Mar 17, 2023 The Identity and Purpose of The Church – Words of Grace – March 17, 2023
Recently, I have been reading and thinking about the search for identity and purpose. My thoughts have been mostly related to how people and organizations are moving away from a fixed identity and purpose to a start-from-scratch search for these things. Redefinition seems to be the word of the day.
There is some sorting out to be done within certain fixed categories. For example, I am a man. Within the bounds of maleness, I do have practical decisions to make about how I live as a man in my family, church, and culture. But my being a man with responsibilities as such is not up for redefinition. I found that in the Bible.
So it is with the church. The identity and purposes of the church are fixed. The practicalities of being and doing as a congregation in a specific community and culture need thinking through. One community and culture may provide opportunities for congregations that another community and culture does not. Those congregations may find new ways to bring the witness of Christ there. But the church is still the church, defined by God. And the purpose of the church has been determined by God and set for it.
We don’t have to keep reinventing ourselves or our churches. In fact, we don’t have the right to do so. We find our identity and our purpose in what God has revealed in the Bible. What we are looking for is there.
The Apostle Peter wrote to the churches that in Christ they are God’s people who serve his purposes before him and in the world (1 Peter 2:4-10).
We are in Christ. Jesus Christ died to ransom us from sin and darkness, for God and his glory. By faith we are united to him and to his people. Our identity and purpose are set for us because we are in Christ.
We are God’s people. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we belong to God. Peter uses many descriptive phrases to communicate various aspects of what it means to be God’s people; spiritual house, chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation. These aren’t redefinitions. They reinforce the reality that the church belongs to God.
We serve God’s purposes. The people of God serve before him and in the world. Before God, we offer the spiritual sacrifices of praise, prayer, and consecrated lives. This is our ministry to God. This pleases him.
We proclaim God’s excellencies which include his greatness and grace to call people out of darkness and into light. This is our ministry in the world. This also pleases God.
Why the fuss over who gets to determine identity and purpose? Isn’t the fixed approach just tradition at best or a power grab at worst? Isn’t redefinition the way to relevance?
The fuss is worth it because God is Lord of all reality. He has really said some things and it is only by heeding those things that we find our identity and purpose as Christians and the church.
This Sunday at Grace, we will hear who we are and what we are called to do from 1 Peter 2. Spend some time this weekend reading this passage and praying for our congregation.