What is the church for? This is not a major public question in the UK these days but when it arises, the answers vary from interesting to concerning.
'Community benefit' is a key phrase - the church is to serve the needs of the community and to provide the space/facilities for what people want to do, irrespective of whether or not these are God's priorities.
'Social conscience' is another - the church is to be the voice of compassion in society and act as a political spur to government.
'Spiritual affirmation' - the concept that if the church blesses something then God positively approves, even if it contravenes God's Word and the people do not normally even want God's commendation.
'Emotional reassurance' - at times of distress or loss the church says that God cares.
There is some truth in each of these answers, but a recent AI search is more encouraging: "... the church is the community of people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and who follow His teachings and commands. The church has a three-fold purpose: to edify its members, to evangelize the world, and to glorify God."
But how are churches going to do it?
In many churches, a divide separates the church into a few players who are paid to perform and many spectators who come in their leisure time to enjoy or critique the performance; paid staff and volunteers; the holy and the ordinary.
Apart from the obvious fact that there are far fewer pastors than believers, and that the vast bulk of giftedness and energy is to be found in the non-leaders, Ephesians 4:11-13 says that the function of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is: "...to equip God's people for works of service ...".
Without that kind of equipping, no church can do its work or prepare the next generation.
There are three primary functions of Christian leadership - to Proclaim the truth (in disciplemaking and evangelism), to Protect the church (by identifying and refuting error), and to Equip God's people to fulfil whatever He has gifted them to do. PPE!
PPE is a memorable abbreviation which we can well borrow from covid days.
However, for many church leaders the priority of 'Equipping' is often very low, or assumed that it is covered by 'teaching'. But there is a difference between teaching and equipping/training. Teaching explains the 'what' and the 'why' to everybody. Training personalises the 'how, where, when and who' and encourages each believer to put the teaching into practice for the spiritual benefit of others.
Without training, the church may have Biblical information but does not know how to apply it in ministering to others. If the church fails to equip all the believers in the different areas in which God has gifted them, the minister gets worn out, the church shrivels and the gospel does not go out to the community.
When BeaconLight started, we ran face-to-face training courses which re-energised hundreds of churches as thousands of believers received doctrinally accurate and practical training in evangelism, personal lifestyle management, and ministry skills.
Some of those courses are still being used in the UK and also in Pastors' Conferences in the majority world - where national leaders are trained to equip their churches to use CrossCheck in evangelism and Truth Unlocked in disciplemaking. BeaconLight is now revising some other courses to be used in Nigeria.
Please pray that church leaders will invest their energies in all the PPE areas, and that BeaconLight will continue to expand its resources to help gospel ministers to identify the giftedness God has put into the church and equip all the believers to be a practical and potent beacon-light for Christ in the church, their workplace and community.