Drive in any direction in any part of this land, and it won’t be long before you pass a church building. They dot the landscape throughout the countryside, and several will usually be found in any neighborhood in any city. While many people do not attend church services frequently, a majority will attend somewhere at least once or twice a year, and a vast majority will claim an actual identity with some church.
Obviously, the concept of “church” holds an important place in the minds of a great many people. But if many of those same people were pressed to give a concise analysis of just what is meant by the term “church” and why it’s so important, they’d be hard pressed to do so. Let’s shed some light on what this thing called “church” is all about.
People commonly speak of going to church; they invite friends to come to their church. One person asks another where his church is located. These kinds of references actually refer to the church building, not to the church itself. The church building is the location, a facility at which the church gathers to worship God, study His word and join together in Christian fellowship. In contrast, it’s rather difficult to find an overt reference to a church building in the New Testament, and a building is never referred to as the church.
To refer to a church building as the church terribly misrepresents the church’s true identity. The church is that body of believers who have committed themselves to follow Christ according to His teachings. It bears personal identity with the Savior Himself, being called “ His body” (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:12). Christ did not die on the cross for a building, He died for the people who would accept Him as their Lord and Savior and obey His teachings. The church is the people, not the steeple!
When a person is baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), the Lord Himself adds that person to His body, the church (Acts 2:47). Obviously, then, being a member of the Lord’s church is crucial. In the church is where the Lord puts the saved! Some people, in either ignorance or arrogance, state that they don’t need to be a member of a church. That’s true, if they don’t want to be one of the saved!
The church’s primary focus in all that it does should be to glorify God (Matthew 5:16). That’s largely what gathering together to worship God and study His word is all about. The church’s mission is to relentlessly teach God’s word throughout the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). Communicating God’s will to the people of the world was part of God’s eternal purpose for the church, before He had ever created mankind in the beginning (Ephesians 3:8-11).
The church is not old-fashioned, out of date, irrelevant or obsolete. It is just as vital today as when it was first established almost two thousand years ago. Better understanding its true identity and importance could change your perspective on, and appreciation for, the church and change your life forever…
Gary L. Hutchens