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Keeping The Church In Its Place

Hank Aaron's major league baseball career spanned the years 1954 through 1976. Along the way he proved he knew a little bit about the purpose of a baseball bat. He hit 755 home runs, passing the great and storied Babe Ruth's long standing record, and stands just behind Barry Bonds' 762 career homers. J. M. Boice tells a story involving Yogi Berra who once played catcher for the New York Yankees, and Aaron who at the time was the power hitter for the (then) Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series. As usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter — to cheer on his teammates on the one hand, and to distract Milwaukee batters on the other. As Boice tells it, when Aaron came to bat.  Yogi sought to distract him by saying, "Henry, you're holding the bat wrong. You're supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark." Aaron didn't say a word, and when the next pitch came he blasted it into the left field bleachers. He rounded the bases and as he tagged home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi and said, "I didn't come here to read" (Learning to Lead, Revell, 1990; p 38). When Hank Aaron came to the plate to bat, he had a single goal in mind: to take his baseball bat and send the baseball out of the park. His record proves he had a purpose, knew what it was, and pursued it with a single-minded passion and focus.

What is the purpose of the church? Judging by the activity (and in many cases inactivity) that can be observed in the lives of many Christians and congregations, it would seem many are unclear on what the church's primary purpose really is. Hold services? Keep house for the Lord? Provide a comfortable place for members to worship? Simply provide a menu of ministries to meet and satisfy members' needs? To, as has been creatively expressed, "hatch 'em (be there when babies are born), match 'em (be there to provide weddings), and dispatch 'em (perform funerals). The Bible gives God's own high and lofty purpose statement for the church in Ephesians 3:10-11: to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord! It is difficult to fully explore and explain this statement in our limited space. In context this statement reveals that God' s plan and purpose for His church was in His mind before the beginning of time, and that she will continue to be His primary means of displaying the depth and beauty of His wisdom until Christ returns! In the church of Christ, Jew and Gentile and people of every other conceivable kind of diversity and difference are reconciled to each other and to God. In this way, the church is living and irrefutable proof to a divided, fragmented world, not only that God desires that people be saved and brought together in one body, but that through Christ and His cross the Father is able to accomplish that goal and purpose! How big a role does the church play in your thinking and life? If God purposed from eternity that the church occupy a central place in His plan to save man, shouldn't it occupy. more than an hour or so a week in your life and mine? "Christ . . . loved the church and gave Himself for it" (Ephc-sians 5:25b).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ