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What is Church?
This is a question we should ask ourselves each time we trek off to a worship service on Sunday mornings. What is church or what is church supposed to look like? Is church a building? Or is it something more? Is it something we do or something we become? And if church is something we do, how do we do it? How do we “do” church? But if church is something we become, then how do we become the church and what takes place in us to become His church? Whew. See the problem with simple words and changing definitions?
From a doctrinal standpoint, the church is defined as “the community of all true believers for all time.” So, the term “church” is used to apply to all those (people) whom Christ died to redeem, all those (people) saved by the death of Christ, past, present, and future. It encompasses both the local church and the universal church (which is a topic we will address at a later time).
But note, there is no mention of a building, denomination, or tax-exempt entity.
In Scripture, the Greek word for “church” is ekklēsía and means “a called-out people, an assembly of those called by Christ into the fellowship of His salvation, a gathering or assembly of the redeemed.”
And once again, it has nothing to do with a building or a plot of real estate, a denomination or group of religious congregations, or a 501c3 organization. It is a specific, called, and redeemed group of, get this, people. Church is people.
In the New Testament, the word ekklēsía is used 118 times, and translates as “church” 115 of those times and “assembly” 3 other times. The Scriptures are very clear about how the “church” (assembly of redeemed people) are to worship the Lord when they come together collectively on the Lord’s Day. And it looks nothing like what we do today.
Ouch. So why the disconnect between the church we see in the book of Acts and what we observe every Sunday? Who dropped the ball or who changed the rules in the middle of the game? I think you’ll be shocked when you find the answers to these questions.
And Why Do We Do the Things We Do on Sunday?
Let me present just a few truths about church, both Biblically and how we understand them today. First, Christ is the one who grants membership into His church through salvation and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). We don’t grant anything.
Holy Spirit = Salvation
No Holy Spirit = No Salvation
It is really just that simple.
And two, Christ is the One, the only One, who is charged with building His church (Matt. 16:18). Our job is to make disciples of those He redeems (Matt. 28:18-20). But sometimes we get the two mixed up. We think it’s our duty to build His church with our slick marketing schemes, flashing lights and smoke machines, mini-rock concerts passed off as worship, and sanitized TED Talks taking the place of sermons. But it’s not. Our job is to mature those He brings to Himself by helping them become more like Christ.
Finally, since Christ builds His church and not us, then He is the one who makes all the rules about how His church is to function, including worship, prayer, ministry, songs, and just about everything else you can think of. Remember, He is God and we are not.
Which raises an intriguing question:
Question: So, if Christ redeems His church and then commands us to meet together in community as the called-out ones to worship Him, does He give us any guidelines as to what that is supposed to look like?
Answer: Absolutely. But it looks very little like what we have been doing as believers since… forever. And much of that has to do with our reluctance to be His church rather than attend His church. One is active, the other passive.
But what happens when a group of believers understands their place in His grand plan and becomes the church as an active participant and not as a casual observer? And what happens when these believers fully accept the truth of the priesthood of all believers? What would church look like then?
If you are intrigued or are not familiar with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, then join us as we unpack this glorious truth together.