The Great Command Matthew 22:34-40 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The Great Commission Matt 28:16-20 “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28: 16-20)
Following Rick Warren’s analysis, let’s break down the purposes of the church into five categories: worship, fellowship, evangelism, instruction and ministry.
Worship: Focus on God
Followers of Jesus are called to look to God in worship in everything. There is a story in the Bible about two sisters named Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus is at their house. Martha is being the good host and is busy in the kitchen setting the table, cooking the food, brewing the coffee. Mary on the other hand just sits with Jesus listening to him. Martha grows upset with Mary because she’s not helping with the preparations. Jesus gently chides Martha for her focus only on the work that needs to be done. The relationship with Jesus comes first and the work comes second.
If work for Jesus does not flow out of relationship with him, guided by worship, we run the risk of just being busy religious people. In worship followers of Jesus celebrate God’s presence with us. Worshipping with music and singing is important however the worship that we are talking about here is much broader than music. A danger here is that our idea of worship is only about our personal worship experience. Romans 12:1-2 teaches us that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices as our spiritual act of worship. This means that all we say and do must be offered to God as worship. As Christians worship, they draw together with other believers which leads us to Fellowship.
Fellowship: Focus on the Church
In fellowship the church’s focus is on fellow believers. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation… 1a the share which one has in anything, participation.” When we are engaged in fellowship as the church, Christians are focussed on participating in the body of Christ. The biblical metaphor that is often used here is family. (Eph 2:19) Fellowship includes both fun socializing and deeper connections that focus on soul care, prayer support, encouragement and spiritual connection. A danger here is that we can see fellowship only as food, fun and friends. Fellowship has rich rewards when people dive deep, share together and truly love each other.
Evangelism: Focus on those not in the church
Our third category is evangelism. Here the church focuses on those who are not already in the church. The church’s mission is to reach people and make disciples. One of our values at CCC is that we are welcoming. That means we need to truly see that the church has a place for everyone.
The word gospel means ‘good news.’ Followers of Jesus have the greatest news and the greatest mission on earth. We get to tell people about Jesus! People can start with the assumption that some people, who are not already in church, want to get to know Jesus. How can those already in the church welcome them?
Instruction: Focus on learning
Here the focus is on equipping people in the body of Christ.
Eph 4:11-13 “ So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
In a group setting this could include listening to sermons or being in a bible study while individual believers have a responsibility to read the Bible, spend time in prayer and develop their relationship with God. By gathering together, people help instruct each other as they share insights and moments from their own growth.
Informally we teach by example. It’s fascinating having children! Every day my wife Michelle and I are amazed by the things Eve and Ian are learning. People will do what they see others saying AND doing. A danger here is that we focus only on head knowledge, and it doesn’t go to our hearts. Instruction is an important part of what the church does as to obey God people must understand what he calls them to.
Ministry: Focus on others
Here the church focuses on serving others, both inside and outside the church.
Going back to the great commandment Jesus says “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” (Matt 22:39)
Christians are called to care deeply about others. True faith cannot worship apart from serving others.
James 2:14-17 says “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
One final note here: in church people sometimes get hung up on methods. We argue over hymns versus contemporary. Chairs versus pews. Small church versus big church. The thing is, these are simply methods. Methods help achieve the mission; they are not the mission. A music style is a method. The mission is to lead people closer to Jesus. Especially in a COVID season, the church needs to focus on mission and unity, not getting hung up over methods and masks. The church must choose mission over methods every time.
In the end this comes full circle: A disciple is one who follows Jesus and teaches others to follow Jesus. Each of the purposes of the church are important. A church heavy on fellowship might have a lot of fun, but not be reaching people outside the church. A church heavy on instruction might have a lot of knowledge, but little love.
So how do we apply this?
- Love Jesus, worship Him with your life, both on your own and corporately.
- Gather with other people, share, encourage and build each other up.
- Share the gospel (good news!) with people who are not already in church
- Read the Bible, get some teaching, be part of a small group, learn and share what you’re learning with others
- Love other people inside and outside the church. Minister to people inside and outside the programs of the church.
Worship, fellowship, evangelism, instruction and ministry. These are the purposes of the church.
 Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.