In an exchange elsewhere on the Internet recently, someone told me that the purpose of church was to help us find meaning.
As someone who lived well into his adult years without being a part of church, I can tell you, you don’t need church for that. Saving baby seals and planting community gardens can do that quite well. Having children or writing poetry will give you lots of meaning.
Church is not about helping more-or-less comfortable middle-to-upper class Americans find meaning. I’m not even sure anyone can say what “finding meaning” means. It is one of those empty phrases that you can fill up with any content you like. It is a verbal empty bag.
John Wesley defined the purpose of church this way:
This is the original design of the Church of Christ. It is a body of men compacted together, in order, first, to save each his own soul; then to assist each other in working out their salvation; and, afterwards, as far as in them lies, to save all men from present and future misery, to overturn the kingdom of Satan, and set up the kingdom of Christ. And this ought to be the continued care and endeavour of every member of his Church; otherwise he is not worthy to be called a member thereof, as he is not a living member of Christ.
There are various ways people object to this definition, but it is helpful to my point here. Whatever else this definition has wrong, it has this going for it. Its purpose is recognizable as something that God wants.
I’m not familiar with the Bible anywhere expressing God’s desire that we have “meaning” in our lives. Holiness? Yes. Mercy? Yes. Love? Yes. Justice? Yes. Compassion? Yes.
So I understand if someone says the purpose of the church is to make us more loving or more holy or more merciful. But I don’t understand what people mean when they say the church is supposed to help us find meaning.
Am I wrong here? Aren’t we seriously off base if we say the purpose of church is to help us find meaning?