Why does the local church exist? Why do we gather together each Lord’s Day for Scripture, Sacrament, Prayer, Song, and Fellowship? What are your Minister, Elders, and Deacons trying to accomplish in their labors? And what should we all seek as we “speak the truth in love”?
Many churches speak of their goal in ministry as ‘creating a movement’ or ‘influencing culture.’ But Christ has appointed His Word & Sacrament for the ingathering of the elect and their conformity to His image, which all resounds to God’s glory. Paul refers to this great goal in his letter to the Galatian churches. They were abandoning the gospel that he had preached to them, so he was troubled, even going so far to say that he was again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. You see, Paul’s goal was not some conversion experience: saying the ‘sinner’s prayer’ or counting raised-hands. He spread the word for the sake of maturity, Christ-likeness. This text in Galatians 4:19 is one reason that the Church has often spoken of “spiritual formation” as a goal of the ministry – that Christ is formed in you.
Why do we call you to worship twice each Lord’s Day and administer the Supper each week? Why do we hold a Prayer Service? Why do our Elders pray for you, visit you, and look after you? Why do the Deacons promote works of mercy within the church? And why must we all be committed to serving and loving one another? That Christ might be formed in us.
Formation begins with the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, because no human can perform this spiritual work of new creation; only the Holy Spirit can. He accompanies the Word and evokes our Prayer and Song. Just as He accompanied the speech of the Father and formed that blessed first creation (Gen. 1:2), He is today forming and filling the new creation, the Church, as the gospel goes forth.
Your leaders are not seeking to create a ‘movement’ or to manipulate your emotions into having ‘religious experiences’. And we are not orchestrating things in the church to impress or influence the culture. Rather, we do all things for the sake of the church’s spiritual formation, trusting that the Lord will gather His elect into our midst and that the Spirit will renew us in the image of Christ. May Westside Reformed Church grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:15).