What do you suppose the primary reason for the existence of the church is? Is it to convert un-believers to Christ, or maybe to disciple new Believers, or is it to fellowship with others?
Is there a way to know what the first objective of the church is?
Many will say that fellowship in the church is the most important thing; others will say that making disciples is of first importance. Both answers are wrong.
Fellowship is an important thing in the church; we need fellowship with other Believers in Christ. Through fellowship we can learn, grow as Believers and be strengthened in our faith. The bible even tells us to have fellowship with others Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Fellowship is however by no means the primary objective of the church.
I recently saw this scripture, Matthew 28:19-20 used as the reason for making disciples as being the most important institution in the church. Lets look for a moment at what this scripture says.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Looking at this passage in context we see that the disciples have gone to the mountain in Galilee as Jesus told them to after the resurrection. Jesus appeared to them there and gave final instructions to the disciples. On the surface it looks like one could reason that making disciples is of first importance, after all Jesus just told the disciples to do just that. Look at what Jesus says though in verse twenty, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. Jesus did say to go and make disciples of all nations (peoples) but He also clearly said here to obey everything He commanded! Therefore Jesus prior commands are still valid! Yes I know this is not a surprise to you, but many people seem to overlook this simple statement.
Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment.39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In Jesus own words here, the greatest commandment is to love God. Our very first responsibility is to love God with everything we have to give. Jesus did not say, “Go and make disciples, then love me”. Jesus clearly says that we are to love Him this is of first importance. Why then would we in the church say that making disciples is of first importance?
Revelation 2:1-5 1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. In the beginning of Revelation are letters to the seven churches. Through the Apostle John, Jesus is speaking to each church. The above verses are the letter to the church of Ephesus. Note that Jesus here in verses two through three praises many things that the church of Ephesus has done. This church is praised for their hard work and perseverance. They are complimented by Jesus for not tolerating wicked people, and for testing those who claim to be apostles but are not. The church of Ephesus has endured hardship and suffering for the name of Jesus, all the while not growing weary of doing all these things. Sounds like a rather good church does it not? The church of Ephesus was doing all the right things, except for one.
In verse four Jesus says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love”, this sounds serious. What was their first love? The church of Ephesus first love was the same as all the rest of us, loving Jesus Christ first before anything else. Again, note that Jesus Himself praises the church at Ephesus for what they are doing, making disciples is not mentioned here, but I believe can be inferred because Jesus does not say they are not. Despite the fact that Jesus notes many good things the church is doing, nevertheless, He holds something against them, forsaking their first love. Next in verse five Jesus outlines the consequences of not returning to that first love. He (Jesus) will remove their lampstand. In Revelation one, Jesus says that the seven lampstands are the seven churches. That sounds rather serious to me, what do you think? I’m no biblical scholar by any means, but it sounds to me as though the Spirit of God would no longer be with the church in Ephesus if they did not return to their fist love…Jesus.
The very first reason for the church, and Jesus IS the church, is to worship and glorify the Triune God. If the greatest commandment is love God above all else, then it follows that in church, we need to love God first before doing anything else! Loving God first means to do so at all times, in all places, in all actions. This command cannot be separated from how the Church conducts itself, yet this is exactly what is happening in many churches today.
Many churches teach that making disciples is the primary goal of the church, all else is secondary. There are large well-known churches teaching this and it is wrong, this teaching is un-biblical!
Think on this for a moment, making disciples, evangelism, teaching, preaching, and learning the Word of God in all of these what is the most important ingredient? It should be loving God.
If our relationship to God is not of first importance, what kind of teacher or disciple are we going to be? How well can we disciple other Believers if loving God is of secondary importance and discipling other Believers is first?
Our ability to do anything in God’s Kingdom comes from the relationship we have with Him. If our relationship is strong, we can do much. If it is weak, we will not be able to accomplish much. The human body needs food and water to survive, without these things the body will die. Still, these things are not of first importance to the survival of the human body. The human body needs oxygen, without breathing, we will die in minutes. So while food and water are important, air is even more so.
It is the same in the church, making disciples, teaching, preaching, these things are all of great importance, but they are not of first importance.
The right of first place in importance in the church belongs to Jesus.
Matthew 22:37-38 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment.