When you hear the word church, do you picture a little white building full of smiling people in fancy clothes? As lovely as that image may be, God’s design for church is unrelated to it. He created the church to be a unified fellowship of believers who encourage each other and carry out His ministry to the world.
The Bible clearly defines the following as ministries of the church: worshipping the living God, instructing and edifying believers, making disciples of all nations, and serving the needy. Unless the leadership is careful, however, these purposes can all too easily get out of balance, with the unfortunate result that the body ends up malnourished. For example, a church with too heavy an emphasis on praise could become introverted. Congregations that overemphasize teaching might lose their joy, and those that evangelize to the neglect of the other areas could miss out on great faith.
Because of sin and human imperfection, we do not experience church as it was originally intended. Instead, there’s a tendency to overemphasize certain ministry areas. What’s more, divisive arguments—many of which concern minor issues, such as music preferences or clothing choices—too often destroy church unity. Greed, pride, selfishness, and gossip can also tear a congregation apart.
Since they’re composed of imperfect people, churches will be imperfect too, and expecting anything else will lead to disappointment. Nonetheless, we should strive for God’s original design, continually measuring ourselves against Scripture and correcting course to realign with His purpose.