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: worshiping 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 might become introverted. Congregations that overemphasize teaching could 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 overstress certain ministry areas. What's more, divisive arguments--many of which concern minor issues, such as music preferences--too often destroy unity. Greed, pride, selfishness, and gossip can also tear a congregation apart.
Since they're composed of imperfect people, churches will be imperfect too. Though expecting anything else leads to disappointment, we should nonetheless strive for God's original design, continually measuring ourselves against Scripture and correcting course to realign with His purpose.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.