Why Are There Churches?

There are no lack of companies and organizations in our world. One of the common features of successful companies is that they know precisely what they intend to do. They typically condense their business’s entire reason or purpose for existence into a single sentence which guides all that they hope to accomplish. One company may make its goal to empower individuals to share their thoughts immediately with others. Another company may aim to empower and educate individuals through their platform. These organizations know what they are about and make that goal clear for all to see. All their energy and resources are spent pursuing this goal.

Does the church have such a mission statement? Does the church have a clear purpose for its existence? How often have you thought about that? When we come to a question like this, we are not looking for a survey of opinions. There are countless church mission statements available online even now for your examination. Although there may be unique cultural aspects that are considered when developing a mission statement for a church, our aim is to be thoroughly unoriginal. We look to answer this question in the same way we answer every other: What does the Bible say about this?

The Bible is not a business textbook meant to give you seven key principles on organizational leadership. It may do so incidentally, but it was not given for that purpose. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we find the mission of the church. There we read about the purpose of the church and what sets it apart from every other organization in the world.

The Lord Jesus’ words are worth repeating in full: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV) This passage is known as the Great Commission. It is Christ’s great command given to the church. It is a clear display of the duty He requires of her. And what is it that commission? The Great Commission is God’s command to His church to proclaim the Word (“make disciples of all nations,”), make the Word visible in the sacraments (“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”), and execute discipline according to the Word (“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,”).

If we take a moment to read that passage again slowly and aloud, we can see that God cares deeply for His church. The church’s action plan to make disciples, baptize disciples, and instruct/discipline disciples, is grounded in Christ’s person and work. Notice that the section begins and ends with the power and presence of Christ. He doesn’t merely offer the church a to-do list, but says that His power, reign, and presence is universal. These realities ground the church in all which He has called her to do. Her only hope of accomplishing of these acts is by Christ Himself. To summarize the matter further, what has Christ called the church to do? The church exists to make disciples of Christ.

What is a disciple then? A disciple of Christ is one who is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A disciple of Christ is a student of Christ’s teachings which is contained in the Old and New Testament. A disciple of Christ is actively seeking to have their life reflect Christ’s teachings in their thoughts, speech, tone, mannerisms, actions, careers, etc. As Christ is Lord over all the earth, so all the earth ought to reflect His lordship beginning chiefly with those who claim to be His people. Thus, if we claim to be a disciple of Christ but resist His words by believing contrary to His Word, and living contrary to His word, then we reveal that we don’t know Him, and more frighteningly He doesn’t know us (Matthew 7:5, 21-23). A disciple is a student who acknowledges and lives according to the Master. The Master disciplines the disciple, not the other way around.

Many churches have forgotten this today. Now this may sound ludicrous to some, but when we examine many churches today can we say in honesty that their purpose for meeting is to disciple others? Or have some of them become country clubs perpetuating the preferences of a loud minority? Or have some of them so desired to remain relevant that they’ve exchanged their spines for whatever will satisfy the most amount of people? Or have they simply thrown out the Bible in exchange for the spirit of the age? Or have they exchanged the Bible’s mission for a pastor’s? a council’s? a board’s? a denomination’s?

The church is Christ’s bride, and she has a purpose that has been gloriously given unto her which no other organization on the earth can accomplish. Ponder today what your church is doing. Ponder today what you believe the church ought to be doing. Does it align with Christ’s command that the church be given over to a ministry of the Word, the two sacraments, and church discipline?