What is The Church? If we are going to wear the name of Christ we must know who we are. In the New Testament the word for “church” is the Greek word ekklesia (literally “the called out ones”). Jesus calls us out of darkness to come into the light (see John 8:12 and 12:36) to become His church. He also said His church includes those who confess Him as Lord and stand on His foundation (Matthew 16:15-19). Since the church belongs to Jesus it is His definition of our identity and practice that will be the only one that matters. Whatever we think of the church must be in line with our Lord’s view!
My seminary Church History professor Dean E. Walker once wrote “The church is the divinely ordained institution for making the world Christian.” Thus we are: 1) the product of God’s plan and action; 2) estab-lished and organized on earth; 3) with a specific task and purpose; which is, 4) to bring others into a saving relationship with Jesus. To put it more simply: We are OF God ON earth FOR people TO find God!
First, the church belongs to God! To be OF God has many implications, notably that He and He alone is the boss. We don’t tell God what the church is, He tells us. Any human efforts to define the church (including this article), must be based on the Bible. Unfortunately many groups or individuals ignore or change God’s Word to suit themselves, making up their own identity. To them Jesus may someday say “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Second, the church is His Body! God has placed us ON earth to do His work of redemp-tion. All humans are created in God’s image, but not all are saved. All are loved by God, but not all be-come His children through the adoption of faith (see John 1:12). It is on this earth that we have one life in which to decide whether to confess Christ as Lord, or remain our own “lord.” If we don’t say to God “Your will be done!” He will say to us at the end “your will be done!”
Next, the church is people! Christ calls us to live FOR people instead of for ourselves. This is deny-ing ourselves, taking up our cross (Luke 9:23) and serv-ing others (Mark 10:43-45) just as Jesus did. Thus God equips His people with spiritual gifts to benefit the whole church. This includes meeting each other’s needs and fulfilling our ministries. It is in “the family of God” that we are to care for and look out for each other, where we learn about grace and forgiveness. Finally, the church is evangelistic! The church does not exist for its own sake, but so that others are able TO find God. A constant danger for the church is to be inwardly focused or withdrawn from the sur-rounding culture. Jesus left Heaven to save us and He sends us out (Matthew 28:18-20) to tell a message of salvation. In this way we are all missionaries to our own culture, seeking the lost and perishing, caring for them as Jesus does.
What do you believe the church is? How we do “church” shows what we believe about The Church. Hopefully what we believe matches our Lord’s definition! That is why during September and October I will be preaching on different aspects of The Church: our identity, our worship, our leadership and our min-istries. Let us always strive to be the Church Christ calls us to be!