Text: Ephesians 3:10 – Matthew 28:18-20
The Big Idea: God’s purpose for the church is to reveal the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We as a church can and we must make the wisdom of God known by making disciples.
Why do we gather each and every Sunday?
Our goal is two-fold:
- First, we will discuss what our purpose as a church is.
- Second, I want to introduce the necessary actions we must take to ensure that we are making continual progress in fulfilling our purpose, while at the same time answering the question why we are here.
The Purpose Of The Church
God has brought the church into existence to achieve a very specific goal. Therefore, we are obligated as members of Christ’s church to make sure that our actions are consistent with His purpose for his church, and that our actions contribute to the achievement of that purpose.
When we align ourselves with the church, we are obligated to carry out God’s will for the church.
Let me try and illustrate it this way. What do you think would happen to someone who joined the army and came in with his or her own agenda, with their own idea of what the army should be? What if the new recruit said, “This whole protecting the country thing is overrated, it’s outdated. I think we ought to turn all the soldiers into pastry chefs. What this country needs is not more protection and defense, this country needs a good éclair!”
If by some wild chance that happened and all our soldiers laid down their weapons and put on their aprons, what would happen to our country? What would happen to the military? Our enemies would quickly overrun us and the military would have failed us! Why? Because the military exist to defend us, to protect us! Not to bake éclairs!
The church of God, like our military, exists for a very specific reason! But many churches operate either with their own agenda, or operate out of ignorance.
When the church forsakes the purpose for which it was designed, it loses its usefulness. I’m thankful to say that many in the broader church community are awakening to the fact that, despite all of the impressive numbers and size that some churches have reached, something with our churches is drastically wrong. Today, we have more large churches than ever before. We now have over 2,500 churches that fit into the mega-church category. But church attendance overall in this country continues to decline, to the point that the growth of the church is lagging behind our population growth.
That means although we have a lot of big churches, we have more people staying away from the church like never before. Could the church now be reaping what it has sown for the last several decades? The last twenty to thirty years in this country the emphasis has been primarily on the numerical growth of the church. As a result, we have used any ends to justify the means. “If you need to dilute the gospel, go ahead. The true gospel is offensive to man, so water down the message.” Thankfully, many within the church today are sounding the alarm that despite the impressive size of many churches, it is becoming increasingly harder to find much difference in the lives of those in the church from those outside the church. Could this be a result of losing sight of God’s purpose for the church?
The purpose of the church can only be accomplished by God’s people as He through the Spirit of God and the Word of God empowers believers to fulfill His purpose for the church. The Scriptures teach us that we as Christians have a much higher calling or purpose to our lives than what we may be aware of.
Comprehending our purpose as the body of Christ should motivate us to live lives that differ radically from the culture around us. I’m talking about real fundamental differences in our attitudes that lead us to live lives that make us stand out from the culture. I’m talking about conforming our lives to the Scriptures so that we give away more than we keep. To seek the good of others, rather than simply looking out for ourselves; to serve those who can’t repay us, to serve those who won’t repay us. To reach out to the poor and the hungry even if it means that we ourselves become a little poorer and our stomachs a little less full in order to minister to others; to stand up for those who cant’ stand for themselves, to be concerned about the fatherless, the widows and orphans which James describes in his letter as “pure religion”.
To be risk takers for the Kingdom of God and the glory of God and to be willing to take risks to see that God’s purposes will be accomplished in us and through us.
The purpose for the church is found in Ephesians 3:10
“so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:10–11, ESV)
God’s purpose for the church is to reveal the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
As they see God’s wisdom displayed, as they see God’s wisdom at work through the church God will be glorified.
Our Purpose As A Church
How can we as a church display the wisdom of God?
Just as God has not left it up to us to decide what the purpose of the church is, he has not left us to our own devices to decide how the church is to make the wisdom of God known to a world that desperately needs it.
We display the wisdom of God not through clever marketing not through cleverly crafted sermon series with hip titles and cool graphics.
We display the wisdom of God by obeying the Lord’s final words of instruction to the original disciples as he returned to heaven.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “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)
We as a church can and we must make the wisdom of God known by making disciples. How are disciples made? The teaching of the gospel makes disciples. You can’t separate the two. To make disciples is to plumb the depths of the infinite wisdom of God revealed in the gospel.
I hope you can see that the making of disciples is what our vision statement is all about. You can’t make disciples without teaching and you can’t teach without impacting the minds with truth, without helping people to begin to think biblically.
As A.W. Tozer said “Truth must enter the mind before it can enter the heart.” Sadly many try and reverse the order and fail to make biblically sound disciples.
That’s why we want to be known as a church that engages in serious thinking for the serious times that we live in. We want to be known as a thinking person’s church. We will never idolize the intellect; we will challenge the intellect, and challenge you to bring your mind in submission to the Scriptures. But we will never make an idol out of the mind.
God’s desire is for his wisdom to be put on display, which means we must have someone to display it to. Therefore we as a church need to be actively reaching out in order to put God’s wisdom on display and to be making disciples.
Our desire is to glorify God through the making of disciples, which will in turn create growth in the church. Ben said this at our last elders meeting, “The vehicle through which we grow the church is discipleship.”
The making of disciples doesn’t just happen, it takes intentional action. With that in mind let me give you these things to think about.
- Who are candidates for discipleship? Believers? Unbelievers? The answer is yes. Everyone is a candidate for discipleship. An unbeliever becomes more like Christ through discipleship. A believer becomes more like Christ through discipleship.
- What are the results of discipleship? The multiplication of disciples. Let’s not make light of this or discount this. Remember what was the Lord’s plan for the church? To make disciples and that is exactly what the first disciples did. And what was the result? The New Testament is clear that they turned the world upside down.
Let’s do some discipleship math. Let’s say that we start with simply three men and three women who take the Lord’s command to make disciples seriously. So they find just one person they can disciple. So in year one we have six disciples making six more disciples. Now in year two we have the six original disciples and we can add to that six new disciples. So now we have twelve disciples. So we start the process over again. Twelve disciples each find just one to invest their lives in, to take the risk of making a disciple. So now we have twenty-four people involved in discipleship. Now year three rolls around and we have twenty four disciples who find just one person they can disciple. That means at the end of year three headed into year four we have forty eight disciples who if they each select one at the end of the fourth year there will be 96 disciples made and you can do the math from there.
- All disciples can be a disciple maker. Think about this. Do you think that all of Jesus’ disciples were at the same level of spiritual maturity? I don’t think so. Jesus didn’t limit his command to just a select few, he gave the command to all of the disciples. Unfortunately the church has complicated the process of making disciples. Discipleship does not have to be complicated; in fact it should be the norm for us as Christians.
Now at this point perhaps you’re expecting me to make a big announcement of some program that we want you to become a part of. But that’s not the case at all. Here is what I want you to do.
First of all come to terms with the wonderful reality that if you are a believer you already have everything you need to begin to make disciples. You have the Holy Spirit and you have the Bible. That’s everything you need to begin making disciples.
Remember the Preacher in Ecclesiastes has time and time again encouraged us to take advantage of the opportunities that come our way. To seize the opportunity even if it seems risky. Well here is an opportunity for you to take a risk and make an investment in the Kingdom of God for the glory of God by investing in the life of another.
We as a church are in this together; therefore we are all here to support one another as we make disciples.