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Why Do So Many Pastors Have a Flawed Understanding of the Purpose of the Church?

by | Apr 3, 2023

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Okay, so you walk into the typical church down the street on a Sunday morning, your heart full of anticipation to worship God, serve fellow believers, and be spiritually nourished. But instead, you find yourself subjected to a diluted sermon that is more focused on avoiding offense than boldly proclaiming the truth of God’s word. Perhaps this church is even decked out in rainbow gear, a pride scarf on the preacher’s neck, and constant reminders of how this church is “welcoming and inclusive.” At the very least, even in the more moderate churches, the preacher gingerly avoids challenging topics and contentious issues, opting for insipid cliches and empty platitudes rather than confronting the congregation with the profound truths of Scripture.

This disheartening scenario is becoming increasingly prevalent in churches everywhere as pastors and church leaders attempt to draw in and retain members by sidestepping anything deemed controversial or offensive. Tragically, they fail to provide their congregations with the genuine spiritual sustenance required to foster growth in their faith and maturity as believers.

The Bible cautions against such tepid preaching in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, where the Apostle Paul underscores the vital importance of preaching sound doctrine and warning against false teachings, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

In a world increasingly skeptical of organized religion, it’s tempting for churches to try to please everyone by diluting their preaching and doctrine to avoid offending anyone. This will become an even more challenging issue as the world continues to lodge its assaults against biblical teaching. The LGBTQ movement has launched a full frontal assault against the Church and is determined to win at all costs—and only those that cave to the demands of the world and abandon biblical truth will be allowed to stand and remain an active part of society.

Yet, we must remember that the local church isn’t a popularity contest or a social justice activist group, but a community of believers who unite to worship God and encourage one another while standing against the ills of the culture.

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The Church’s primary purpose isn’t to entice lost souls. It’s not a marketing campaign, a social club, or a feel-good Sunday service. Rather, it is the Bride of Christ, a community of believers who gather to worship God and edify one another. The Church isn’t for everyone, but it is for those whom God has called to be part of His Kingdom. It is where we should always endeavor to preach the truth of God’s word, even when it’s difficult or unpopular, while maintaining our focus on Him and His glory.

The notion that the Church exists primarily to attract lost people is a misguided one that has led many churches astray. While evangelism is undeniably important, it isn’t the primary purpose of the gathered body. In fact, Scripture teaches that evangelism is designed to be external to the body, as believers venture out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus instructs his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Meanwhile, in Ephesians 4:11-13, the Apostle Paul writes, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul writes, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” These passages are the clearest descriptions of the purpose of the Church that we could have, yet so many still don’t get it and subject the body to the carnalities of the world by inviting the world into the Church.

As the adage goes, “what you win them with, you must keep them with.” If we attempt to attract people to the Church with gimmicks, entertainment, and watered-down preaching, they may linger for a time, but they will not be truly nurtured or nourished. Eventually, they will grow weary of the spectacle and seek something else, leaving behind a congregation of people who have not experienced genuine transformation through the power of the Gospel.

To witness authentic growth and transformation in our churches, we must be willing to carry the truth of God’s word beyond our walls and proclaim it to the lost, while also standing firmly on that truth within our walls, even when it’s challenging or unpopular. True believers may be challenged by biblical truth, but they are never offended by the unadulterated preaching of God’s word.

The Gospel possesses the power to change lives, but it can only do so when preached with clarity and conviction. We must be willing to challenge our congregations, to call them to repentance and faith, and to equip them for works of service. Only then will we witness enduring growth and transformation in our churches, as individuals are genuinely transformed by the power of the Gospel.

Ultimately, we must remember that it is not our responsibility to save people, but simply to proclaim the truth of God’s word. If God chooses to save someone, it will be through the truth. Let us remain steadfast in preaching the Gospel in all its fullness, trusting in the power of God to accomplish the rest.

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