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A previous post looked at God’s three purposes for Christian gatherings:

  • to be God’s earthly home,
  • to raise God’s children, and
  • to invite everyone into God’s family.

To accomplish those purposes, seven things have to happen. I call them the seven functions of the church. 

I acknowledge that I took the first five of these functions from Rick Warren’s excellent book, The Purpose-Driven Church. I added the last two to make explicit what he probably felt was obvious.

1. Worship: honoring God and offering ourselves

Praise, music, and testimonies proclaim God’s majesty and love, and we offer ourselves in response (Romans 12:1). The Bible describes heaven as overflowing with worship. When we truly enter into worship, we experience a foretaste of heaven. 

2. Fellowship: enjoying and caring for other Christians 

Is having fun with nice people really a spiritual thing? Jesus gave his followers a new commandment in John 13:34: 

Love one another

Fellowship is the main way we express that love.

In many churches, fellowship means potluck dinners. That’s part of it, of course, but Biblical fellowship goes much deeper. The original word comes from a root that means partner or companion. It’s doing life together. Much of that is fun, but some can be very serious.

One of my favorite Bible stories tells of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Four days after the burial, Jesus stood outside the newly unsealed tomb. Here’s what we read in John 11:43-44:

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

When Lazarus hobbled out of the tomb, he was still wrapped from head to toe in a burial shroud and smeared with seventy-five pounds of embalming ointment (John 19:39-40). Jesus left the job of unbinding him and cleaning him up to Lazarus’ friends. 

In the same way, when people come to new life in Christ, they can still be wrapped up in a lot of their old ways and smeared with some pretty sticky residue. So an important part of Christian fellowship is helping each other get free of old entanglements, cleaned up from old messes, and healed of old hurts.

3. Discipleship: helping each other become like Jesus

A disciple is one who follows a leader’s teaching or lifestyle. If the leader you follow is Jesus, then you are a Christian disciple.

Many Christians are surprised to learn that you can’t become like Jesus just by reading a book — even the Bible. Much less by listening to someone talk about it once a week! Christian discipleship is more like being an apprentice or having a coach. We learn by being around other Christians, watching them, and doing things with them as they practice their faith in their daily lives. 

4. Evangelism: inviting people into God’s family 

God’s desire is for every human being to be restored to His family (2 Peter 3:9). He wants it so much that he gave his own Son’s life to make it possible (John 3:16).

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14) 

 “Telling them” is evangelism. 

5. Service: sharing burdens and meeting needs 

Service demonstrates God’s love, and it makes us more like Jesus. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, 

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others

We become like Jesus by doing the things Jesus did. That includes helping people. 

6. Social impact: bringing the values of God’s kingdom into the culture 

For two thousand years, the driving force behind positive social change has been Christian ideals. The abolition of slavery, women’s rights, education for all, and reforms in the treatment of criminals and the mentally ill are just some of the areas where Christians have led the way. And there is still a lot of work to be done.

Jesus taught us to pray, 

Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). 

God’s will is always done in heaven. Where earth is different from heaven, God’s will is not being done. That’s a call to action for God’s people.

7. Prayer: dialogue with God for closeness, guidance, and help 

For some, prayer is reciting a set of special words. For others, it’s like phoning God and leaving a wish list on his voicemail. But God intended prayer to be so much more. 

God loves us, and we love him. People who love each other talk to each other and listen to each other. Prayer is how we talk to God, and it’s how we hear from God for comfort, guidance, and wisdom. 

Prayer is also how we ask God to help other people and make requests for ourselves. 

Some people think we shouldn’t ask God for anything less than a matter of life and death. They fear it might distract God from more important things. But as an engineer once told me, God has plenty of bandwidth. God has an infinite capacity to take care of all the big problems in the world, and our personal worries, too. In fact, God commands us to bring our concerns to him.  

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

Prayer is the lifeblood of the body of Christ. It should permeate everything else we do.


All seven of these functions of the church don’t have to happen every time Christians get together. But if any function is habitually short-changed or neglected, spiritual growth will be stunted, and the advancement of God’s kingdom will be slowed

FORWARD TO the next post in this series

BACK TO 3 Purpose of Christian Gatherings

Bio: After 38 years as a pastor, Dr. Wentz now focuses on writing. Thousands of copies of his first book, Pastoring: The Nuts and Bolts, have been distributed free to train pastors in developing and minority-Christian countries through the Doing Christianity nonprofit, which he heads. David lives in the Missouri Ozarks with his wife, Paula.

You can get a glimpse of David’s ministry and heart at his website:

David’s most recent book is When Church Stops Working: Meeting with God in Your Living Room. It is available at your Amazon site as well as its alternates, and you can also listen to it.

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