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The Purpose of the Local Church

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Grace and peace to you all. 

    This week\’s topic was suggested for us by Jordan and I thoroughly enjoyed researching and meditating on it. For our topic this week we will be discussing the purpose of the local church in two parts, those being: what is the local church; then what is your purpose in being apart of the local church.

    First, what is the local church?

    Jonathan Leeman, of 9Marks Ministries, defines the local church as, \”group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances. That’s a bit clunky, I know, but notice the five parts of this definition:

  1. a group of Christians;

  2. a regular gathering;

  3. a congregation-wide exercise of affirmation and oversight;

  4. the purpose of officially representing Christ and his rule on earth—they gather in his name;

  5. the use of preaching and ordinances for these purposes.\”

Or to put it another way, the local church is the physical meeting of believers within a local geographical area to worship Christ through 

  1. singing [Colossians 3:16-17], 

  2. preaching [Galatians 1:15-16, 2 Timothy 4:2], 

  3. baptism (if applicable) [Colossians 2:11-15, Mathew 28:18-20 ], 

  4. communion [Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), and 

  5. (when necessary) exercise church disciple [Matthew 18:15-17]. 

All for the purpose of loving God more and more with other like-minded believers [Hebrews 10:25]. 

    Now that we know what the local church is let us now consider the purpose of the local church by looking at Hebrews 3:12-14 which reads, 

\”Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.\”

Here the author of Hebrews (NOTE: I personally think Hebrews is likely a sermon of Paul\’s that was recorded by Luke or possibly a sermon of Apollos as Luke describes him as a great preacher in Acts 18:28) exhorts/strongly encourages those in the church to take care of each other and encourage one another toward good works and believing in God with all our hearts so as not to fall away from God. Or to put it another way, we are to love and exhort each other all the way to Heaven. We do this by encouraging one another so that none of us would believe sin\’s lies and become disobedient to God\’s commandments. Here we find our first purpose of the local church: to encourage us to continue in the faith till the end. 

I remember one conversation I had with a young, immature believer about the Christian\’s need for church attendance (as well as membership and service) when she asked, \”If I\’m saved by faith alone, why do I need to go to church?\” I remember my answer being something to the effect of \”Yes we are saved by faith alone, but with all the sin and deceitfulness in my heart (not to mention the world) I need my brothers to help me maintain, or encourage my faith. Life as a Christian in this world is hard and God gave me the church to guide me on my way to Heaven.\” 

Indeed, this is still true. We go to church not because Christ and His atoning work are somehow insufficient for my salvation, but to remember and rejoice with others of His sufficient, atoning work for us. It is easy in this world to fall into sin but hearing the call to repentance in faith every week is a balm to a weary and weak sinner like me. It is also easy to fall into self-righteousness and hearing the sweet, saving, gospel of Christ is reassuring and humbling to prideful sinners like me to trust in Christ alone with no mixture of myself or my works. 

    The author of Hebrews gives another purpose to the local church in 10:23-25, which reads,

\”Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.\” [Hebrews 10:23-25].

David Mathis, a writer for Desiring God, had this insight on this passage, \”The remarkable thing is not the summons to keep meeting together, but the instruction that when you do, look past your own nose to the needs of others. There’s no “how” in the original language. A literal translation is, “Consider each other for love and good deeds.” Know each other. Get close. Stay close. Go deep. And consider particular persons, and interact with them, such that you exhort and inspire them to love and good deeds specifically fitting to their mix.\” 

We are to be apart of the local church to know God and to know our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are to be apart of the local church so that we hold fast/cling to Christ who is our faithful hope of salvation. And how is that to be done? By continually stirring up, or encouraging one another to love and good works as the return of Christ draws near. 

Thus, the purpose of the local church (in all her singing, preaching, and teaching) is to encourage and exhort each other to the end of the age when the rock of our salvation-Christ-returns. 

Recommended resources: 

Resolve Yourself to the Local Church

The Ordinary People God Chose

Ministry Belongs to the Members

Pray to See the Church as God Does

Love the One You’re With

Every Good Church Is Messy

For the Bride Set Before Him

Discussion questions:

  1. Upon reflecting on our last study I thought it was a little long so I wanted to see if something more like this week\’s length was better. Do you all think this week\’s topic length was better/easier or more enjoyable to read? 

  2. In your own words, what is the local church?

  3. Do you have a local church? If so, do you love your local church, and what are some ways you could possibly serve it better?

  4. Who do you think wrote Hebrews? 

  5. Recall the immature Christian\’s question, (\”If I\’m saved by faith alone, why do I need to go to church?\”); how would you answer that question if it were presented to you? 

  6. I listed a few reasons why I go to church. What, if any, reasons would you add to my list?

  7. One of the purposes of the church is to encourage each other. Is there any way we could encourage you today?

  8. Do you feel that there was anything missing from this blog that you would like to discuss in the chat? 

  9. [Random Question]: I had a dream/idea the other day about us sometime during the summer having a sort of weekend retreat to the beach where we just spiritually recharge; we do some bible studies, sing some hymns and pray for each other and play some (wholesome) board games. Like I said, it was just a dream so I won\’t be super heartbroken if y\’all say no to this (and obviously we\’d need to iron on the details) but what would y\’all say to that? Would you possibly be open to doing a weekend spiritual retreat of some kind together?


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