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02 Why Does Church Exist

Why Does the Church Exist?
Posted on November 12, 2016by Greg Laurie
Why does the church exist?
Is it to entertain us?
Is it to provide programs for us to be involved in?
Is it to babysit the kids on Sunday morning while parents catch up on their sleep?
The church is on this earth for three reasons: 1) the glorification of God, 2) the edification of the saints, and 3) the evangelization of the world. We could sum it up this way: upward, inward, outward.
The church exists to bring glory to God. That is not only true of us in a worship service, but it is also true of us in life. Whatever Christians do, they should be able to bring glory to God – in their careers, in their marriages and in the choices they make in life. The church was created to bring pleasure to God and bring glory to his name.
The church also exists for the edification, or building up, of the saints. That is why we give such a prominent place to Bible study at the church where I pastor. We have always done that, and we always will do that. And not only does the edification of the saints include Bible study, but it also consists of encouraging one another, building up one another and serving one another.
Finally, there is the evangelization of the world, which is really the outgrowth of the first two. As believers are glorifying God and being built up in the church, they evangelize the world and fulfill the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18–20).
In the Bible we find the words of Jesus to a sick church that wasn’t fulfilling its purpose. This church, the church of Sardis, had a great reputation, but no reality. They were sick and dying, and they didn’t even know it.
Here’s what Jesus said about the problems that were developing: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God” (Revelation 3:1–2 NLT).
This wasn’t a lazy or inactive church. They weren’t slackers. They had a name, a name that was known far and wide. This church probably was humming with activity. There was no shortage of money or talent or manpower. Outwardly there was every indication of a church on the move. But a problem was developing that only Jesus could see: they were not fulfilling their purpose.
Jesus told the church of Sardis they were dying, but they didn’t realize it. People who are dying spiritually usually are the last to know. They think everything is fine. They think they are doing just great. They can rationalize every decision they have made, even when those decisions are wrong. They say they are doing fine when, in reality, they are dying.
We can do all the right things outwardly and still be spiritually dying. We can sing our worship songs perfectly. We can pray eloquently. We can dutifully take notes on sermons that we hear and even know our Bibles quite well. But there can be a spiritual deadness about it all. It is possible to be in the church and not really believe. And in effect, Sardis was a non-believing church.
In his excellent book on Revelation, Chuck Swindoll outlined the marks of a dead church, including the following:
1) it worships the past, 2) it is inflexible and resistant to change, and 3) it often has lazy leadership.
I am all for reflecting on what God has done, but I refuse to live in the past. We need to be in the present. We always need to be planning for the future. The problem in the church today is that sometimes we are flexible where we need to be inflexible, and we are inflexible when we should be flexible. We should be inflexible on the essentials, which are the teaching of the Word of God, the worship and glorification of God, and evangelism. These are the essentials. We need to be inflexible there.
But we also need to be flexible with nonessentials, and by that I mean style. People get hung up on styles of music, embracing new technology and all kinds of things along those lines. Let’s be flexible where we can be flexible. Don’t change the essentials, but be flexible with the way they are expressed.
If these marks of spiritual deadness are evident in a church or an individual’s life, here is Jesus’ prescription for spiritual renewal: “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains. … Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief” (verses 2, 3 NLT).
First, we need to wake up. In other words, we need to recognize something is seriously wrong. Then we need to strengthen the things that remain. The word strengthen means to stabilize that which is frail. Jesus is, in effect, saying, “Stay with me, church. Don’t give up now.”
Next – and this is very important – we need to be watching for the return of Jesus Christ. Notice that Jesus said, “If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” I think how people react to the imminent return of Christ is a true spiritual barometer of where they are with God. The apostle John gives us two potential reactions to Christ’s return: “And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame” (1 John 2:28 NLT).
If you are right with the Lord, then you will be full of courage at Christ’s return. If you are not right with the Lord, then you will be shrinking back from him in shame.