What are the basic functions of the church? Each church has a different personality and expresses itself in a variety of ways. It makes no difference what the building looks like, whether the pastor wears a suit or blue jeans, or whether the church is traditional, contemporary or a mixture of both. The important thing is that the church follows biblical principles. So what does the Bible say the church must do?
Some have said biblical churches must have at least four things in common – learning, fellowship, worship, and prayer. I was taught the five functions of the new testament church are evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship.
Evangelism: It is the responsibility of the church to reach the lost of all nations. We claim we want to become an Acts 1:8 church. If that is true, we – the individual members of the local church – need to be personally engaged in reaching our Jerusalem/city, Judea/state, Samaria/country, and the uttermost/world.
Discipleship/Learning: The apostles were set aside as teachers in the early church because they had walked with Jesus and because he had commanded them to make disciples. God still calls out and equips people to teach others about Christ. When we “walk with Jesus”, we learn from Him and He commands us to “make disciples” as well. Teaching others what we have learned. Just as we are called to be lifelong learners in Christ we are also called to be lifelong teachers for Him.
Fellowship: I am not talking about the “fellowship meal” we are good at in the modern church. God did not design the Christian life to be alone, solitary experience. He wants us to encourage one another, laugh with one another, and build relationships with other Christians. As we grow in Christ, we develop a stronger bond/love for one another and are willing to show that love in a deeper/sacrificial manner.
Ministry/Mission: Linked to that fellowship that grows for others because of our love for God, we commit to serving one another (ministry). The early church shared with one another as they had need. Out of our love for others, we also should minister to the needs of others. There should also be a desire to minister to the needs of people in an effort to share the Gospel with those (near and far) that are without Christ.
Worship: The early church met regularly for the purpose of worshiping and remembering Christ’s death and resurrection. In other words, they gathered to remind themselves why they existed. The more we learn of God and His love, the more we want to express our gratitude—praise Him for His provision—declare our love towards Him and receive His Truth. We desire to gather with others to declare our adoration and praise.
Prayer: While it is not one of the functions everything MUST BE bathed in prayer. Prayer was the lifeline of the early church. It remains the lifeline for the church today! If you are not praying you will not know what Christ wants you to do. The truth is, there is too much at stake for us to think we can survive without prayer.
When you look at the churches around you, don’t become distracted by the differences in structure, location, style of worship, etc. Scripture tells us what is really important. It is important for us to be obedient to the call of God to BE His church! Among the scriptures you might want to read and reflect on include: Acts 2; Acts 17:10-12; Colossians 1:3 – 8; Ephesians 4– 6. What is the “model New Testament Church”?
Look to the Bible as your guide and strive to BE the Christ-follower He is calling us to become.