What Is Your Purpose?

It seems hard to believe, but the end of this summer will mark two years of running and exercising.  A good portion of my running and walking has been done in our local city park – Gypsy Hill.  I believe that one of the reasons that it is so popular with runners and walkers alike is that it has a loop of 1.3 miles.  The park has a personality that changes with both the time of day and the season of the year.  Lately, Pam and I have been out early trying to beat the heat.  There are the early walkers and runner – most of the early walkers are older and there are also the dog walkers.  I tend to move my running time depending on the weather.  From Spring to Fall, I run or walk early – to beat the heat.  As winter arrives, we will move our time to the afternoon – when it is the warmest.

It really is interesting to see the various people and why they are there.  There are very few walkers who walk alone.  Almost every walker has a buddy or a group of buddies.  Each morning as we walk, we say “good morning” or “hello.”  When we are walking together, Pam and I tend to be fast walkers — walking with a purpose.  The faster we walk, the less we talk.  We tend to pass many of the walkers.  For many of the walkers, their purpose is to walk, but also to talk and discuss the day’s events.  They like to tease us about our fast pace.  There is one man in particular.  His walking buddy is his dog.  This morning, his purpose was to walk his dog, but also talk to as many people as he could.  In the time that Pam and I walked the full 1.3 mile loop, he only walked a couple hundred yards.

It got me to thinking.  People come to the park for all kinds of reasons — to walk with others, to walk their dog, to run, to run with their dog, to go to the pool, to play on the playgrounds, to feed the ducks or the fish, to go to concerts and so on.  The same thing happens in the church.  Each one of us has a particular reason we go to church.  Sometimes those reasons come into conflict.  It is no secret that some churches are full of conflict.  What is the purpose of the church?  Why do we exist?

While on staff in Michigan, I was introduced to a book, “The Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren.  I know people have different feelings about this book and it’s author.  The concepts in the book are excellent.  Several years later I was taking a class on Intro to Theology.  One of the books we had to read was “Exploring Our Christian Faith” by W.T. Purkiser and published by Beacon Hill Press.  It was originally written in 1960 and I was amazed when I came to the chapter on the church.  Here are the functions of the church and its purposes:

  1. to interpret religion
  2. to provide worship and training in the devotional life.
  3. to promote and enrich the fellowship of Christians.
  4. to extend the fellowship to include an everincreasing number of people.
  5. to provide incentive, training, and opportunity for individuals to participate in efforts to improve society.
  6. To aid individuals.
  7. To enlist and train workers for the local church, community, and world.
  8. To maintain a wholesome and effective institutional life.
He goes on to say that these functions and purposes may be summarized this way:
  1. to provide and maintain worship in order to fulfill the requirements of the first four Ten Commandments.
  2. To go into the highways and hedges and to the uttermost part of the earth making disciples of all men, turning them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive the forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in Christ.
  3. To teach them to observe all Christ has commanded.
  4. To build them into a harmonious fellowship of the saints.
  5. To love and serve all men, thereby helping to relieve suffering and sorrow and to establish the rule of Christ in society.
The church does not exist simply for one of these reasons – it exists for each one of these purposes.  It is what makes a balanced approach to ministry.  Churches that do all of these well are well-balanced churches and healthy churches.  Some churches tend to emphasize one over the other and that is where conflict can occur – we need each one of these elements.  So for which of these purposes does your church exist?  Something to think about on a Tuesday morning….

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