|What is the purpose or the work of the local church? Generally people come up with all kinds of "works" and ministries that the local assembly should be doing, but unfortunately, this is all wrong. The people who are a part of the local church are to do NOTHING! There is no assigned task given to the local church except that the sheep are to come to the church, do nothing, but listen to the shepherd or shepherds teach God's Word in order to grow and mature, so that they individually can go forth to minister what they personally are supposed to do for His service. |
There can certainly be Sunday school teachers who carry out the teaching ministry of the pastor(s) in order to mature the sheep. But otherwise, there is no assignment given to the local church, no "doing" that the people are supposed to carry out as a commission. The NT makes this clear but it is often missed or overlooked by the pastors or shepherds.
Christ gave to the church "Pastors (Shepherds) (indeed, that is) Teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 5:12). Note: it is the people who are in the ministry, not the pastor. The pastor is the teacher to mature and "grow up" the church saints that they may do the work of the ministry!
Going out the church door the people are to reach their lost friends for Christ. In the local congregation they are to support each other with love. Within the church, they are not to be busy bees with a lot of activity that can be time-wasters and that are not the main functions of the church as a local organization.
"Shepherds indeed Teachers" seems to be the way the passage should be translated. In other words, the Shepherds are to Shepherd by teaching the Word of God so that the flock can mature and do the work of the ministry. In this sense, the Shepherd is not in the ministry, the people are. He is to be the shepherd!
Hoehner on this says: "Teaching in the local assembly should have authority when based on Scripture. … The pastors should teach the revelation of God authoritatively. … Shepherding includes instruction."
Charles Hodge notes: "The apostle intended to designate the same persons at once pastors and teachers. … Every pastor was required to be apt to teach. This interpretation is given by Augustine and Jerome. … In this interpretation the modern commentators almost without exception concur."
Thus, the sheep are to come to the assembly and listen and learn, grow up and mature, and then carry out their role of evangelizing and loving the fellow-brother in Christ.
Paul says the main task of the local church is to teach the sheep the Word of God. Note: "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having RECEIVED THE WORD with much tribulation ..." (1 Thess. 1:6). And, "You RECEIVED from us the Word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the WORD OF GOD ..." (2:13). Also: "Your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows even greater" (2 Thess. 1:3).
Is the LOCAL CHURCH given a specific task to carry out, except for teaching God's Word? The shocker is NO!
The founder of Dallas Seminary, Lewis S. Chafer, points this out with force and clarity! He writes:
"No responsibility or service is imposed on the [local] church per se. The common phrase, 'the church's task,' is, therefore, without Biblical foundation. It is only when individuals sense their personal responsibility and claim personal divine enablement that Christian work is done. … The 'church which is His body' has for its mission to build itself up until the body is, complete (Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 2:19), but the visible church, as such, is charged with no mission. The commission to evangelize the world is personal and NOT corporate. So far as the Scripture story goes, the work of evangelization was done by individuals called directly of the Spirit to that work (Acts 8:5, 26-27, 39; 13:2, etc.). There is no trace of any corporate responsibility attaching to 'the church.'" (Systematic Theology, IV, 149-150)
Chafer goes on and talks about the abiding main purpose of the Pastor, that is, the Shepherd in the local congregation:
"They are to be trained is indicated in Ephesians 4:11-12. The saints are to be equipped for this service by the gifted men whom God has placed over them as their leaders. … The pastor and teacher is responsible for the equipment of those given into his care. This includes an accurate knowledge of the truth. … The one who is taught will 'hold the truth in love.' … The body is to be self-building up in love. 'Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular' (1 Cor. 12:27)." (Systematic Theology, IV, 68-71)
Conclusion: The local church has no specific commission given to it by the apostle Paul. The pastor is to teach the Word of God in order to mature the sheep, who will then go forth and share the gospel and the truth with those outside the church building. -- Dr. Mal Couch (10/10)