What is The Church? I mentioned in my post, The Importance of The Church, that I like to close the services at Crossroads Church – Bridgeville by saying “…be The Church…” but it occurs to me that those words may be an abstract concept to some, if not most. It’s easy to understand what it is to go to church, but what does it mean to be The Church?
Many of us who grew up in church were taught a little hand trick…
Here is the church,
here is the steeple.
Open the doors
and see all the people.
But a better description of The Church would be “Here is a building that’s topped with a steeple. Open the doors, The Church is the people.” Gathering with other followers of JESUS and bringing others with you is an important part of our Christian faith tradition, and an important aspect of being a part of The Church, but it is not what it means to be The Church.
The Church can be described as the Body of CHRIST (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12), The Household of GOD (Ephesians 2:17-22, 1 Peter 2:5), The Bride of CHRIST (Ephesians 5:22-32), and a people called to live under the authority of JESUS CHRIST (ie. Christians) (Ephesians 1:22-23). The local church is what most people think of when they hear “church.” It is a local gathering of CHRIST followers (Romans 16:3-4) and place of training for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13, Galatians 1:2). That last point is what I want to touch on specifically. The local church is where you go to learn how to be The Church.
As often as I tell the congregation that they did not come to church on Sunday, weekend worship services will likely always be called church. I would have to change the lexicon of an entire generation, and overcome the influence of generations past in order for any other name to used with any regularity. But as Shakespeare wrote,
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
So for the sake of this post, I will concede and say that we do go to church and gather with other believers, as well as people whom we are proselytizing. That’s just a big word that means “convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another,” (Bing it). Evangelize could be used as a synonym, but that word is just as scary to a lot of people.
The local church has multiple purposes then.
- Bring believers together to worship GOD as one body and be ministered to.
- Invite or introduce non/un/post-Christians to The Church.
- Bring believers towards spiritual maturity in CHRIST.
- Train Christians in ministry so that they can be The Church outside of church.
These purposes or functions of the local church are not limited to the building we meet in on Sunday morning though. That’s part of what being the Church is. It is a continued working and worshiping with other believers, ministering to them and others every day. It is introducing people outside of The Church to the love of JESUS CHRIST that you are experiencing. It is sharpening our brothers and sisters in CHRIST through accountability, small groups, encouragement, and sometimes rebuking them. It is discipling others towards maturity in CHRIST to do the same.
The ministry of The Church should not be left to only our pastors to do at church. You can learn to pray with authority for healing over someone in the Name of JESUS and see it happen. You can learn to hear from GOD and prophesy over others. GOD can use you to bring people to a relationship with Him. The Church should be doing what JESUS did. GOD wants to use you. Are you willing to let Him? Are you ready to be a part of The Church rather than a weekend church attendee? If you feel like there has to be more to life than what you are experiencing, chances are that you’re right.
You can go to church and worship on the weekend, but go expecting to grow and learn how to be The Church when you leave. Learn to do what JESUS did. If you don’t know where to start, find someone who’s been a part of The Church longer than you and ask them to disciple you. If you want to disciple others, but don’t know how, all you have to do is ask. Ask me. Ask your pastor. Ask the person who introduced you to CHRIST. Discipleship is the process of growing together towards spiritual maturity in CHRIST. You don’t have to have all the answers, because those who disciple grow just as much as those who are discipled.