The term “church” may be used in a number of different ways. It may refer to a local congregation, a particular movement of churches working together, or to what some call the “true church” (to be explained in a minute). While in modern usage the term “church” often refers to a building, Scripture is clear that the church is made of people, not bricks (1 Pet. 2:4-5). But what sort of people? The simple answer is that the church is made of Christians, people who’ve decided to make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. Christ is available to everyone and the moment a person places faith in Christ, he or she becomes part of the “church.” In fact, this is the definition of the “true church,” it is made up of people from all different local churches and denominations who have truly placed their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Ultimately, only God knows who is a member of the true church and most local churches have a mixture of people who are and aren’t Christians.
The church exists to glorify God and to bless people. God is glorified through the church because it is the beautiful, radiant bride of Christ. Christ made her beautiful by cleansing her through his sacrificial death. The church brings blessing to the people through the ministry that occurs in it. In the church, people teach, encourage, admonish, accept, strengthen, care for, love, serve and help one another. For this to take place, each one has been given a gift by the Lord, to offer to the rest of the community (for example, some are teachers, some are helpers, some are good at hospitality, etc).
Three primary metaphors help us understand the nature of the church: family, body and temple. As family, the church provides community where nurture and growth can take place. As Christ’s body, the church is a community of individuals intimately connected and receiving nourishment from the their head, Jesus Christ. As the temple, the church is the place where God’s presence is especially manifest. If you want to draw near to God, draw near to the community of faith.
Family: Matthew 12:49
Body: Romans 12:4-5
Temple: 1 Corinthians. 3:16, 1 Peter 2:4
The book of Ephesians (all of it!)
The book of Colossians (especially 3:1-17)
The Letter to Ephesians (Commentary), by P.T. O’Brien
Being the Body, by Chuck Colson
Church, Why Bother?, by Philip Yancey
Spiritual Gifts Inventory (coming)
- Look up “one another” in the New Testament (www.biblegateway.com) and make a list of how the members of the church interrelate
- Study the Scriptures listed above. In what ways is your church being successful in fulfilling its calling? How is it falling short? How can you help make it better?
- Take the spiritual gifts inventory