Repurposing The Church

By Glen Elliott

Restoring an old piece of furniture to its original glory is a beautiful thing. But there is a vast difference between restoring and repurposing. People can be quite creative in repurposing an old piece of furniture. Since circumstances have changed, some relics of the past no longer serve a useful purpose in the present.

However, repurposing has no place in restoring the pattern of New Testament Christianity. Repurposing the church betrays a belief that the original is no longer adequate to meet present needs. But, the words of Christ are forever relevant and convey an unchanging purpose to those who are His followers (Matt.24:35; 28:18-20). Millions in darkness stand in need of what Christ offered in the first century. How can we tell them that such is no longer adequate to meet their needs – that things have changed – that we are different people, living in a different culture, requiring a differing purpose?

Clearly stated in Scripture is the Lord’s purpose of seeking and saving the lost (Lk.19:10). His purpose meets our most pressing need: salvation from our sins. This basic need has not changed. “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl.1:9). So far as the nature of man is concerned, we are all sinners who need a Savior (Rom.3:23).

Those who seek to restore the pattern of New Testament Christianity in the 21st century must seek also to restore His purpose as the primary reason for the church’s existence. Because so many have repurposed the church to meet their own needs and desires, we have seen a corresponding lack of focus on teaching and preaching the gospel. We have been deceived into thinking that we can do His work without His word – that we can socialize lost souls into the kingdom. But, when focus is shifted away from Christ and His word, we have repurposed the church according to our own desires.

Our mission is accomplished by preaching the gospel (Mk.16:15-16). Scripture says, “They shall all be taught of God” (Jn.6:45). We do not absorb people into His church by creating loyalty to us rather than to Christ. We do not ground people in the faith by keeping them entertained, but by making them disciples of the Lord. Many are ill-equipped to know the difference between the New Testament church and the repurposed, counterfeit version of the church as it exists in our world today. The difference is seen in “preaching the word” or accumulating “teachers in accordance to (our) own desires” (II Tim.4:2-3).