In a series where the goal is to define the nature of a healthy church, one stipulation must be made:
Healthy is defined by God, not man.
It was Jesus who said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16.18) and significantly, Jesus only used the word church three times (the other two are in Matthew 18). Therefore, He meant something in His use of the word. That is, Jesus had purpose in His choice of words*, and thus, the church should have purpose as well.
*The word “church” is the Greek word ekklessia, a compound word made of the word “ek” (out of) and the root “kaleo” (called out). The idea is the church is those who are the “called out ones.”
If the Church is “called out” then Jesus must have a purpose for her. And, if Jesus has a purpose for the Church, then He must have a purpose for the individuals which make up the Church. Therefore, before we tackle the idea of a healthy church, we will begin by considering our individual purpose.
A couple of years ago, I did an extensive series at the previous site on my personal vision, mission, strategy, and steps. Let me summarize briefly here and provide the reason I distinguish between a vision and a mission.*
*Many leaders do not make this distinction, but I find it helpful. Let me provide a brief illustration to make my point. If I want to see the Grand Canyon, then the vision is what I will “see” with my mission being the major goals (objectives) I must meet to see it. These goals might include saving money, securing transportation, finding time to travel, etc. From there, I break the mission down further, but those items (Strategy and Steps) can find focus in another blog post.
To find our purpose, we must realize that God has created us in His image (Genesis 1.27) and that He has a purpose for us (Ephesians 2.10). Of course, many will turn to Jeremiah 29.11 as well, but that verse is about knowing God has a purpose when all seems hopeless (the people were in exile). It was also written to a nation, not a person – the “you” is plural. So, God does have a purpose for people, a nation, or a church, but He also has a purpose for you – singular.
The fullness of this purpose will undoubtedly be found in the Bible. How the purpose is realized by you may not be specifically found in the Bible. But studying Scripture will provide an opportunity to see how God’s overall plan includes you doing your part – and that part you are to do is your God-given purpose.
I realize this may seem simple, but trust me, I teach dozens of ministry students every year who find this idea revolutionary. What’s more, I have followed up with some (at their request) to see how they are doing in developing such an idea, and many lost sight of the idea. Furthermore, the point of this exercise, is not just about finding our purpose, but helping churches find theirs (an even bigger issue). If we do not know our purpose, then how can we know if a certain church is right for us? Sure, the Lord may lead us to a church for a variety of reasons, but this blog series is to try to help us know our part in helping the Church do her part.
With that being said, this task is not something that is done in a moment. Finding your specific purpose may take days, weeks, or months. But that does not mean that you are not making progress along the way. In fact, my recommendation to begin this process is simple. Once you have the ideas on paper, then you can begin to see how God speaks to these ideas.
So, what can you do to help find your purpose?
- Consider the end of your life? The younger you are, the more time you will have to set some intervals to achieve benchmarks, but for starters, consider what you desire others to say about you when you die. If these thoughts are deep-seeded, then it is very possible that God has planted them there at some point. Caution: This exercise is not a license to live with a desire to please others; the goal is to please God, but to consider how others will remember you because of that goal.
- Consider any gifts God has given you. Each person who chooses to follow Christ is given a gift by God. These gifts are best outlined in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, but passages like Ephesians 4 mention the idea as well (though some believe Eph 4 refers to church offices). Regardless, if the Holy Spirit is within you (and He is for all children of God – Eph 1.13-14), then you have at least one spiritual gift God has given you for the purpose of serving the church (1 Cor 12.4-7).
- Consider the aptitudes God has given you. I like the word aptitude over ability because sometimes we have not yet reached our potential. These aptitudes could be abilities, talents, skills, or something similar that you enjoy and/or are particular good at doing or could be good at doing. God made you, and thus, He gave you these aptitudes, so how might He desire you to use them?
- Consider the storms in your life. What challenges have you faced? What obstacles have you overcome? Specifically, when has God brought comfort to you in a time of need. 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 uses the word “comfort” multiple times. The essence is that God comforts us so that we can comfort others. If you have been wounded or challenged in some way, it is likely that God will put people in your life who need your guidance to work through the issue as well.
By answering these four questions, you will begin to have a perspective on your purpose. In fact, the way I teach this concept is that our Gifts, Aptitudes, and Storms are the fuel (the G-A-S) for how we will live our lives. Once we know the answer to these questions, we can begin to search Scripture for how God desires for us to live more purposefully as individuals. And once we know our purpose as individuals, we can begin to better serve His purposes for His Church.
So, take time this week to answer those questions. Take time to research any application to these ideas in Scripture. Then you will be ready to take the next step of determining how your purpose (your vision) can be met by fulfilling specific objectives (your mission, and the subject of next week’s post). Again, unless you have already begun this process, you will not likely finish your work this week, but by starting now, and by beginning to explore possibilities in the coming weeks, you will be closer to finding the true purpose God has for you.
I close this blog by sharing my vision statement with you. My vision is: To be the man God has called me to be. (Ephesians 4.1 and Ephesians 5.1)