In the Bible study workshop two questions were written on the board: who is God to you? And what is the purpose of Christianity?
We actually had more kids than expected in the workshop, so I got to stay on as a volunteer and pair up with a student, Vhuhwauho, to discuss these questions.
After just a few moments of thought, she responded, “the purpose of Christianity is to bring people to God.”
I was amazed. In such a simple and succinct answer, she addressed a profound truth. In worship, evangelism, mission, liturgy, communion, fellowship, reading scripture, all of it goes toward the goal of bringing people to God.
The question, “what is the purpose of Christianity?” is an interesting one too. It’s something I haven’t heard addressed in western contexts. We are often focused on reconciling the existence of God and science or discussing the historical accounts of Jesus. We ask, “where is the proof for God?” or “isn’t their a grain of truth in all of the world religions?” instead of critically thinking about the church. I believe that apologetic questions are important, and that indeed, we should always be prepared to give and reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), but shouldn’t we first establish what we are hoping for? When we ask, “what is the purpose of Christianity?” I contend that we are really asking, “What is the church? Why do we have the church? And what should we expect from the church?”
Vhuhwauho’s answer is clear: the purpose of the church is to advance the gospel. Jesus died on the cross so that sinners like you and I could enter into relationship with God. Experiencing the truth of the gospel goes far beyond simply hearing that Christ died for us. It’s believing this truth, letting it transform your life, and walking humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). The gospel is the only way through which humans can be brought to God. It is the rock upon which the church is built (Matthew 16:18) and ultimately why I have come to South Africa to work on a waste management project in Mamelodi.
The gospel, or good news that Jesus came to die for our sins and bring people to God, pushes ordinary people to go out and take extraordinary action for the Kingdom of God. It inspires people to care for the orphan and widow (James 1:27), to invite strangers into your house (Hebrews 13:2), to love their enemies (Luke 6:27), be radically generous (Matthew 19:21), and take up your cross to follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).
I am just another broken sinner, but the gospel has captured my heart and I can never go back. I can’t chase the American dream of a white picket fence and steady paycheck. He has set my mind on the things above (Colossians 3:2), and I now see the things of this earth with eyes wide open (John 9:25). Waste in a South African township, and even more so in an informal settlement, is not glamorous, but being here, now, I feel aligned with God’s will. And that is the best feeling in the world. My hopes are to see the Kingdom of God built on earth and experience God’s character in new cultures. Please pray with me that the gospel would transform Mameldoi, that the people who live in informal settlements would experience the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and connect with Him in the environment around them, His creation. I pray that every child in Mamelodi could have quiet moments like I enjoyed in the Drakensburg mountains this weekend. He is the light that will pierce through darkness (John 8:12), release the captives from prison, restore sight to the blind, and set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).