…”to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:12)
How would you answer this question: What is the purpose of the local church?
You might first wrestle with this question: What is the purpose of the universal Church, the Body of Christ made up of all believers in every place, every era?
Paul provides some answers that are difficult to wrap our minds around:
- in some way that we can only begin to understand, the universal church will ultimately witness to the world and universe, the supreme pre-eminence of the Head of the Church. God has given to Christ the position at His right hand “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1/21-23).
- and presently through some process that we again can’t comprehend, the universal Body is to reveal the wisdom & glory of God: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3/10,11).
But what about the local church? Clearly our purpose is related to that of the universal church – but in Ephesians 4:12 (above) Paul is precise:
to build self-esteem and facilitate friendships, or
to even to assist the oppressed and disenfranchised, or
to bring about political transformation.
But the local church exists primarily to prepare, equip, train – to manufacture – disciples of Jesus Christ so that Christ’s Body may be built up, strengthened, and edified.
If as a local church we fail in that, we fail.
Takeaway – am I expecting of my local church something other than what the Lord has mandated as its primary purpose? Have I been a help – or a hindrance – to achieving that purpose?