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.

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