Purposes of the Church
One purpose of a local church is to worship God. In John 4:23, the Lord Jesus Christ said: “the hour cometh, and now is, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” The local church is the place where believers can gather together to worship, praise, thank, and glorify God.
A threefold purpose of the church is revealed in Ephesians 4:12. It teaches that the Lord Jesus has given a variety of gifted men to the church for three primary reasons:
- “For the perfecting (maturing) of the saints”. The church is the place where we learn through the teaching of the Word of God how to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- “For the work of the ministry”. The church is the place where we are equipped in the church for the work of serving God.
- “For the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ”. The church is the place where we are built up in our faith and then help others to be built up in the faith.
Another purpose for a local church is found in Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…but encouraging one another….” Believers need the encouragement that comes from other believers when we meet together in the church.
Persons Involved in the Function of the Church
As one comes into a meeting of the local church, he will observe three subjects that come into view: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and believers or saints (those who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior).
- The Lord Jesus is the head of the church. (Ephesians 1:22-23). He is to have the foremost and pre-eminent place in our affections, plans, and priorities (Colossians 1:17-18). The Bible does not designate anyone else to hold this position. Therefore, we do not establish the office of pastor as is traditionally done by many churches. There is still leadership in the local church, but it is not a singular individual presiding over a church gathering.
- The Holy Spirit also functions in the local church. He is fully God and serves to direct our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14). Additionally, He directs and guides the church in our worship (John 4:23-24) and decisions (Acts 13:2-4). He provides the strength necessary for believers to live the life of a Christian (Galatians 5:16-22).
- The believer is one who has specifically believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He believes that Christ was sent by God the Father to take the form of man in order to die and rise from the dead as a substitute for the penalty of man’s sin which is death (John 1:12, 3:16, 3:36). The believer is subsequently born into the family of God and placed as a member of the church. The Bible uses the analogy of the anatomy of a human body to explain this new relationship of believers, one to another.
Leadership in the Church
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head and Chief Shepherd of the church. Therefore, our “marching orders” come from Him only through His Word. However, He has seen fit to place qualified men as “under-shepherds” in leadership roles within a local church. Leadership of New Testament churches was always plural. There is no instance of a “one man ministry” in a local church. There was no “clergy/laity” division of the believers. “Overseers” (elders) are ones who have been placed into a position of church leadership by God’s Spirit (Acts 20:28). “Deacons” are likewise identified as ones whom the Holy Spirit uses to provide practical assistance in the affairs of the Church so that the elders can more fully devote their attention to spiritual matters. (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-4).
Responsibilities of Leaders in the Church
The responsibilities of the “overseers” (elders) include taking care of and guiding the flock (1 Timothy 3:5, 5:17), “feeding” the flock the Word of God (Acts 20:28, 32, 1 Peter 5:1-5), and guarding and protecting the flock from false teachers and false teachings (Titus 1:9-14, Acts 20:28-30). Elders and deacons have specific qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9). They also demonstrate that the Holy Spirit has chosen them for their roles in the church by their participation in the responsibilities for their respective areas of service (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Timothy 3:10). The Holy Spirit works in the lives of prospective elders and/or deacons as they function within a local church so that the believers in the church are able to recognize whether the Holy Spirit has chosen them to become elders or deacons.
Being a Part of the Church
Some may ask about our membership. The truth is that the Bible already calls you a member of the Body of Christ, if you have trusted the Lord Jesus as your Savior (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). Scripture does not recognize any other membership list. However, Scripture does present the idea of “being in fellowship” (1 John 1:5-7; Acts 2:42). This phrase describes an understanding and agreement between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ, that such a person is placing himself under the authority of the Lord Jesus through the leadership of the local church elders. These elders are charged by God to give an account of such souls, and the believer is charged to make sure that this accounting is honorable (Hebrews 13:17). This relationship implies that there is a “sharing in the common” (definition of “fellowship”) or a common bond in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many benefits to the believer in this relationship; prayer for one’s spiritual well-being, accountability in maintaining one’s personal and church testimony, identification with one another, love for each other in a family-like atmosphere, and a bearing of each other’s burdens, to name a few.
Scriptural Practices in the Church
In addition to the above concepts, you will find that we practice believers baptism by immersion (Matthew 28:18-20) and weekly remembrance of the Lord Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, or what some call “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). You will also see that our ladies practice the covering of their heads in meetings of the church as a Biblically defined demonstration of keeping the glory of men obscure so that the glory of the Lord Jesus has no competition (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).