What does church mean to you? Oh, I don’t mean to drag you down to some deep philosophical introspection. I just want you to consider what comes to your mind when you hear the word “church”. If you’re like most people, when you think of “church”, you probably think of Sunday, preaching, singing, a particular building and a certain group of people. But do these things accurately mirror what the Bible says the church is to be? What is the purpose of your church, and what is your role in the church, and… (this is a different question) what is the church’s role in your life?
For too many people church is a place that they “go to” but not a family they belong to. Church may be a part of their lives in the same way that school or work may comprise a part of their lives. However, church is nothing more than another compartment that can easily exist independently of the other compartments and has no impact or influence on the other parts of their lives.
Because of our present efforts to start New City Church, the identity, purpose and value of the church is on my mind a lot. In the next few weeks I will attempt to share some brief thoughts with you to possibly deepen your understanding of what the church is and intensify your desire to belong to a healthy church. You will hear this phrase an awful lot as I write, and I trust that the health of the church will become a consuming passion for us all.
So according to the Bible what is the church?
- The church is something that Jesus, himself, is responsible for building (Mt. 16:18). The very first time the word “church” is used, Jesus used it to refer to something that he “would build.” You probably can guess that Jesus was not referring to a building here when referring to the church.
- The Bible refers to the church in 1 Corinthians 12 as a body. But it is not just any body. It is the body of Christ. Again, much greater attention will be given to this idea later, but for now it is important to understand that the church is the body of Christ. The body of Christ is one body consisting of many members who have been added through saving faith in the finished work of Christ alone. This is far more than mere membership in a club or organization. Entrance into this body comes only as the Holy Spirit awakens in us an awareness that we are separated from our Creator because of sin and deserving of wrath. However, because of his deep love for us, Christ, who is our only hope of reconciliation and restoration, unites us with himself in order that we might reign with him for all eternity.
In the same way that a physical body is made up of many different parts with unique functions and roles to play, the singular, united body of Christ consists of many different people with various gifts and roles to play in the building up of the body (Ephesians 4) and the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. Only as all the different parts work in harmony together is Christ magnified and his mission advanced.
3. The church is a fellowship. If you grew up in the same culture as I did, you are probably thinking about fried chicken, mashed potatoes and banana pudding right now. In the South a fellowship is not a fellowship without theses essentials. Though there can be a legit argument made for the presence of each of these delicacies, this is not exactly what the Bible means when it speaks of the fellowship of the church. Here is how Acts 2 describes the early church and its identity and activity.
- The people were devoted to the teaching of the Bible.
- The people were devoted to “the fellowship” (the community, the body).
- The people were eating together.
- The people were praying together.
- The people were amazed by the evidence of God’s presence among them.
- The people were making great financial sacrifices to help meet the basic needs of those who had need.
- They worshipped together.
- The people were “continually” together.
- The people frequented the homes of the other believers and their homes were always opened to hospitality.
- The people were glad and generous.
- The people praised God together.
- The Lord “daily” added to their number.
If I were to ask you to describe the church you belong to, would it sound like the above description or would you talk more about a place, event and programs designed to attract and entertain?
More to come…