WHAT IS THE CHURCH ALL ABOUT ?
Many people today understand the church as a building. But the root meaning of church is not that of a building, but of people. “Church” is the translation of the Greek term “Ecclesia” and is used in the New Testament to identify the community of believers in Jesus Christ. The church is the body of Christ and “God has placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:22-23). The early Christian church had no buildings, at least not in the sense of what we would consider church buildings today. First century Christians were often persecuted and, as a result, often met in secret usually in homes. As the influence of Christianity spread, eventually buildings dedicated to worship were established and became what we know today as churches. In this sense, then, the church consists of people not buildings. Fellowship, worship and ministry are all conducted by people, not buildings. Church structures facilitate the role of God’s people, but they do not fulfill it. There are many images of church given in the Bible, the three out of which are – Church as the “Body of Christ” of which He is the head (Col. 1:18). “People of God” is another image, where God says of the church, “I will be their God and they will be my people” (2 Corin 6:16). The church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ (Rev 19:7), suggestive of a special and sacred family relationship between Christ and the church. The key to any church are foundations in worship, edification and evangelism. Worship is God-centered and Christ-centered. It is not about entertaining Christians with flashy displays or presentations, but about expressing our love by worshiping our Creator. We are to praise and glorify God in worship. As such, every Christian needs to be part of regular fellowship and worship. Edification is also a role of the church. It involves edifying believers, but also nurturing, building up or helping believers to mature in Christ. To this end, churches are tasked with a variety of ministries such as Bible study, continuing education in related areas, praying for one another, acts of genuine hospitality and more. Evangelism is also a key role of the church. This means reaching out to a lost world with the Good News about Jesus. If a church fails to fulfill any of these key roles – worship, edification, and evangelism – then the church is not functioning as God intends. Granted, there are times when churches face challenges and struggles to one degree or another, but a healthy church seeks to overcome such challenges in a way that honors God and His intentions for His church. The future of the church was established on the mission statement “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations (Mat. 28:19). The church must disciple the nations. As it advances, it teaches the nations how to live. The church carries out the work of discipleship just by existing in the world. Of course, this places an enormous weight of responsibility on the shoulders of every believer, as it assumes that their lives are to be an example and inspiration to humanity. Paul declares that Jesus gave Himself up for the church, “to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:26-27). The church was designed to be holy and blameless. With this goal Christ gave Himself up, and with this goal His workers are to carry out their work. There is no reason to believe that we will not achieve this goal. We can affirm that the future of the church will be glorious.