Growth Group Week Twenty-two:
Fishers of men

Week 22
Day 1: Jude
Day 2: John 1-2
Day 3: John 3-4
Day 4: John 5-6
Day 5: John 7-8

Memory verse:
Acts 2:42
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Focal passage: Acts 2:42; Matthew 28:18–20
In the last three weeks we have clearly seen that the purpose of our lives as followers of Jesus is to be a witness to the world around us. This week we want to turn our attention to the purpose of why we gather together weekly as a church. This is one of the most important things to understand as a Christian; the difference between the purpose for the church's existence on the earth, and the purpose for the church’s weekly gatherings. There is a lot of confusion today in the body of Christ concerning these two things. The confusion isn't only among believers, but it exists among pastors and church leaders as well. Let us look at what the Bible has to say about these two very important ideas.
Let’s start by giving a clear definition of the purpose of the church. 

“The purpose of the church’s existence on the earth is for the evangelization and discipleship of all people.” 

We have seen this clearly in week 19-21 of this growth group curriculum. Without question this is the reason that the church exists on the planet today. I like what John MacArthur says in his commentary on the book of Matthew, commenting on the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:18–21.

“If a Christian understands all the rest of the gospels but fails to understand this closing passage, [Matt 28:19-20] he has missed the point of them entirely. This passage is the climax and major focal point not only of this gospel but of the entire New Testament. It is not an exaggeration to say that, in its broadest sense, it is the focal point of all Scripture, Old Testament as well as New. Jesus’ supreme command is for those who are His disciples to become His instruments for making disciples of all nations. Jesus’ own earthly ministry was to make disciples for Himself, and that is the ministry of His people. Those who truly follow Jesus Christ become “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Those who become His disciples are themselves to become disciple makers. The mission of the early church was to make disciples (see Acts 2:47; 14:21), and that is still Christ’s mission for His church.” 
(MacArthur, John: Matthew. Chicago : Moody Press, 1989, S. 335 [underline added])

If this is true, then what is the purpose of the church’s weekly and daily gatherings? Here is a simple biblical definition of the purpose of why we gather together weekly as believers.

“The purpose of the local church’s gathering is for equipping believers to go fulfill their purpose in the evangelization and discipleship of all people.”

It is clear in scripture that the reason we gather together is to get equipped to go fulfill our purpose. Often times we confuse this with the purpose of the church. The purpose of my Christianity is not to go to church and be a good person. It is to be a witness of Jesus Christ to the world around me. Many Christians are confused thinking that by going to church they are fulfilling their purpose. But our gathering together as believers is so that we might get trained to go fulfill our purpose. Here in Acts 2:42 we see this very clearly in the early church. This verse is a summary of the activities of the first few years of the first church in Jerusalem. Many believers  believe that attending church services and church events is the climax of their Christianity. But in reality it is just the vehicle which God uses to strengthen us and prepare us for our callings . John MacArthur makes this very clear as he comments on the themes that are found in Acts 2:42.

“If God’s primary purpose for the saved were loving fellowship, He would take believers immediately to heaven, where spiritual fellowship is perfect, unhindered by sin, disharmony, or loneliness. If His primary purpose for the saved were the learning of His Word, He would also take believers immediately to heaven, where His Word is perfectly known and understood. And if God’s primary purpose for the saved were to give Him praise, He would, again, take believers immediately to heaven, where praise is perfect and unending. There is only one reason the Lord allows His church to remain on earth: to seek and to save the lost, just as Christ’s only reason for coming to earth was to seek and to save the lost. “As the Father has sent Me,” He declared, “I also send you” (John 20:21). Therefore, a believer who is not committed to winning the lost for Jesus Christ should reexamine his relationship to the Lord and certainly his divine reason for existence. Fellowship, teaching, and praise are not the mission of the church but are rather the preparation of the church to fulfill its mission of winning the lost. And just as in athletics, training should never be confused with or substituted for actually competing in the game, which is the reason for all the training.
(MacArthur, John: Matthew. Chicago : Moody Press, 1989, S. 335; [underline added])

We will do all of the things mentioned in Acts 2:42 when we get to heaven and we will do them perfectly. But the one thing that we cannot do in heaven is evangelize and make disciples. So we see that it is very important to be involved in the local church. And we need to have the right perspective and vision of why we attend church. Because of the lack of a biblical perspective on church attendance many people do not see their weekly involvement in the church as a priority in their lives. They attend church casually. If something else comes up they easily push church aside. But I love the analogy John MacArthur ended with, “just as in athletics, training should never be confused with or substituted for actually competing in the game, which is the reason for all the training.” We need to realize that being a part of the local church is essential for us to fulfill our purpose in life as a follower of Jesus. The athletic analogy illustrates this point beautifully. Can you imagine telling a high school athlete that he was going to practice three hours every day but he actually was never going to play in the game. Do you think he would practice hard or be lazy in practice and skip practice as often as he could. Because there really is no reason to practice if you're not going to play in the game. This is how many Christians approach church, they never intend to actually be engaged in the Great Commission so church can be somewhat boring to them. But when you intend to go and make disciples, church becomes something that is necessary and exciting. When you have the right and biblical perspective of the purpose of gathering with believers, it changes everything. In the next few weeks we are going to break down how we are equipped to go fulfill God's purpose for our lives.

  1. Discuss the pastor’s role in leading the local church? Discuss the church’s role in discipling the sheep.
  2. Why do we as believers attend church? 
  3. How does this teaching on the purpose of the church’s gathering together change the way you approach church? Or how should this teaching impact those who go to church?
  4. What are ways you are being equipped to fulfill your purpose? How are you making sure  you are capitalizing on those opportunities? (i.e. taking notes, reading the text that’s going to be taught before church, making church a priority)
  5. How are you fulfilling your purpose in the church? In the world?

Action steps:
If gathering together as a church is for our equipping to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives, we should be passionate to be in church when equipping is happening. Make it a priority to passionately pursue coming to church regularly, and see to be involved with other opportunities to be equipped at the church. Get involved with a Life Group or a Study Group. Look for ways to be further equipped and then with all your new tools and teachings, go and fulfill your mission, the Great Commissions, every day.