The church I grew up in was a veritable bee hive of activity, particularly for students. A typical Sunday looked like this:
- Sunday School at 9:30
- Worship at 11:00
- Ensemble at 3:30
- Choir at 5:00
- Snack Supper at 5:45
- Bible study at 6:00
- Evening worship at 7:00
- Fellowship at someone's house at 8:00
When you consider all of the other age-related and need-based ministries taking place, and all of the other business-type activities required to run the church, it be can be difficult to sort out what, exactly, a church is about at its core. Indeed, when churches become overly focused on one or more of their ministries, they slowly but surely lose sight of their original purpose.
What is that original purpose? Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 3:15 what two things a church must do if in order to thrive as a church: proclaim the truth and defend the truth.
The church, says Paul, is "the pillar and foundation of the truth."
Pillars are impressive architectural features that draw the eye up and emphasize the building's impressive height. It's a way for the building to "shout out" about the importance of things that take place in its walls. No one passes by a building with pillars without noticing it. So when Paul says that the church is the pillar of truth, he means that one of its chief functions is to proclaim the truth.
But Paul also states that the church is the "foundation" of truth (HCSB). "Buttress" is a more literal translation, albeit a less familiar architectural feature. But if you've been to Paris and seen Notre Dame, then you've seen flying buttresses built against or projecting from various walls which serve to support or reinforce those walls. When Paul says that the church is the buttress of truth, he means that her other chief function is to defend the truth: to keep up the wall of truth that is God’s Word. There’s so much false teaching in this world, and there always has been since the mystery of the gospel has been revealed, and it is the local church's role to defend or support the truth.
So, there are two things that every church must do lest it collapse: proclaim the truth, and defend truth. Whether we are ministering to God in worship, ministering to one another in discipleship, or ministering to the world on mission ... we must always be proclaiming and defending the truth.