And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Acts 14:27 KJV
As the body of Christ matures, one of the fundamental things we neEd to understand is the nature of the Church, It seems to me today that many believers do not understand what the Church is, this is typified by a common statement that we all make from time to time, which is to say
‘I am going to Church’ but as we see from the scripture text above in the bible people did not go to Church, rather the Church came together, this difference though it may look small is actually a huge one as it reveals a big flaw in our thinking of who we are.
Another common statement people make is to say things like this, ‘Pastor so and so is the owner of this or that Church’, as if the Church is a piece of property or a business to be owned by one or a group of people. Sometimes we hear people say one to another ‘which Church do you go to?
All these statements only reveal our flawed thinking on the nature of the Church and would have been unheard of in the first century among believers.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The word from which we translate to Church in the Greek is ekklesia, which literally means a called out or separated assembly. It was originally used in secular Greek society to describe a people who rally around a common purpose or cause and are identified by that purpose. It was adopted by the Lord and the Church to describe a people who had responded to the message of the cross and had been separated to God by it.
Israel was referred to as the Church in the wilderness
This is he,that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Acts 7:38 KJV
The Church of Jesus Christ is the body of people who have responded to the call of Jesus through the gospel and have been sanctified and set apart for and to Him by their faith in Him.
The Church is a community of believers, this community may meet in different places, for example in the New Testament, different groups of people met in the temple and in the houses of certain individuals, they met their for fellowship, instruction, worship and to celebrate the Lord’s supper.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Acts 5:42 KJV
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
Rom 16:3-5 NKJV
Over time as the Church grew it became necessary to have places set apart for such meetings as the homes of people became too small and of course the Church had spread beyond Jerusalem, and in fact the temple had been destroyed.
Over time the Church began to experience some backsliding and apostasy, which led to the development of a specialised priest craft and a clergy/laity division, as this progressed the meaning of the Church began to change and there was a shift in meaning to refer to the place of worship as the Church. ( I have tried to keep this as simple as possible without going into much history and theology)
Emphasis began to be placed on the design and buildings of ornate architectural pieces as Churches ostensibly for the ‘glory of God’ and less attention was paid to the development of the people who in reality were the temple or house of God
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
1 Cor 3:16-17 NKJV
This practice has continued today, a practice that has been deepened by the emergence of the Church as a corporate organisation, led by a CEO pastor, I think the State has fostered this development on us, due to its demand for certain legal requirements for identification and enjoyment of certain benefits. But the State should not define who we are, the word of God should, though we may be required to fulfill certain legal obligations, we must not forget who we are and how we are meant to live.
God raises up individuals with a mandate and a message through whom many will come to Christ, those individuals will have oversight over the congregations they have been instrumental to birth and will have the responsibility to develop a leadership withe mandate to care for the people of God, such an individual can hardly be described as the ‘owner’ or CEO of the Church, as if he can be the owner of the people!
Listen to the Apostle Paul
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 3:1-11 NKJV
The Church is God’s house, His Temple, the body of Christ and His property which he purchased by his own blood, as ministers of the gospel we are a part of that house with a responsibility to have oversight over the people and to help in their growth and development. That is our primary assignment, we may own the building where the Church meets but that is all we own. The Church does not need to meet in gilded halls or fine cathedrals to be the Church, it is the Church wherever she chooses to meet.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Matt 18:20 NKJV
When Jesus promised to build His Church he was not talking about bricks and cement but people, building up the people both numerically and spiritually. We must return to the essence of the Church and concentrate on what is important, God’s people, we must not look down on that small congregation that cannot afford fine air conditioned halls of worship and say ‘is that a church?’ they are as much as Church as the congregation that meets in the cistern chapel. They are a Church though they meet under the canopy of a tree, they are God’s Church wherever they are and wherever they meet.
One of the fundamental dangers in the flaws noticed is that people equate membership of a particular ‘church’ to be synonymous with being saved and being a follower of Jesus. We know this is not correct but..
Another thing I want to address is this, the concept of the Church as a miracle club, people come to worship services hoping to be entertained by celebrity pastors or to receive an avalanche of miracles, it would seem for many the purpose of their gathering is always to receive, there is something fundamentally wrong with this.
Don’t misunderstand me, God loves to bless his people with many awesome gifts, with miracles and healings and such acts of grace, so we can and should expect such from Him when we come together as a Church, but that cannot be all there is and should not be the mindset we have every time we gather.
God’s miracles can occur everywhere, what happened to two or three gathering together to pray in their homes over specific needs, what happened to our little fellowship meetings and prayers when we ‘run’ into each other, what happens every time we meet other believers in all the places we meet daily? God wants to show His love and power there and then also!
I believe that consciously or unconsciously we have promoted a notion that until and unless we meet at a particular place nothing can happen, the ‘man or woman of God’ is deified as the man with peculiar and particular access to God and only when He prays will something happen.! Heaven help us! True God does great things through His servants whom he has called and sent out, but He can do great things through anyone who will take Him at his word also.
God is not located in a particular congregation to the exclusion of all others; He is in every place where people call upon His name in truth, no matter how small or how big.
Paul the apostle gives us an insight into how we must come together as a people, a church.
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
1 Cor 14:26-27 NKJV
This verse suggests that the people came together with something to contribute to the service, this is understandable if you bear in mind that we all are members of the body of Christ and like any human body, the whole thrives when every part is contributing, let’s not just come with a ‘I want to get’ mentality ALL the time but let’s also train our people to always have something to contribute.
Let’s be the Church, God’s House, His called out people, wherever we may be