There are hundreds of books talking about the purpose or function of a church. Yet, to find the Biblical function of a church we must consult the Bible rightly divided.
The church is the congregation of the saints of God, and in today’s dispensation we are the church known in the Bible as the body of Christ. Read ‘What is the Church?’ for more information.
Contrary to popular belief, meeting together as a church is not to be the focus of all Christian activity. The focus of our ministry is to be in the ministering to those who are blinded to the glorious light of the gospel (2 Cor 4:1-6). There are many people who are blinded within church buildings, but there are many more outside church buildings.
The Pillar and the Ground of the Truth
A usual gathering of believers consists of a congregation of saints within which there may be pastors or teachers. The Bible describes the purpose of these pastors and teachers:
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” – Eph 4:12
So then, the leaders of the assembly are supposed to equip the saints to go do the ‘work of the ministry’. They are supposed to ‘edify’, or build up, the Body of Christ.
Knowing that the purpose of a church congregation is to build each other up, it is no wonder then, that Paul calls the church the ‘pillar and the ground of the truth’ (1 Tim 3:15).
The Bible says that this edification within the church comes from Scripture:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. “ – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Making known the Manifold Wisdom of God
Within church meetings there should be much study of the Scriptures if the church is ever going to fulfill the function of building each other up. The church is given the vital task of ‘making known the manifold wisdom of God’ (Eph 3:10).
We would be negligent of our God given commission if we did not redeem the necessary time to ‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15).
We should use the time that we meet as a church much in the same way that a football team does during the half time break of a football game. While the real battle is out on the field, the team needs to come together and rest, encourage one another, go over the plays, and motivate each other to finish the game.
Likewise, meetings of the church should be similar as God’s ambassadors fight the battle of doctrine. We meet to rest, encourage one another, review and install doctrine, and then motivate one another to continue doing the work of the ministry.
Just as a football team’s focus is not the half time break, the church’s focus is not on the meeting together, it is to fulfill God’s will to ‘see all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2:4). To do this we need to be equipped by the word of God.
Meeting with more experienced and studied saints who work for your edification is a great way to get equipped by the Scriptures.
Unlike many churches, the Bible leaves no instructions for the congregation of believers to create Christian basketball teams, hold bake sales to raise missionary money, or to be a place for sleepovers and Christian concerts. These are activities to attract unbelievers unawares into the church. Yet, the function of a congregation of saints is not for the unbeliever. It is for the edification of the believer.
All of those activities are good to be used to perform the work of the ministry, but they do not perform the function of the church – edification of the saints. Proper edification comes from teaching the Scriptures.
They would be better performed unto those outside the church, for those who need to see athletes, businessmen, and entertainers who honor God and know the truth in their normal course of life. In other words, we need to do the work out on the field.
The meeting of the church is not to be the locale of a Christianized community. Instead, it is supposed to be where saints can be edified to go out and do the work of Christ IN the community.
The church should function for the perfecting of the saints through the teaching of sound doctrine so that we…
“…may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of Life…” – Phil 2:15-16