What is the church?

‘Church’ is a word that many people use but many people misunderstand. Some think that it is a building that is filled with old people and an organ, others think that it is a place with a motivational message that is preceded and followed by a rock concert.

But what is the church? Many people, including Christians, don’t understand or act as if they understand what the church is.

The church is not a building but it is a gathering of people who believe in Jesus and have committed themselves to meet regularly to hear God’s Word, sing His praises, enjoy fellowship with other Christians, prayer and to tell others about Jesus. There is much more to it than that, but that’s for another time.

Two images that the Bible uses to describe the church are 1) the Body of Jesus, and 2) the Bride of Jesus.

The Body
In Ephesians 1:22-23 we see that the church is the body of Christ and He is it’s Head. Jesus is the authority and ruler of the church, as the body the churches desire should be to act and live in a way that honours Jesus. The image of a body is helpful because a body, generally speaking, is alive. Churches are to be organised, but also that they are to be alive, full of different people all serving and using their gifts for the building up of others and to the Glory of God.

The Bride
In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul tells the church specifically what a marriage relationship should look like and he says that marriage is an image of the relationship between Jesus and the church. The biggest implication of this is that the church’s relationship with Jesus is to be characterised by love.

You’re probably reading this thinking ‘DUH, we get this! Why did you waste your time writing this blog?!?!’ But do we really get it?

All you need to do is listen to people speak about other Christians, other churches, and their own church and you will get a sense that not everyone understands this. If we truly understood what the church is and what our role in the world is then I think that we would see some big changes in our local churches. We’d see more people attending their local church, more people serving, , more people caring about what we sing and do in church, more people with a desire to learn and grow in their knowledge of God, and we’d have a deeper desire for training in the local church.

Why should we care about all of this? Why can’t we just agree to disagree on things and do whatever we want? Because the church is the “pillar and buttress of truth” 1 Timothy 3:15. Therefore, the church is the place where truth is upheld; we are to publicly present and display truth to the world. The truth of the gospel is to be found in the church and the church is to be a megaphone that declares that truth to a world that needs to hear it.

Practically, the church needs to proclaim and practice the truth. All you need to do is look at the news over the last few weeks and you’ll see stories of how churches are changing the truth to be more relevant, or they are simply not living out the truth and are a train wreck because of it. This is so sad! We should mourn when we see the church going down paths that aren’t right because I am sure that Jesus is mourning.

If we sit back and gossip about other Christians who are members of Christ’s body, if we sit and judge other churches, if we sit and speak ill of the church then we have misunderstood something! Our speech, our actions and our thoughts about other Christians and other churches all need to go through the filter of “Is this honouring to Christ, the head and husband of His Church?” If the answer is no, then stop before you speak, act or think against her.

The last thing any Christian should do (or want to do) is to dishonour and be unloving towards Jesus, but why are we happy to dishonour and be unloving towards His church? We all need to search our hearts, guard our mouths, and prepare our minds to build up, encourage and equip people to see the beauty of the church and to live according to God’s desire for her.

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