Discovering Your Church’s Purpose (Part 2)

(This is Part 2 of a 2-Part series. Go to this link for Part 1.)

Three Commands that Provides the Framework for Your Church’s Purpose

You may be wondering if this “strategy” is just as applicable to a secular organisation. Yes, it can be. Any organisation (whether religious, business or non-profit) can apply this strategy, except that we need to note a couple of very critical points.

We must never forget that discovering and fulfilling a church’s purpose is about doing God’s will. Hence, the first step must always be prayer; to seek the Lord for His leading. This was something Nehemiah did when he first heard the bad report about Jerusalem. The revelation and understanding about what he was to do came from his time of prayer. It is expected that pastors and church leaders are to do this first, and right through the whole process of determining the specific purpose of the church. (If a leader of a business or a non-profit organisation is a Christian, he or she should do the same. God did not intend that there be a dichotomy between the secular and the religious; everything is spiritual.)

Secondly, the church’s purpose must be etched out from a Biblical framework. The church’s purpose is not about making money; it’s bottom-line is not about profits. Or, even about growing bigger and faster, and having a nicer building than the other churches in town. The framework of a church’s purpose is shaped by the three Biblical commands: 1. The Great Commission, 2. The Great Commandment, and 3. The Great Mandate.

The Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) is about making disciples. If we fail to do this, even if we might be pursuing some other noble cause and succeed at it, we have failed as the Church of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of the Kingdom is about saving lost people and transforming them into Christlikeness, and then engaging them in the mission of the Kingdom of God. Everything we do must begin and end with the Great Commission as our primary objective. That must shape a church’s purpose.

The second piece of the framework is the Great Commandment. Jesus said, “The most important one [commandment] is this: ‘…Love the Lord your God with all  your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’….” (Mk 12:29-31). The church is called to love God and people. If our purpose does not lead us to love God and people then there must be something amiss with our purpose. It cannot be God’s purpose. If making disciples is the church’s primary objective; love is the church’s primary motive in all that we do.

The third piece of the framework is the Great Mandate (or, Creation Mandate), which the Lord gave to the first man and woman. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” (Gen 1:28). The Lord’s mandate to mankind: To take charge of His world; has not been revoked. He made us His stewards, and as stewards we are to care for the world; not just consume its resources. It is also about how we manage (govern) our society, champion in matters of social justice and care for the marginalised. How a church carries out its purpose must not violate the Great Mandate; rather it must ensure that its purpose fulfils it.

A couple of examples of what a church can do includes cleaning up the streets and side-walks, and planting trees around the community. Not only does this fulfil the Great Mandate, the concern and care for the environment is a powerful witness to people around the church about the values of the Kingdom of God.  On a larger scale, we have the efforts of a number of Singaporean churches working in concert to carry out sustainable development in every province in the nation of Timor Leste. This is an incredible testimony to the Church of Jesus Christ which in turn gives it credibility and opportunity to witness to a whole nation.

When a church thinks about its purpose it needs to ask:

  1. Does our purpose fulfil the Great Commission?
  2. Does our purpose express the Great Commandment?
  3. Does our purpose honour the Great Mandate?
  4. How is our purpose guided by these three parts of the Biblical framework?

The church is not to do something simply because the need is there or because it feels like doing it. Neither does it just do anything simply because it has the resources to do it. Why the church is doing whatever it is doing must be guided by the above Biblical framework.


Putting the three components and the three commandments together is one of the best ways to help your church determine a clear Biblical purpose that is specific to it. But don’t do this by simply putting on your thinking cap. Do this with much prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit to show you the heart of the Father.

For Your Church Leaders’ Group Discussion

  1. What needs do we see in the community where our church is located?*
  2. What are we passionate about?
  3. What abilities and resources do we have?
  4. Where do the needs, our passion and our abilities align?
  5. How might we express in a statement what we believe may be the Lord’s specific purpose for our church?
  6. Does our purpose fulfil the Great Commission?
  7. Does our purpose express the Great Commandment?
  8. Does our purpose honour the Great Mandate?
  9. How is our purpose guided by these three parts of the Biblical framework?
  10. Does the purpose statement we wrote earlier need changing or refining in light of the Biblical framework? How might we express it better?

* This process may be used to determine your church’s purpose beyond your immediate community. But it’s good to begin here.


Discovering Your Church’s Purpose (Part 1)

Most churches would say that their mission is guided by Jesus’ Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Mt 28:18-20).  It is impossible, however, for any one local church to make disciples of all the nations of the world. That is simply the general commission to churches everywhere by which each church is to determine its specific calling about the “where?”, the “whom?” and the “how?”; and maybe even the “when?”. 

How a church determines all that is what we want to explore in this discussion.

If a church is not clear about its specific purpose it is likely to end up doing “anything and everything”, and accomplishing “nothing”. It may even try to muster up spiritual gifts and resources it doesn’t have to meet a need that it has no real passion for; while the talents it does have are not fully utilised. Inevitably, this will result in ineffective ministries and less than fruitful missions.

On the other hand, if a church is clear about its purpose it can focus its resources and energy on it. The result is obviously going to be much greater. It has the same effect as using a magnifying glass to train the rays of the sunlight onto a specific spot on a piece of paper. Very quickly the concentrated energy of the sunlight on that one focussed point will cause the paper to catch fire. That’s the power of a clear purpose when a church has it (or, for that matter, any organisation or individual).

Three Components That Help Determine Your Church’s Purpose

How can a church know what its specific purpose is? Three important components come into play: 1. Need, 2. Passion, and 3. Ability.

What needs do you see around your church?  You can be absolutely certain that the Lord is calling your church to meet one or more of those needs. You may contend that the Great Commission points us to make disciples of all the nations of the world. That is correct. However, the fulfilment of the Great Commission worldwide begins with a ministry to the community where the Lord has established your church. That’s the principle of Acts 1:8; our witness begins with our Jerusalem and spreading further afield till it reaches the ends of the earth.

Needs alone, however, cannot define the calling of your church. For the simple reason, there are so many needs out there; even just within the community where your church is located. So, how do we determine what needs the Lord is calling us to meet?

One important guiding factor has to do with our affinity to the need. Which needs tug at your heart? Which needs do you identify with? Which needs are you passionate about? When we feel strongly for something or are convinced that this is something we have to do we will be much more enthusiastic about meeting that need.

Nonetheless, passion alone is insufficient. Passion may drive us but it cannot meet the need. Only a corresponding ability will enable us to meet that need. In the economy of God’s Kingdom, if the Lord is directing you to minister to a certain need He will also give you the ability and resources to meet that need. To quote the renown missionary of the 19th Century, Hudson Taylor, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

Hence the three components: Need, Passion and Ability; when they align together, they give you the Purpose of your church.

Nehemiah is a great example of an individual who knew his purpose in life. After receiving the report about the sorry condition of Jerusalem he went into his prayer closet to seek the Lord. Jerusalem had to be rebuilt (Neh 1:1-4). Not only did he see the need, he also felt compelled to take personal responsibility to lead the charge (Ch 2:5, 17). The subsequent details in the story paint a picture of a man who was driven with intense passion. The condition of the city either glorified or reflected badly on the Name of the Lord. He could not allow Jerusalem to remain in its deplorable condition. Jerusalem had to be restored; beginning with the rebuilding of the walls that provided protection for the city.

Nehemiah was God’s man.  The Lord had already prepared Nehemiah by giving him a certain amount of political clout (Ch 2:1, 7) and immense leadership, administrative and organisational skills (Ch 2:7-8, 11-6, 17-18) to fulfil the calling that He had laid upon his heart.

These three components that were operating in Nehemiah’s life are also present in every church. To determine the purpose of the church the leadership needs to spend time seeking the Lord for His leading while asking themselves the following questions:

  1. What needs do we see in the community where our church is located?
  2. What are we passionate about?
  3. What abilities and resources do we have?
  4. Where do the needs, our passion and our abilities align?

After more than forty years of its establishment an English-speaking middle-class church in Penang started a work among the lower-income dialect-speaking people in the community around their church. This was because they could see that that was what the Lord was telling them to do. They were also willing and able. Today, since 16 years ago, the church has a thriving Hokkien-speaking congregation and a life-changing ministry to the needs of the people in that enclave.

(Click on the link to Part 2)