What Churches Do

Have you ever wondered what churches are for and why people go to church? What does it really mean to "get baptized" to "take communion" and to "dedicate babies"? Or perhaps you have heard someone ask, "Do I need to go to church? Why can't I just worship God in nature or in my home"? What would you answer? Whether you attend church services regularly or not, this course will interest you. Series were written by Robert and Evelyn Bolton.

Churches Minister to People

Churches Minister to People

Some visitors went into a fine cathedral. They took time to marvel at its beauty, its architecture, and its treasures. Local church leaders remarked to their guests, “Long ago Peter said to the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, ‘I have no money at all.’ Now we need no longer say that we have no silver and gold!”

“Ah,” replied one of the visitors, “unfortunately, neither can you any longer say with Peter, ‘I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!”’ (Acts 3:6).

Churches today must minister to the needs of people as the New Testament churches did! Wealth, education, and prestige are no substitute for the power of God. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). May we minister to people in His Name!

Churches Nurture Believers

True church leaders are like faithful shepherds who look after the sheep. Jesus gave us a story about a good shepherd and a hired man. He said:

I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep. When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way, I know my sheep and they know me (John 10:11-15).

Soon after Timothy and Mary’s wedding, they were received into their church as members. Besides attending Bible studies, they have been going to leaders’ training classes and have taken several correspondence courses. Because of this, and the times of prayer they spend together, they have both grown rapidly in the Lord.

Serving as a youth leader has taught Timothy many lessons too. He has discovered how the Holy Spirit helps him speak when he seeks God and depends on Him. Mary has been teaching a Sunday School class. She also has been practicing the piano and now plays for their youth meetings. They enjoy their church!

Timothy and Mary’s church illustrates ways that a church can nurture its believers. The word nurture means to supply with nourishment, to train, and to educate. Church leaders are to nourish the flock of God, helping new converts to feed on the Word of God. The church provides an opportunity
for people to pray and seek the Lord; it encourages them to be filled with the Holy Spirit; it is there to pray for the sick and to comfort them in times of sorrow. The church is the visible expression of the body of Christ.

Churches Help the Needy

At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He stood up to read the Scripture in the synagogue (house of worship) at Nazareth, His hometown. Unrolling the scroll He read: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people (Luke 4:18-19).

Jesus is called the Christ, meaning “Anointed One.” God anointed His Son with the oil of the Holy Spirit and power. “He went everywhere, doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Like Christ, people of His church must be anointed with the power of the Spirit to tell the good news. You studied this in Lesson 2.

Jesus came with good news for the poor. The poor represent needy hearts everywhere. The message of salvation and deliverance must be given to them in a way that they will understand and respond to. Jesus also spoke of the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. These words may describe people either spiritually or physically, but Christ came to meet every need. The gospel spells complete salvation for the whole person, body, soul, and spirit!

The Bible tells us to balance our faith with our actions: My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it?
Can that faith save him? Suppose some brothers or sisters need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!”—if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead (James 2:14-17).

In some countries large populations live in makeshift shacks, wondering where the next meal will come from. They face desperate shortages of food and clothing. In other places refugees face starvation. How can God’s people help them?

Churches can give through organizations that know how to reach these distressed areas. Many church denominations also have relief programs and the local churches can send money, food, and clothing through these agencies.

At the same time, we must not neglect the needy people in our communities. The women’s group or another arm of the church often takes on this responsibility. Perhaps a child coming to the church school lacks proper clothing or shoes. Someone can visit the family and with understanding and tact find ways to help.

And we must not neglect the rich and needy! Many people rich in this world’s goods carry heavy burdens of confusion and emptiness. They, too, need the message of salvation and hope!

Churches Evangelize the Lost

Jesus spoke of His own life and ministry as coming to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The lost are people in spiritual need of salvation and forgiveness of sins.

The churches’ primary task is to evangelize the lost. They do this by telling the good news of salvation to all, by witnessing the power of Christ, by winning people to the Lord, and by making disciples who will evangelize others.

Three years have passed since Mary and Timothy’s wedding.

“What are you thinking about?” Mary asks Timothy, who has been very quiet all day.

“You know those four families who were saved last month, the ones who live on the other side of the city?”

“Yes. What about them?”

“They aren’t able to come regularly to church from such a distance. And there is no church at all in that area though it is heavily populated.”

“I know what you are going to say,” offered Mary earnestly. “God has been speaking to me about that too. We have to help them.”

“Praise the Lord!” exclaimed Timothy. “I’m so glad you are willing to do that, but do you realize what it will mean? We will have to give up attending the services we love so much.”

“Yes, I know,” assured Mary. “That was the hardest part. But I have finally surrendered and said yes to the Lord. I knew He was dealing with you about it too.”

“That confirms it to me, then, that it wasn’t just my imagination. I feel that God wants us to have a branch church there under the supervision of our pastor. I can keep my job and we can minister on weekends. The four families could form the base to start with. We will talk it over with Pastor and see what can be done.”

The preaching Timothy and Mary have heard about the field “ripe and ready to be harvested” (John 4:35) has challenged their hearts. And the training they have had in evangelism and church leaders along with experience in outreach has been preparing them. Now they feel that they have been nurtured by their church for a purpose, to put into action what they have learned.

Timothy and Mary are right! A church nurtures new converts and believers through the pastor’s messages, Bible teaching, and meaningful activities. But if all of this is merely flowing into people’s hearts, it will stagnate. Believers should be channels through which the blessing can flow out, and the more they give out, the more they will receive.

A church thrives on evangelizing the lost, as a fire blazes by burning wood. Our Lord before His ascension into heaven said:

You will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came like fire; He provided power for the church to expand.

Today, churches around the world are being revived by the fiery power of God’s Spirit. As they obey Christ’s command to evangelize to the ends of the earth, they will become blazing fires in a world of darkness, chill, and gloom.

“God makes His servant’s flames of fire.” —Hebrews 1:7

Of all the things that churches do, this is the most important for when the Savior’s gospel has been preached and taught to all peoples of the world, Jesus Christ Himself will return for His own!