I have the blessing of working with churches that are seeking to be on mission with God, and there are four questions which are important to always keep before us. They should be asked by all followers of Jesus and Christian communities who want to join God in His work here.
I was assisting a group of elders and ministers from a congregation and they had gathered college professors and leaders in order to gain insight on the value of two new ministries they planned to launch. They did not want to start both at the same time and were asking advice on which would be the most beneficial for their church. One quiet, reflective college professor boldly stated, “Before you answer which ministry to begin, I think your need to ask yourself whether your church has a reason to exist!” Needless to say, most were confused and a bit shocked – they simply did not understand. The way he worded the statement almost sounded as if the college professor believed this particular church should close its doors. Perhaps that was the point he was trying to make, but I don’t think so. Most did not understand the statement and went on to more “productive and practical discussions.” As I think back to this encounter, I see that the statement might have not been well worded and most certainly was not well received; however, it did point the group to the right question.
As a follower of Jesus, the first question we must ask is why do we exist? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Generally, when Christians are asked, “what is your goal in life” the typical answer is “I want to make it to heaven!” I have answered the question in the same way, but that now seems to be incredibly short-sighted. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly want to be in heaven with Jesus and the rest of you! However, I don’t think that should be my ultimate goal or even the answer to the question of why I exist. God’s word seems to make it clear that our reason for existence is to glorify God. Paul keeps repeating this clearly in Ephesians, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11, 12 ESV). Jesus tells you who you are in Him. You are the salt and the light of the world and are to let your good works be seen by men “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).
This life of being salt and light is not just something to hold on until we can make it to heaven. If I am merely waiting for that, why not just “beam me up, Scotty” after I put my faith in Jesus and was united with him in baptism? What is the reason for my existence between the beginning of my faith and the return of Jesus to take me to be with Him? The answer is found in what some call The Great Interchange. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Jesus became what we are, in order that we might become what His is.” Our desire is to be more like Jesus today than we were yesterday. As Paul compared our life in Christ with that of Moses being in the presence of God he declared, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV). As we grow in our understanding of God’s call in our life, we realize that our reason for existence means giving glory to God and being transformed into the image of His Son. This also becomes our motivation for ministry, to see Christ formed in the life of others. Paul shared his heart for the churches in Galatia, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19, NIV). The words resonate with truth, “until Christ is formed in you.” So, we are to glorify God, become like Jesus and help others do the same.
I mentioned that there are four questions we should constantly address as children of God and as communities of faith. Perhaps you are curious about the other three questions. Churches should ask themselves: 1) Why do we exist? 2) What values (core beliefs) are driving us? 3) Where do we envision God leading us? and 4) What steps do we need to take in order to join God in this journey? The last three questions are for another discussion; however, before we move on too quickly, it is imperative that we wrestle with the answer to the first question. Do you know why you are here?