The Encourager

The Encourager

“The Purpose of the Local Church by Bill Hall”


What is the purpose of the Lord's church? Is it to eradicate poverty, disease, social injustice, illiteracy from among men? Is it to bring about a cessation of war and conflict? Is it to campaign for a temptation-free society for Christians to live in?

If the church had as one of its great goals the eradication of disease, the Lord could have easily equipped it to accomplish that goal. Could not the same power that enabled one blind man to see have enabled all blind men to see; that enabled one lame man to walk have enabled all lame people to walk; that cured many people of varied diseases have cured all people of all diseases? And could not this same power have been given to the church in all generations?

If the church has as one of its great goals the eradication of poverty, the Lord could have easily equipped it to accomplish this purpose. After all, He fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. He similarly fed four thousand on another occasion. Could not He who did these marvelous works have enabled His church in all generations to feed, clothe, and shelter the impoverished masses of the world through miraculous powers?

If the Lord had wanted His church to become a lobbyist group to apply political pressure toward a temptation and persecution-free society in which to live, He would have given instructions in that direction. He did not even lead His church into a direct effort to destroy slavery, but taught the Christian slave to be a better slave and the Christian master to treat his slaves as he would have his heavenly Master treat him (Col. 3:22-4:1).

The church's purpose is to save souls and prepare people for eternity. It holds out to the impoverished the hope of someday walking a street of gold; to the suffering a time when there will be no pain; to the sorrowing a moment when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." It tells the tempted and persecuted that there is value in these afflictions, that the testing of their faith is "more precious than of gold," and to rejoice. It tells all to live godly lives in whatever environment they find themselves. It seeks to change people through the power of the gospel, not society through the coercion of legislators. Its weapons "are not carnal, but are mighty through God." Its motivating theme: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

When local churches become involved in hospital and health clinic work, or when they build schools for the education of their children, or when they see as one of their great missions to provide for the world's poverty, or when they feel obligated to create social upheaval and campaign for human rights, or when they feel called upon to express their views on the government's use of nuclear armaments or whatever, they have a distorted view of the purpose of the church.

The Protection of Guardrails Don Truex

With all of our young people returning to school in recent weeks, I thought it a good time to revisit the lesson with the above title from our Guardrails on the Road of Life series from last year. From the youngest elementary student to the college senior, who you choose as your close and intimate friends will profoundly impact your life.

Paul told the truth when he said, "None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Romans 14:7). We need friends — good friends — to provide a voice of reason and influence of strength. That is why "two are better than one … If they fall, one will lift up his companion" (Ecclesiastes 4). Our key verse is Proverbs 13:20. It contains a promise, "Walk with the

wise and become wise." And it contains a warning, "A companion of fools suffers harm." Notice carefully — the warning is not, "A companion of fools will become a fool," but "a companion of fools will suffer harm." So for all of us, young and old alike, I want to remind us of the guardrails in friendships that should warn of impending harm.

You hit a guardrail when you realize that your friend's core values are radically different than your own. When it dawns on you that your value system, what you want for your marriage, your finances, your spirituality is different than the direction your friends are traveling — that is a warning sign not to be ignored.

You hit a guardrail when you find yourself trying to defend the wrong behavior of your friends. If you find yourself telling others, "You just don't know them like I do" or "You just don't understand them" — that is a warning not to be ignored.

You hit a guardrail when you feel pressure to compromise. When you feel pressure to accept as right what you have always known to be wrong, to behave in ways you have always considered to be off limits — that is a warning not to be ignored.

You hit a guardrail when you find yourself pretending to be someone other than who you know you are. If your parents or friends are saying to you, "When you are with them you are a different person" — that is a warning not to be ignored.

You hit a guardrail when you hope the people you love and care about the most don't find out where you've been or who you have been with. If you are already formulating a defense of the person or place or situation in case someone does find out, someone does know — that is a warning not to be ignored. A little self-honesty about these matters would go a long way in keeping us from "suffering harm" through this school year and the years to come.