Three Functions of a Church

Justin Johnson

There are three functions of a Pauline church.

They were established by the foundation layers of the church two thousand years ago. They were confirmed by the Spirit gifted apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers when the church was formed. They were inspired under the ordained supervision of Paul as the masterbuilder (1 Cor 3:10; 1 Cor 14:37).

Now that the foundation is laid, the gifts are no more, but the functions remain.

If you are starting a church established after the Pauline pattern and don’t know the growth plan, this is it. They are defined in Ephesians 4:12.

  1. The perfecting of the saints
  2. For the work of the ministry
  3. For the edifying of the body of Christ

Perfecting Saints

You might think that the first function would be evangelism, but evangelism is an activity you can only do with unbelievers outside the church, not with believers inside the church.

The church is filled with saints: saved persons.

The first function in a church is perfecting/ maturing/ presenting the saints complete in Christ.

A church is not equipped to do ministry work if the workmen are all babies in understanding. Sinners just saved can easily share the gospel they believe, but are not equipped to understand the Bible, grow up into Christ, know his will, or walk worthy of their new vocation.

“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:” – Col 1:28

First, they need to grow. They have faith. Good. They need to be faithful to God’s word rightly divided (1 Cor 4:1-2).

Work of the Ministry

There is a goal to maturing saints in spiritual understanding. That is that they might walk worthy (Col 1:10).

A church that teaches Jesus Christ according to the mystery should preach the 3 steps to walking worthy.

Bible study alone is not a properly functioning church. Churches produce workmen that put their doctrine to work in themselves and in others.

There is a time when you are served, but then a time when you must become the servant.

We practice working so we can make work our practice, and walk worthy of our vocation in the Lord (Eph 4:1, Col 4:17).

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” – Ephesians 4:1

Edifying the Body of Christ

When the saints in the church have been equipped with sound doctrine and are able to walk worthy, then the church grows naturally.

Mature saints walking worthy of their calling to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery cannot help but see the need for others to learn the truth.

This is where real edification happens. The church is built from the inside out as these pillars of the church help teach, preach, and care for the saints that need to grow. This creates more workmen.

The church grows from the outside in as their work ministers to new believers who need to hear the truth preached with conviction and authority for the first time.

“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-5


There are many other activities that churches do.

Frankly, those activities are not what a church is supposed to be doing. The church is responsible for being the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

A properly functioning Pauline church will perform these three functions to the benefit of others in the truth.

The functions of a church have not changed for thousands of years. The church does not need a revolution in its purpose, it needs the revelation about what it is supposed to be doing. That revelation is found in Ephesians 4.

If your church is not performing one or all of these functions, it is sick. It may be incurable if the foundations of the church are not Pauline. Leave before you catch it.

If what is described above is foreign to you, come visit ours, or consider starting such a church in your area.

Learn the doctrine. Do the work. Build the church (Eph 4:12).

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Published: November 29, 2014
Last Modified: August 15, 2018
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