The church has 3 purposes – we’re failing with the last one

By Greg Laurie

At this critical time in human history, here we are as the church. Our numbers have never been greater. There has never been a time when more people have claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ. We have unparalleled opportunities and unprecedented technology at our disposal to take the gospel message even further.

Yet what is the church doing today? Are we seizing the moment? Are we getting the gospel out?

While the world is lost and facing a certain judgment, we’re moaning about how dysfunctional we are. While millions of people don’t have the hope they’ll go to Heaven when they die, we’re having ongoing debates about whether we’re predestined or not predestined.

These things are a distant second to the primary calling of the church in relationship to the world, which is to preach the gospel. That is the only hope for our country today.

The church was established by Jesus himself and modeled for us in the New Testament book of Acts. The first-century church, for all practical purposes, turned their world upside down. They didn’t leave the world the same way they found it.

This relatively small group of followers of Jesus Christ made a dramatic difference in their world. And one thing is clear: These first-century Christians touched their world.

We must do the same.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus had this message for the church of Philadelphia, which I believe is relevant for every follower of Jesus Christ today: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8 NKJV).

What did Jesus mean when he said, “I have set before you an open door”? There are a number of ways we can interpret this. But one way (and I agree with this interpretation) is that Jesus was speaking of a door of unprecedented opportunity.

The apostle Paul used similar imagery in his letter to the church in Corinth: “When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me” (2 Corinthians 2:12 NLT).

So Jesus is saying to his followers, “I have opened a door. There’s a door of opportunity for you.”

Not only do we have unprecedented opportunities through technology to proclaim the gospel to more people than ever before, but we even have open doors in our own lives. There are opportunities among family members, people we work with and others we come into contact with.

Jesus also told the church of Philadelphia, “You have a little strength.” This is a picture of a sick person coming back to life. You know what it’s like to lie around when you have a fever. If jump to your feet too quickly, you’ll wobble a little bit.

The church Jesus described wasn’t a super church. It wasn’t a perfect church. But it was a church that was coming back to life. The reason was that it was getting back to its roots.

And what are those roots? The primary purpose of the church is threefold: 1) the exaltation of God, 2) the edification of the saints, and 3) the evangelization of the world.

Simply stated, we’re to be engaged in a relationship with God that is upward, inward and outward.

First and foremost, we were put on this earth to glorify and know the God who created us. The Bible says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV).

Next, the purpose of the church is the edification of the saints. Paul said that his goal was not merely to evangelize but to “present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28 NIV). So we’re here as a church to grow spiritually and to strengthen and encourage each other.

Lastly, the overflow of this is the evangelization of the world. As we’re glorifying God, as we’re building up one another, the natural outgrowth should be the desire to get the gospel out to others.

Every revival in history always has resulted in people putting their faith in Christ. It has involved repentance. It also has involved, and resulted in, moral and social change.

I believe there is such an urgency today to get the gospel message out. Our country is in dire shape, spiritually and morally. And it’s my firm conviction that the only hope is the proclamation of the gospel. I don’t see anything else that can turn America around.

Jesus has given us his marching orders. He said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19–20 NLT).

He summed up that commission in Mark’s gospel: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (16:15 NLT).

In these critical days in which we’re living, we should be praying for revival and proclaiming the gospel. This should be our real aim.

No moral awakening will suddenly sweep the country apart from the work of the Spirit of God. And any other attempts to change our society apart from this work of God will result in failure.

The world is pursuing its wickedness as never before. In fact, I’m amazed at how some people who believe in wicked, vile things will dedicate their lives to the promotion of those concepts.

At the same time, I look at so many Christians who know the Bible more than adequately, yet they won’t even lift a finger to get the gospel out to someone who lives right next to them.

What is it going to take? We need to wake up to the urgency of the hour.

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