for photosynthesis to occur, or the right amount of water to transplant minerals and nutrients, or its soiled tilled or cultivated for weeds, or natural fertilizers for growth or natural insecticides or fungicides to protect the plant from insects and disease–in order to produce a bountiful harvest, so what spiritual elements should every church contain, if it is to produce healthy spiritually growth among its members?

To answer that question, there are several passages which will enlighten us as to what these essential ingredients are.  The first passage is found in Acts 2:42-47.

 The Context

 Christ has already ascended to heaven. (Acts 1).  The Promised Spirit has poured himself out upon the apostles. In the languages of all the peoples present from all around the world for the Jewish Pentecost festival–which was held 50 days (thus the prefix pente or five) after the Jewish Passover, during which their Lord and God’s Son, Jesus, had suffered, died and been resurrected to atone for the sins of the world–they have miraculously shared their incredible story.  Peter, now full of the Spirit, has preached a powerful message explaining the miracle that had just taken place, namely, that the Apostles were not drunk because it was too early in the day for this.  Rather incredible ability to speak in other known languages was because they were filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

Peter then goes on to explain very articulately to the crowd how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies–that indeed he was the promised Son of David, or Israel’s promised savior, the Messiah or Anointed One.  Peter goes on to say that even his death, which you, Israel, had a role in, had been foretold.  In fact, you killed your King.  But it was a part of God’s plan in order to redeem or spiritually buy you back from the penalty and destructive power of your sin.  In other words, the Messiah had come to save the world spiritually first, before he returns to rescue it physically someday.”

In response to this the crowds asked, “What must we do to be saved?”

Peter responded, “Repent (or change the direction of your lives from faithlessness to faithfulness in Christ) and be baptized (or immersed as a public symbol, identifying yourself with Jesus Christ as your Lord and God, as well as, his death and resurrection) for the forgiveness of your sin.”

Miraculously, 3,000 did believe and repent that day.

But now what?  We have 3,000 + new believers.  What were they to do?  How were they to celebrate their new faith?  How were they to keep it alive? How were they to keep each other faithful?  Were they to go on with life as usual? Was anything to be different?  What about the temple sacrifices and the Law?  Where these rituals still supposed to be a part of their religious experience?

Acts 2:42-47 describes to us what happens next.

The Passage: Acts 2:42ff

 •Look closely at the text. V. 42 list four things that they devoted themselves to.  Ask yourself do these seem to be the essential environmental elements of a church? Are they still important today?

Hint:  vv. 43-47 almost seem to restate and perhaps elaborate on v. 42’s list.

Acts 2:42   They devoted themselves

to the apostles’ teaching and

to the fellowship,

to the breaking of bread and

to prayer.

 43  Everyone was filled with awe,

and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

 (Note: the apostle’s miracles validate the apostle’s message or teaching.)

 

44  All the believers were together and

had everything in common.

 45  Selling their possessions and goods,

they gave to anyone as he had need.

 46  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

(What do the previous three verses seem to describe?)

They broke bread in their homes and

ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

 (What’s third on the list?)

 

47  praising God and

enjoying the favor of all the people.

 (Fourth and finally…)

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Notes

 

•Note the connection between the Apostles’ teaching (v.42) and the Apostles’ miracles (v.43).

 Quite often miracles serve to validate the messenger or Apostle as being from God.  His message was therefore authentic and was to be listened to, trusted and obeyed.  Very minimally, miracles got the attention of the observers so that they listened to the messenger’s message.  Preaching about Christ, Peter had just said, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”  Acts 2:22.

•Also note the use of the definite article “the” before “fellowship.”  We often use “fellowship” in a general way, such as, “we had a nice time of fellowship.”  Seldom do we use phrase:  “the fellowship.”  It’s as if something specific is meant by this term, such as:  “a special relationship between fellow believers.”  And indeed there was!   See how strong the bond was in v. 44-45.  The biblical term “fellowship” is close to our idea of “family” or a “legal partnership.”  It is indeed, powerful–not anything like the church quite often uses the term today.

• Finally, does the phrase “breaking bread” refer to simply prayer before meals, when the bread was broken and distributed to each person at the table, or does it refer to the Lord’s Supper, specifically?  Some suggest that before every meal we are to be mindful of Christ’s sacrifice?  Also is this more of act or worship or fellowship? or both?  Why?  See 1 Cor. 10:14-22 and 11:17-34.

Colossians 1:9-14

 Another significant passage that sheds some light on the early church’s spiritual environment is Col. 1:9-14.  In this passage Paul tells the Colossian community of believers that he is praying that God will fill them with the knowledge of is will and that they may please God in every way.  He then goes on to list four “-ing” words or participles (words that are hybrids of both nouns [naming words] and verbs [doing words].  They both describe and do.).

9  For this reason,

since the day we heard about you,

we (Paul) have not stopped praying for you (Colossae) and

asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will

through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

 

10  And we pray this

in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord

 

(Sound like Eph. 4:1ff?)

and may please him in every way:

 

(How? Watch for the “-ing” words.)

 

•bearing fruit in every good work,

 

•growing in the knowledge of God,

 

• 11 being strengthened with all power

according to his glorious might

so that you may have great endurance and patience,

 

•and joyfully  12 giving thanks to the Father,

who has qualified you

to share in the inheritance of the saints

in the kingdom of light.

 

13  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

14  in whom we have redemption,

the forgiveness of sins.

Comparison

 

•Now let’s compare our two lists from Acts 2:42-47 and Col. 1:9-14.

 Acts 2:42-47 Col. 1:9-14

Apostles’ teaching bearing fruit in every good work

the fellowship growing in the knowledge of God

the breaking of bread being strengthened with all power to endure

prayer giving thanks to the Father

•Notice how three elements from each list seem to match up.  While these may not be direct correlations, a pattern does seem to emerge.  1)  Worship: including prayer, praise, and thanksgiving;  2) Discipleship:  to cause someone to learn or teach someone about God and his truth;  3)  Fellowship and Stewardship:  using my God-given gifts, resources and abilities to build up or care for my spiritual family or others that God might lead me to minister or serve.

•The two that are left over from each list are:  “the breaking of bread” and “being strengthened with all power to patiently endure.”  With respect to “the breaking of bread,” again this seems to be both an act of worship and fellowship or “communion.”  And as far as “as being strengthened to patiently endure,” we can not over emphasize its importance enough, especially in a day when all to often many seem easily discouraged and fall away from their commitments, be it: marriage and family, friendship, country, community, work, or the body of Christ.  Without commitment, there is no endurance, no success and no reward.

 The Four Ships

 •Fellowship Bible has established several essential elements of a healthy growing church or individual member.  This by no mean implies there are not more crucial elements that go into making a healthy thriving environment for a church body.  These four along with “patient endurance” just serve as the essential starting foundation.  They are:  Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship and Stewardship.  Together they make up the Four Ships of Fellowship.  As Columbus’ three ships safely carried him through rough ocean waters to a new world, we believe these four ships will carry, not only our Body to his New World, but each individual passenger on those ships as well.  At least those who decide not to jump ship!  Patient endurance!

•Following is a more detailed breakdown of what is included within each of these categories.  Notice when one considers all the various facets of each essential, there is plenty of room for growth and maturity.  On the other hand, please don’t miss the simplicity of each essential either.  Anyone can start wherever they are and grow.  The key is not to ignore any one category.  Growth is a long-term project or process.  One cannot entirely focus on Worship to the neglect of Discipleship, Fellowship or Stewardship.  By the same token one cannot focus entirely on Discipleship without being sensitive to Worship or Fellowship.  All are needed for balanced, healthy Christ-like growth.

The Biblical Purpose of a Church – “Form Follows Function”

 The Biblical Purpose of a Church and How Fellowship at Cross Creek of Branson, MO Does it!

 Why does Fellowship seem a little different from other Churches? Simple: the universal truth: “Form Follows Function.”

What?! What does “Form Following Function” got to do with a church?

Everything. One doesn’t drink coffee out of a bathtub, or take a bath in a coffee cup. One doesn’t use a dustpan to sweep dust onto a broom. One doesn’t use a nail to pound a hammer into two pieces of wood to bind them together. One drinks coffee out of a coffee cup. One takes a bath in a bathtub. One uses a broom to sweep dust onto a dustpan. One uses a hammer to pound a nail into two blocks of wood to hold them together. Everything in life is designed, or takes on a particular shape or form, for a particular purpose.

While these examples may seem ridiculously obvious, ponder how even with respect to something as simple as footwear, “form still follows function.”

Who wants to run or play sports in high heels? Or trudge miles in the snow in your slippers? Or swim with fishing waders on? Or fight fires while wearing swimming fins (now that would be a funny sight)? No way!

Fins wear designed for propelling a swimmer through the water; slippers to relax in; fishing waders to wade out where the fish are; high heels…well…I am not sure about high heels. Obviously there is something about height and fashion or attraction. Bottom line: each footwear form has its function.

And I could go on and on, pens, paper, chairs, beds, wheels, tires, cars, stoves, refrigerators, shirts, dresses, socks, hats, caps, t-shirts, blankets, sheets, washers, dryers, plates, forks, spoons, knives, coats, sweaters, pants, fingers, hands, eyes, toes, ears, the brain, bones, nerve cells, the heart, the kidney, highways, stoplights, light switches, doors, windows, televisions, computers, radios, mp3 players, phones, cell phones, lamps, pillows, suitcases, purses, wallets, dressers, closets, bathrooms, restrooms, living rooms, sinks, disposals, waste cans, pantries, garages, sidewalks, streets, baskets, hair berets, hair brushes, scissors, combs, lotions, shampoos, squeeze tubes, glass bottles, backpacks, park benches, buses, pick up trucks, Mac trucks, race cars, family vans, sports utility vehicles, jets, passenger jets, space shuttles, kitchen cabinets, garage door openers, door handles, picture frames, knobs, handles, locks, keys, chains, ropes, water, oxygen, air, grass, trees, livestock, flowers, pets, bees, birds, fish, bearings, pistons, rods, saws, screwdrivers, nail guns, fishing rods, hooks, fishing bait, various types of sport balls—footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls–eye glasses, contacts, sun glasses, pacemakers, MRI diagnostic machines, IV’s, various types of scopes, drills, cans, plastic wrap, checkout counters, signs, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, milk, soft drinks, energy drinks, medicines, vaccines…do I need to go on?

All the above are simply forms that were designed or created with a specific function in mind. Everything in life has a purpose. The same is true of the church. The church is a form, just like a hammer, a nail, a broom, a coffee cup, bath tub are all forms, each with a created for a specific purpose in mind. Therefore since the church is a form like everything else is a form, the question naturally arises: what is this form—the church’s purpose? In the mind of God, what was the church designed to accomplish and why is this so important?

Why is this so important? Again, one can use the hammer as a nail to bind wood, or the bathtub to drink coffee out of, but neither were designed with these functions in mind. In other words, the bath tub makes a coffee cup and the hammer makes for a poor binder of wood. The tub is something stationary and is designed to hold something larger, preferably a human being and a liquid, and even more preferably water, and even more  than just water, but hot water so that the person taking the bath can rinse her or himself off with the hot water, thereby cleansing the skin of its sweat, dirt and grime.

In other words, when it comes to the church, if one is not clear about its purpose, then it may end up doing what it wasn’t created for, thus performing a poor job at whatever it is being asked to do, along with leaving its intended purpose undone.

Well then, someone could remark, “Isn’t it obvious what a church’s purpose is?”

Maybe. Maybe not. What do you think the church’s purpose is?

One might answer to help people grow closer to God. And that’s not a bad answer. It makes sense to me. I am not sure where this comes from, but it comes from somewhere—perhaps religious tradition, perhaps one’s church upbringing from childhood, perhaps from some minister or evangelist, perhaps this is what has just been observed from having attended various churches, or watched a church service on television, perhaps it comes from the Bible?

But if this is the purpose, then several more questions evolve? 1) How is the church doing as a form to help people grow closer to God and 2) Why are there so many different types of churches and denominations? Are there many ways to God? Or different strokes for different folks? 3) And how did all these churches know to be different? I mean how did they decide to look and function like they appear and perform? 4) Are there certain form, tools or truths that work better than others? A shower compared to a bathtub? A coffee cup with a lid to hold the heat in? A screw with threads over a slick compression nail?  A vacuum cleaner or mop over a broom and dustpan? A nail gun over a hammer? A car over a horse and carriage? A jet over a car? Can churches improve at their purpose? Can churches get better? 5) Where does ritual, tradition and Scriptures come into play? 6) Can churches look different from culture to culture?

Other questions that also arise are: Do churches have to be boring?  Does the music need to be old? Can a band replace a choir? Are sermons or lectures about being good or bad required? What role do the Scriptures play in the church? When should a church meet? On Sundays? On Sunday mornings? Can a church meet in a home? How often can a church meet? How big or small does a church need to be? Does size matter? Can a church be led by someone that does function in a professional capacity, such as  priest or minister? Can a woman be a priest or minister? Who makes the decisions for the church? How does a church support itself?

As the questions begin to pile up, a astute observer might begin to re-ask her or himself, “Just what is a church and what is its purpose?” If I am going to belong, participate or become involved in this thing, or form called a church, and get everything out of it that I am supposed to get from it, maybe Joe (that’s me) is right. Perhaps understanding just what a church is, starting from the beginning, and grasping just what it was designed for might be helpful because after all many who have either grown up in church, left the church, become disenchanted with the church, come back to church, tried many various churches out, looking for the one that works for them, have all had various, and perhaps even, negative experiences with the church. Perhaps the clues to many a lost sojourner’s unsuccessful attempts to fit within the modern church lies in within the purpose of a church. Perhaps if I knew just exactly what the church’s purpose is, then just perhaps I might find the church that works for me, or better yet, fearing that the perfect church might not exist out there, I might figure out how to connect to, fit in, serve or get my spiritual needs met in a less than perfect church.

With the universal law that “Form Follows Function” not only applying  to everything else in the universe, but the church as well, and  that understanding the church’s purpose or function will enlighten or heighten my church experience, we go back to the beginning. We go back to the source to not only define a church, but its purpose as well.

And just perhaps, as we attempt to answer these two questions, the answers to all our other questions might reveal themselves as well. And in fact, might not the exploration of these questions and answers have an even greater tangible impact our lives. For if God did create the church and for a specific purpose and the purpose the Scriptures will seem to espouse, then when it is done well, might not the church change us as well? Might not a biblically-directed, well-purposed church just be the godly vessel, tool or form that man has been searching for to have a meaningful and well-lived life—a life that honors and pleases our Creator and Redeemer.

Here goes…

A Healthy Rethinking of “Church”

One of the goals of this study is to help you rethink your understanding of the church in light of what the New Testament says about a church as opposed to what you may have experienced or observed from culture and tradition.

After this class or study, one should be able to take the biblical purpose and environment of a church anyplace in the world — to join and help serve in a church, or even to help start new one or renew an old one.

This study intends to be timeless in its biblical content.

The Purpose of a Church

Welcome to Fellowship 101:

The Biblical Purpose of a Church and
How Fellowship Bible Church of Branson (at Cross Creek) Does it!

Fellowship Bible Church
of Branson, Mo.

Revised 1996

A New View of Church: Why does Fellowship seem a little different from other Churches? Simple: the universal truth: “Form Follows Function.”

What?! What does “Form Following Function” got to do with a church?

Everything. One doesn’t drink coffee out of a bathtub, or take a bath in a coffee cup. One doesn’t use a dustpan to sweep dust onto a broom. One doesn’t use a nail to pound a hammer into two pieces of wood to bind them together. One drinks coffee out of a coffee cup. One takes a bath in a bathtub. One uses a broom to sweep dust onto a dustpan. One uses a hammer to pound a nail into two blocks of wood to hold them together. Everything in life is designed, or takes on a particular shape or form, for a particular purpose.

While these examples may seem ridiculously obvious, ponder how even with respect to something as simple as footwear, “form still follows function.”

Who wants to run or play sports in high heels? Or trudge miles in the snow in your slippers? Or swim with fishing waders on? Or fight fires while wearing swimming fins (now that would be a funny sight)? No way!

Fins wear designed for propelling a swimmer through the water; slippers to relax in; fishing waders to wade out where the fish are; high heels…well…I am not sure about high heels. Obviously there is something about height and fashion or attraction. Bottom line: each footwear form has its function.

And I could go on and on, pens, paper, chairs, beds, wheels, tires, cars, stoves, refrigerators, shirts, dresses, socks, hats, caps, t-shirts, blankets, sheets, washers, dryers, plates, forks, spoons, knives, coats, sweaters, pants, fingers, hands, eyes, toes, ears, the brain, bones, nerve cells, the heart, the kidney, highways, stoplights, light switches, doors, windows, televisions, computers, radios, mp3 players, phones, cell phones, lamps, pillows, suitcases, purses, wallets, dressers, closets, bathrooms, restrooms, living rooms, sinks, disposals, waste cans, pantries, garages, sidewalks, streets, baskets, hair berets, hair brushes, scissors, combs, lotions, shampoos, squeeze tubes, glass bottles, backpacks, park benches, buses, pick up trucks, Mac trucks, race cars, family vans, sports utility vehicles, jets, passenger jets, space shuttles, kitchen cabinets, garage door openers, door handles, picture frames, knobs, handles, locks, keys, chains, ropes, water, oxygen, air, grass, trees, livestock, flowers, pets, bees, birds, fish, bearings, pistons, rods, saws, screwdrivers, nail guns, fishing rods, hooks, fishing bait, various types of sport balls—footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls–eye glasses, contacts, sun glasses, pacemakers, MRI diagnostic machines, IV’s, various types of scopes, drills, cans, plastic wrap, checkout counters, signs, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, milk, soft drinks, energy drinks, medicines, vaccines…do I need to go on?

All the above are simply forms that were designed or created with a specific function in mind. Everything in life has a purpose. The same is true of the church. The church is a form, just like a hammer, a nail, a broom, a coffee cup, bath tub are all forms, each with a created for a specific purpose in mind. Therefore since the church is a form like everything else is a form, the question naturally arises: what is this form—the church’s purpose? In the mind of God, what was the church designed to accomplish and why is this so important?

Why is this so important? Again, one can use the hammer as a nail to bind wood, or the bathtub to drink coffee out of, but neither were designed with these functions in mind. In other words, the bath tub makes a coffee cup and the hammer makes for a poor binder of wood. The tub is something stationary and is designed to hold something larger, preferably a human being and a liquid, and even more preferably water, and even more  than just water, but hot water so that the person taking the bath can rinse her or himself off with the hot water, thereby cleansing the skin of its sweat, dirt and grime.

In other words, when it comes to the church, if one is not clear about its purpose, then it may end up doing what it wasn’t created for, thus performing a poor job at whatever it is being asked to do, along with leaving its intended purpose undone.

Well then, someone could remark, “Isn’t it obvious what a church’s purpose is?”

Maybe. Maybe not. What do you think the church’s purpose is?

One might answer to help people grow closer to God. And that’s not a bad answer. It makes sense to me. I am not sure where this comes from, but it comes from somewhere—perhaps religious tradition, perhaps one’s church upbringing from childhood, perhaps from some minister or evangelist, perhaps this is what has just been observed from having attended various churches, or watched a church service on television, perhaps it comes from the Bible?

But if this is the purpose, then several more questions evolve? 1) How is the church doing as a form to help people grow closer to God and 2) Why are there so many different types of churches and denominations? Are there many ways to God? Or different strokes for different folks? 3) And how did all these churches know to be different? I mean how did they decide to look and function like they appear and perform? 4) Are there certain form, tools or truths that work better than others? A shower compared to a bathtub? A coffee cup with a lid to hold the heat in? A screw with threads over a slick compression nail?  A vacuum cleaner or mop over a broom and dustpan? A nail gun over a hammer? A car over a horse and carriage? A jet over a car? Can churches improve at their purpose? Can churches get better? 5) Where does ritual, tradition and Scriptures come into play? 6) Can churches look different from culture to culture?

Other questions that also arise are: Do churches have to be boring?  Does the music need to be old? Can a band replace a choir? Are sermons or lectures about being good or bad required? What role do the Scriptures play in the church? When should a church meet? On Sundays? On Sunday mornings? Can a church meet in a home? How often can a church meet? How big or small does a church need to be? Does size matter? Can a church be led by someone that does function in a professional capacity, such as  priest or minister? Can a woman be a priest or minister? Who makes the decisions for the church? How does a church support itself?

As the questions begin to pile up, a astute observer might begin to re-ask her or himself, “Just what is a church and what is its purpose?” If I am going to belong, participate or become involved in this thing, or form called a church, and get everything out of it that I am supposed to get from it, maybe Joe (that’s me) is right. Perhaps understanding just what a church is, starting from the beginning, and grasping just what it was designed for might be helpful because after all many who have either grown up in church, left the church, become disenchanted with the church, come back to church, tried many various churches out, looking for the one that works for them, have all had various, and perhaps even, negative experiences with the church. Perhaps the clues to many a lost sojourner’s unsuccessful attempts to fit within the modern church lies in within the purpose of a church. Perhaps if I knew just exactly what the church’s purpose is, then just perhaps I might find the church that works for me, or better yet, fearing that the perfect church might not exist out there, I might figure out how to connect to, fit in, serve or get my spiritual needs met in a less than perfect church.

With the universal law that “Form Follows Function” not only applying  to everything else in the universe, but the church as well, and  that understanding the church’s purpose or function will enlighten or heighten my church experience, we go back to the beginning. We go back to the source to not only define a church, but its purpose as well.

And just perhaps, as we attempt to answer these two questions, the answers to all our other questions might reveal themselves as well. And in fact, might not the exploration of these questions and answers have an even greater tangible impact our lives. For if God did create the church and for a specific purpose and the purpose the Scriptures will seem to espouse, then when it is done well, might not the church change us as well? Might not a biblically-directed, well-purposed church just be the godly vessel, tool or form that man has been searching for to have a meaningful and well-lived life—a life that honors and pleases our Creator and Redeemer.

Here goes…

A Healthy Rethinking of “Church”

One of the goals of this study is to help you rethink your understanding of the church in light of what the New Testament says about a church as opposed to what you may have experienced or observed from culture and tradition.

After this class or study, one should be able to take the biblical purpose and environment of a church anyplace in the world — to join and help serve in a church, or even to help start new one or renew an old one.

This study intends to be timeless in its biblical content.