Most people have had a negative experience at a church at some point in their lives. Maybe it was frustration, confusion, rejection, boredom or just irrelevant. The word church can bring up some bad memories for many people. For others the church is a mystery because they did not grow up going to church. It can actually be intimidating and confusing. Yet the church exists and has for thousands of years.
The purpose of the church is an extension of the purpose of Jesus Christ. So what is the church? In order to accurately look at the church, we need to discover what it is not.
- The church is not a physical building – The building is simply a place for the church to meet. It is a place to gather, but the building does not make the church.
- The church is not an institution or organization – The church is not a denomination or an affiliation. Often times people say they go to a Baptist church or a Methodist church. That may help to describe the over arching beliefs of the people that make up the church, but it is not the church.
- The church is not a set of services or activities – The activities we do are simply the vehicle that takes us to a prescribed result.
- The church is not just a congregation – A congregation is simply a group of people who gather together.
In the New Testament the word church refers to the universal church, which is all believers on earth. It also refers to a particular location and the actual gathering of believers in any place for worship. The word church also refers to the body of Christ, which is an analogy for how the church should function. So why does the church exist?
- Evangelism – That’s a church word that means to tell people about Jesus. Through the church is how people hear the good news of what Jesus did.
- Discipleship – This is simply the process of becoming more like Christ. It is growing or maturing in faith and spiritual matters. It is exploring God’s ways and following him as best you can.
- Worship – Worship brings the church to life and life to the church. It is exalting God’s worth and acknowledging him as Lord. Worship is expressed through singing, music, praying, reading Scripture, baptism, preaching, having healthy relationships, and the way in which you live your life. It is keeping God first in all you do.
- Fellowship – The church must be a place that embraces a culture of encouragement. People need healthy human relationships. This is often accomplished through environments like small groups, mentoring, mission trips, social events, and healthy friendships.
- Ministry – Everywhere Jesus went, he extended grace and mercy to those who needed it most. When people serve unselfishly, they become extensions of Jesus. Ministering to a messed up, broken and bruised world should characterize the life of every followers of Jesus Christ.
The church is made up of people that all are working together to do those 5 things. When a church creates environments where people can experience those things it allows them to mature as a Christian. These environments should be designed to help people connect with God and give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to transform the person. Environments are worship services, youth events, children’s classrooms, adult classrooms and training, mission trips locally and internationally, small group or home group, accountability groups, one-on-one mentoring, and many more.
The local church is the hope of the world.