It seems there is a “church” building on nearly every street in America. If you open the yellow pages you’ll be overwhelmed by the vast number of entries in the section entitled “churches.” Still, many wonder, “What is the church?”
Here are few things the New Testament says about the church:
1) The church is a group of people. In fact, the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia” which is also translated “assembly” (Acts 19:39). The word “church” never refers to a building, but to a group of people (Acts 12:5). When we call a building “a church” we start to associate worship, fellowship, and assembling together with a particular building. That is a shame! Worship and fellowship can happen anywhere the people of God are assembled.
2) The church is a group of saved people. When a person is saved by the blood of Christ, he or she is added by the Lord to the church (Acts 2:47). Man cannot “join” the church; he is added to the church by God. The church is the assembly of those who are “enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).
3) The church belongs to Jesus. Jesus is called the “head” of the body (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He built it (Matthew 16:18) and He purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28). If He is the head of it then that means I am not and neither are you. We don’t get to decide what the church is and how it should operate–He does!
4) Jesus only has one church. I realize that may not be a popular statement to make today but Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus did not say that he would build His churches (plural), but His church (singular). Certainly there are multiple congregations of the one church (Romans 16:16), but Christ has only one body (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 4:4).
5) The church has no name. Although it is has several different descriptions in Scripture (Hebrews 12:23; Acts 20:28), it is simply the church. When there is but one of something it does not need a name to distinguish it from others of the same type (because there are no others of the same type). There are different kinds of trees, so each has a particular name to distinguish it from other trees (maple, elm, pine, etc.). But when there is only one of something, it does not need a name. The Lord’s church can be described (in advertisements, on signs, etc.) in any biblical way, but the world must know that Christ’s church is simply the church.
6) The church is not to be divided. The modern religious world is full of denominationalism; the idea that the one church is actually segmented and divided into several smaller denominations. In other words, denominationalists believe the church is like a pie and each denomination is but a slice of that pie. However, nothing could be further from God’s design! Jude said that those who cause divisions are “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:19). Paul said the Christians in Corinth were “people of the flesh” because they were divisions among them according to which preacher each group followed (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). He said about the church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Those are just a few things the New Testament says in answer to the question, “What is the church?”
So, why don’t we all stop all of this denominational foolishness and simply be Christians–members of Christ’s church? Isn’t that what He wants? Isn’t that what He laid out? In order to do that we’ll have to lay down our pride, our traditions, and our preconceived ideas and be radically devoted to Him! Let’s work on that together.
I love you and God loves you!