What are we to do as a congregation?

What are We to Do?

By Pr. Rich Futrell

Every Christian congregation has a worship service (if not, it’s not a “church”).  Usually, there’s also some Bible study.  Congregations also have, as part of their congregational lives, funerals, weddings, confirmations, and so on.  But beyond that, what should we do as a congregation?  Apart from the Divine Service, what should we decide to do corporately using our time, talents, and treasures?

First, let’s consider what Scripture teaches about the purpose of the local congregation.  Acts 2:42 gives us a basic outline: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayer.”  This tells us that, from the beginning, the New Testament Church was:

1)     devoted to the Apostles’ doctrine,

2)     devoted to fellowship (sharing what they had in common),

3)     breaking bread (this refers to the Lord’s Supper), and

4)     having the Prayer (an expression referring to a formal, liturgical order of worship).

Three of these areas are covered in our “Sunday Morning” routine.  Acts 2 then goes on to talk about how the early Christians cared for one another–they shared all their possessions.

This shows us another purpose of the congregation–to care for one another!  Yet, nowhere does Scripture give us detailed instructions about “how” to do this.  So what’s a congregation like us to do?

Perhaps, the following categories can help us better decide what to do as a congregation.


First, We Do What We Must Do

These are the “no brainers” to have Word-and-Sacrament ministry at a given place and time.  These are the core purposes of a congregation.  We are to exist to ensure the four mandates that Jesus gave to His Apostles continues where we live and breathe.

First, we are disciple by baptizing and teaching (Mt 28:19-20).  Second, we are to preach repentance into the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47).  Third, we are to be a place for the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-23).  Fourth, we are to forgive (and if needed, retain) the sins of others (John 20:22-23).  For these to take place, we need to do stuff like pay the pastor, have grape wine and wheat bread, learn the faith, and so on.  These are the prime (but not only) reasons we exist as a congregation.  If we aren’t focused on these areas as the center of our congregational life, then we have no need to exist.


Does It Serve the Gospel?

What we believe is to form and shape all we say and do, individually and as a congregation.  What we collectively do is to be formed and shaped by the new selves given us in Christ Jesus.  It’s not just what we may “want” to do.  We should ask, “Will it serve the Gospel in some way?”  If not, then let’s not do it?  If it does, then it’s something for us to consider.


What Others Need

People’s needs vary from place to place.  This is a matter of knowing what people need, both inside and outside the congregation.  Here, Galatians 6:10 helps us choose whom we should help first: “As we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those in the household of faith.”  Our means are not without limit, so we have to choose whom to help.  Yet, the more each of us sacrificially gives, the more we can help those inside and outside the congregation, because we will have more money to help address their needs.


What are Our Skills?

God blesses each congregation with people having different and diverse skills.  In the life of a congregation, these talents change.  That’s why what a congregation does (apart from the Divine Service) changes over time.  It’s as an adage I once heard, “We manage our weaknesses, but operate from our strengths.”  Why not choose what we do based on our strengths and our skills?  This is simply a matter of managing the talents God has given us (stewardship).


Is it Good Stewardship?

Money is always an issue.  Remember, it’s God’s money we’re spending.  He calls us to do so wisely.  Jesus tells us to consider the cost of discipleship.  If the money spent will not confess Christ in some way through Word or deed, then we are being poor managers of what God has given us.


What Confession and Witness Will It Give?

Remember, others will see what we do as a congregation.  Even non-believers will take note of the faith-filled acts we do.  Yet, are there other projects or events that could give the wrong impression?


Some Final Thoughts

Be careful to avoid acting only in our congregation’s “best interests.”  We are part of a synod.  We are part of the Church, the Body of Christ!

Avoid major projects that have the support of only a few people, or only one individual.  Even the pastor shouldn’t decide by himself the overall course in these external actions that a congregation takes.  This is the Body of Christ living out the faith at a given place and time, not one individual doing so.

In areas that are not central to the faith, it’s not a catastrophe to fail!  For such areas are externals that we choose to do; they aren’t mandates from Christ.  If we are not watering down the faith, then let us remember that God’s forgiveness also exists for us as a congregation.  Amen.


  1. The phrase, “worship service,” is a relatively recent anomaly that has crept into church communications. It has become somewhat irksome to me every time I have had the misfortune of encountering it . It is redundant and semantically incorrect. Yet, in usage, it empties the two words of their respective contents and leaves one wondering what it is that is being described after all. I for one plead for the removal of that incorrect phrase from all forms of communication. Please.