What is the purpose of the church Christ built? I do not consider it a part of the work of the church to try to run the government or effect world governments. It is not the work of the church to furnish entertainment for its members. Furthermore, it is not the work of the church to try to adjust labor troubles, or to supervise our social conditions. It was never intended that the church should run politics, stop wars, supervise public morals, or to be any kind of a collecting agency to pile up a large sum of money. The church should not go into the banking business. Knowing what the work of the church isn’t suppose to be, let us then consider exactly what the work of the church entails according to the scriptures.
The work of the church can be stated under three heads: (1) the building up of every member in it; (2) the work of benevolence (3) and the preaching of the gospel. Let us examine the building up of the membership first. Is is possible that if just a few members of any congregation were to quit, the doors would be closed altogether? Honestly, only a few from each congregation are actually serious about the welfare of its members. Surely every member of the church should be developed and thus stand on the front line. We enter the church as newborn babes, regardless of our years, our furrowed cheeks, or our silver hairs. The natural law is to grow and develop both physically and spiritually.
Many times we convert men that are quite intelligent and they are in fine circumstances. They have much influence and are prominent in all affairs. The temptation is to put them in the pulpit or appoint them as elders of the church. Let us ever remember that they are as yet babes and that it takes time for them to grow spiritually. They are mature in the world yet novices in the Lord’s church. Feed them with the milk of God’s Word and give them proper exercise. It is the duty of the overseers to feed and to develop the members of any church. To do so does not require the organization of something unknown to the Bible. This is why elders and deacons were appointed in every church in order to do the work of the church (1 Tim 3:1-13).
To build up every member, I conceive to be one work of the church. See to it, brethren, that in your congregation every member is built up and knows what it is all about.
In Ephesians 4: 28 Paul said: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.” It is surely a false conception and a mistaken idea for a preacher to fancy that he is too good to use his hands in doing that which is honorable and needs to be done. When something needs to be done, I am none too good to lay aside my coat and go to it. I would be ashamed of myself if I did not have that attitude toward the affairs of life. I love to be in position that I can give to some worthy cause. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). Be like Jesus Christ, who came not to be ministered unto, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
In Acts 11:27-30 we have an account of a young prophet who came to Antioch and announced that there was going to be a dearth throughout all the world, which would come to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Upon hearing this, everyone of those brethren at Antioch determined to send relief unto the poor saints in Judea. This they did, every man according to his ability.
To teach God’s Word and to preach the gospel of His Son to dying humanity is the noblest work on this earth. You may feed and clothe humanity and provide for them good homes, but if you fail to induce them to obey the gospel, they will die and end up in hell come the day of judgment. The church is God’s great missionary agency for proclaiming to a lost and dying world. Paul made this clear to the church of Galatia: “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10).
Any church, therefore, that is not interested, is not active, that is not doing something for the spread of the gospel among the citizens of this earth is not a distant relative of the church Christ died to establish. The church will attract the attention of the world in proportion to its efforts to preach only the gospel and to save mankind.
No preacher should be tempted to use the pulpit for any theme except the gospel of Christ. They should not be afraid or ashamed to declare the whole counsel of God. Men’s souls are at stake! Human lives are precious in God’s sight. They are dying day by day. Many are hungering and thirsting for the Bread of Life.
I now ask, upon whom does the responsibility to preach the gospel rest? Certainly no political party is so expected. No human fraternity ever considers it its business, and no denomination on earth will preach a full gospel. The obligation rests upon the church of Christ. Such responsibility belongs to members of the body of Christ, and if they do not, they will lose their own souls. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” The implication is that it will be lost. Hence, in self-defense, I must try to save somebody else.
The commission was given unto the twelve, but before all of them passed away, Paul said to Timothy: “Be strong in grace that is in Christ Jesus, and the things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” This explains how the gospel is to be perpetuated, and it also names the two qualifications for a gospel preacher. He must be faithful to God’s Word and then have ability to teach.
Conclusion: Let it be concluded that the work of the church is for edification, for benevolence and for evangelism. Neither of them are more imperative than the other or to be preferred over the other. If not for evangelism the church pews will be empty. If not for edification, the members will die on the vine. If not for benevolence of the saints, many members will perish from the lack of physical needs.