Friday, July 11, 2014

The Purpose of Church Is Not to "Meet Needs"

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

"Church" - not a building, but a people movement following after Jesus and His Kingdom.

The purpose of "Church" is to be a corporate people that is being formed into greater and greater Jesus-likeness (see, e.g., Galatians 4:19).

As "Church" what we place our focus on is important. For example, the purpose of Church, the Church's raison d-etre, is not: to meet people's needs. James van Yperan writes: "A church organized around meeting needs breeds selfishness, and it inevitably leads to competition, control, and conflict." (Van Yperen, Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict, p. 35)

When church people start talking about their needs not being met, we have a big problem rooted in a false, unbiblical idea of "church." James 4:1-5 expresses this.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, 
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that 
he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?
If, in church, I don't get my needs met (= what I want for me) then fighting for my rights follows. 
OK. But what about my needs? Do they mean nothing? Of course not. But I must distinguish my true needs from my wants and desires. Then I am to abide in Jesus, the One who meets my needs. All I need is found in Christ. That is my experience. I'm not looking for Church to meet my needs. I am looking to God to meet my needs. I arrive at church on a Sunday morning with my needs already being met. And often my needs are met through the church (the people of God).
"Church" is God's vehicle for bringing redemption to others. The early Acts-Church was not following after Jesus for the sake of "having their needs met." They were on a Mission. They were being morphed out of the world-system and into Christ and His beautiful Kingdom. And in the process the secondary effect of having their truest, deepest needs satisfied happened.

Van Yperan writes:

"Is your church actually encouraging people to think and act like the world? Are you forming believers who are not a “people”? The church is the spiritual “place” where God forms His people. We are chosen to be people who are being transformed into Christlikeness. The problem is that we have become so accustomed to thinking and acting like individuals we cannot even see or accept that we are forming selfishness, not godliness—until a conflict or crisis arises. God has called us into a kingdom much greater than our selfish needs, dull familiarity, and easy assumptions. Scripture stands in stark contrast to the narcissistic and autonomous thinking of our self-absorbed world. God wants to remake and redeem our needs before He meets them. He calls us into a culture formed by the Cross." (Ib., 36)