The Purpose of the Local Church
This post first appeared at Biblical Counseling for Women
The church is called the “pillar and support of the truth” by Paul. God’s Word has been preserved and passed along throughout the ages by the church. Anyone who wants to grow in the knowledge of the truth and to learn more about God should find a local church that honors and teaches the Bible. They will benefit from the teaching ministry which is offered there.
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
One-Another ministry, or caring for souls or “soulcare”, belongs in the context of your local church. If we take an honest look at our churches in our lifetime, we have to admit that we have often neglected to care for the souls of our church family in this context.
The apostle Paul explained that the church was the “body of Christ” with Jesus as its “head.”
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
Paul’s description emphasizes the relationship that each believer and the local church has to Jesus. Since the church consists of people who believe in and follow their Savior Jesus Christ, they are under His rule, and He works through them. Anyone wanting to draw closer to Jesus and experience His working in their lives will greatly benefit from coming into association with a local body of believers.
God’s Word instructs believers not to neglect gathering together with other believers. Our purpose as One-Another ministers is to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, both within our churches and in our spheres of influence outside the church. Without the local church to edify, encourage, and equip believers, this purpose cannot be fulfilled.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
The care that believers had for one another in Acts 2 has continued in various forms through the years. It can be defined as “believers speaking the Truth in love anchored in the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit.” In our culture, it is called by many names such as:
*Discipling *Mentoring *Teaching *Biblical Counseling *Pastoral Counseling *Spiritual Guidance *Spiritual Formation *Friendship *Spiritual Friendship *Soulcare
We Need Soulcare
A church with a culture of soulcare will bear much fruit. All believers need soulcare, not just those who are struggling. We all need One-Another ministry in various forms. We do have a tendency in our churches today to neglect the hurting believer.
Hurting individuals used to be taken care of primarily by the local church, but are now often referred out to secular sources of help that will not provide true soulcare. Those sources can have some benefit for learning some behavior management that brings some relief, but they will not provide what we see in our definition of soulcare — “speaking the Truth in love anchored in the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit.”
For a believer to have lasting change and hope, she must be helped with some form of soulcare, preferably within her local church. Another good choice would be help from a Biblically-based counseling ministry if none is available in the local church. Biblical Counselors are glad to provide counseling to those who come to them from other churches, but all of them would agree that the best scenario would be that local churches become well equipped to counsel, disciple, mentor, teach, and befriend their own church family.
(Please realize that there can be an appropriate time for someone to seek Biblical help outside of their local church. If someone’s problems are serious enough that they are seeking counseling, the only option may be an outside Biblical Counselor who can help for a season. The counselor’s goal will be to return the woman to her local church for further discipleship once the counseling has ended. If a person is in need of medical assistance or medication, that has to be addressed by a licensed professional. Even if that is the case, she will need good One-Another relationships in her church family as she undergoes whatever kind of treatment she and her doctor choose.)
Let’s caution against creating an environment in our churches where literally all we talk about are our struggles and problems, but let’s also provide opportunities for hurting people (aren’t we all hurting at some time or other?) to get the soulcare they need, through excellent One-Another relationships. These One-Another relationships are based on the many “one-another passages” in the Bible, practicing them in the context of relationships with other believers.
Where Do You Fit?
Paul explains that gifted people have been given to the church in order to bring believers to a place of fruitfulness in service and maturity.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
We often say that someone is “called to full-time ministry.” True, some believers engage in ministry vocationally, but does that mean that other believers are not engaging in ministry? Of course not. We are all full-time ministers, or we are not ministering at all. You, too, are called to full-time ministry. We all are. One-Another relationships are a ministry, and the lifestyle of a believer. We all are given different gifts useful to specific types of One-Another ministry, but everyone has a ministry of soulcare.
Where do you fit in? How do you see yourself gifted for One-Another ministry? Are you confident about your ability to minister to women and girls? What are your insecurities about it? Take some time to talk with the Lord about how He wants to use you in your relationships in your local church.
As you engage in your church, be sure to help others to engage in the opportunities the church provides for their ongoing growth. Let’s encourage one another to worship, fellowship, prayer, devotion, study, memorization, service, and discipleship.
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