Updated: Sep 11
As people of faith, we spend a significant portion of our spiritual life in a church, but do we ever ponder what a church "is" and what its purpose is? Several times a week, many of us get in our car and say we are heading to the church, but... what exactly IS the church?
Most believers speak of the church in much the same manner as a secular person, as a building constructed for public worship, usually Christain, and/or the clergy or officialdom of a religious body (put that word body in your head for later), but is that what God declares church to be? Let's look in His Word to find His truth!
What is a "church," according to the Bible?
A church is a collection of believers who can encourage and love one another.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.- Hebrews 10:24-25
A church is a collection of people working together for one singular purpose, to further the Kingdom of Heaven.
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. - Romans 12:4-5
A church is a collection of people who identify as God's workers.
For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building. 1 Corinthians 3:9
A church is a collection of people who live life together.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:46-47
A church is a collection of people who represent God's Temple.
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? - 1 Corinthians 3:16
A church is a collection of people who are victorious over death.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. - Matthew 16:18
A church is a collection of people with Christ at the center of their hearts and lives.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. - Colossians 3:15
A Church is a collection of people who are unafraid to teach and correct one another.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. - Colossians 3:16
A church is a collection of people united by faith in Jesus, even if they disagree on individual topics.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12
A church is a collection of people who fear the Lord and grow in numbers through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Acts 9:31
A church is a collection of people who understand the healing power of God.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. James 5:14-15
A church is a collection of people who protect the truth against weak doctrine and improper teachings that do not align with the actual words of God.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.- Romans 16:17
A church is a collection of people who have devoted themselves to teaching the Word of God.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
A church is a collection of people who pray.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. Acts 12:5
A church is a collection of people who agree to be placed under the authority of their spiritual leaders.
If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:17
As we see from these Biblical references, the church is far less about the building than it is about the people who fill it. The church is God's family and exists to Glorify God through the equipping of the saints through the inspired words of qualified men. This leads us to the obvious next question, who is church for?
The church of Christ has five primary functions, which can be found directly in Scripture.
1 Chronicle 16:29 says, "Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor."
It tells us that it is a collection of people who worship God.
Matthew 28:20 says, "…teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
It tells us that it is a collection of people who should learn and obey the Word of God.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another."
It tells us that it is a collection of people who fellowship.
Mark 16:15 says, "He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
It tells us that it is a collection of people who should be prepared to evangelize daily to the outside world as we fulfill the great commission.
1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
It tells us that it is a collection of people who serve.
Yes, all churches should pray for and welcome non-believers on Sunday, but the believer is the main, intended audience. Here is where a believer may first taste the milk of Scripture but must move on to the meat of the Word.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. - Hebrews 5:11-14
Each week as we walk into our local houses of worship, we, the body and authentic church, should act as if we are walking into our father's house after a week away. We should enter excited and thirsty to suck the marrow out of his Word. We should approach it with fear and reverence, humbled to serve an extraordinary and eternally powerful God. We should tremble at His Majesty as we worship, feeling convicted as the preacher delivers a word explicitly given to him through the power of the Spirit for that time and for that place. We should weep at the realization of our depravity and celebrate with reckless abandon the love we find in grace. We should feel overwhelming gratitude for the mercy we receive and feel sorrowful at what it cost. We should do all these things with deep reverence and together, never mocking or making light of God's Torahs.
So, what is the church?
It is impossible to say what a church is because the church is not a what; the church is a "who." The church is not made of wood and steel; the church is made of flesh and bone. The church, my brothers and sisters, is me, and it's you. The church is.....us!
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28