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What is the Purpose of the Church?

God designed us human beings as communal creatures. We need one another – we need connection and encouragement just to make it through life. That’s why God told us not to “forsake assembling together.” That’s the point of church.   But how many of us settle for pseudo-connection on Sunda…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
God designed us human beings as communal creatures. We need one another – we need connection and encouragement just to make it through life. That’s why God told us not to “forsake assembling together.” That’s the point of church.
 
But how many of us settle for pseudo-connection on Sunday when what we really need is to be touched and healed? What we need is a place of deep trust where each of us is known and loved.
 
Fail to find a place of encouragement with people who know how to love and you can become callused or jaundiced. So many of us settle for a facsimile of the original. But if you find it, it is so worth the search. John Eldredge puts it this way:

Going to church with hundreds of other people to sit and hear a sermon doesn’t ask much of you. It certainly will never expose you. That’s why most folks prefer it.
 
Community will reveal where you have yet to become holy. It will bring you close and you will be seen and you will be known, and therein lies the power and therein lies the danger. Aren’t there moments when all those little companies, in all those stories, hang by a thread?
 
Galadriel says to Frodo, “Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.”
 
Most churches survive because everyone keeps a polite distance from the others. We keep our meetings short, our conversations superficial. “So, Ted, how’s everything going on the Stewardship Committee?” “Oh, just great, Nancy. We’ve got a big goal to reach this year, but I think we’ll be able to get that gym after all.” No one is really being set free, but no one is really at odds with each other either.
 
We have settled for safety in numbers – a comfortable, anonymous distance. An army that keeps meeting for briefings, but never breaks into platoons and goes to war. Living in the community is like camping together. For a month. In the desert. Without tents. All your stuff is scattered out there for everyone to see. 

A true community is something you’ll have to fight for. You’ll have to fight to get one, and you’ll have to fight to keep it afloat. But you fight for it as you bail out a life raft during a storm at sea. You want this thing to work. You need this thing to work.

You can’t ditch it and jump back on the cruise ship. This is the church; this is all you have. Without it, you’ll go down. Or back to captivity. This is the reason those small house fellowships thrive in other countries: they need each other. There are no other options.

God is calling together little communities of the heart, to fight for one another and for the hearts of those who have not yet been set free. That camaraderie, that intimacy, that incredible impact by a few stouthearted souls – that is available. It is the Christian life as Jesus gave it to us. It is completely normal.

Comments (6)

  • Hi Seth!
    Timely musings…I have spent the past couple of years plus searching for that community of authenticity. I am weary of hypocritical let’s check it off our list of things to do this weekend complacent church goers. I didn’t want to become one of them, yet I missed the connection…my George Fox cohort and other friends became my connection…but I have landed in a small house church group that is affirming, raw, healing, hurting and wonderfully messy, providing all the clay a potter could ever desire! I have grace, an invitation to share my gifts, and lots of love to go around. It doesn’t look like church to many others who have settled for a comfortable complacency, but I much prefer courageous compassion, and am full of gratitude that the timing for this next chapter is now. Blessings and Shalom,
    Kathy (Who still needs to read Beauty for Ashes. I am pathetic…)

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.” The church is incredibly important. We need to esteem the church. It’s a part of God’s plan. He knows man much better than man knows himself.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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