In Matthew 16:18 Jesus told Peter, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." What kind of church do you think Jesus had in mind?
A) A church is a building and Jesus was a carpenter so He was telling Peter that he would build a magnificent cathedral with towering steeples and awe-inspiring decor. B) A church is a worship service and Jesus was telling Peter that he would establish a Sunday morning program where the multitudes could come and receive blessings and wisdom from the clergy. C) A church is an assembly of people called out from the general population so Jesus was telling people that He would build a body of people who would be called out to follow Him.
To many everyday English speakers, the answer could be any of the above since we use the word "church" to refer to a place of worship, a worship service, or the organization that puts on religious programs. The correct answer, though, is "C" as the Greek word for church is “ekklesia” and it refers to “an assembly; a gathering of people called out of their homes to meet in some public place.” (Thayer's Greek Lexicon) Greeks originally used “ekklesia” to refer to representatives coming together in a public place to debate the issues of the day. Christians began using the term as Jesus did, to refer to an assembly of Christ-followers who came together for worship, teaching, and mutual encouragement.
However, throughout most of the church’s history, this original meaning has been overlooked and at times seems to be completely lost. People everywhere, whether well-educated to the original meaning or not, use the word “church” to refer to a worship service or a building: “Are you going with us to church this morning?” or “I left my Bible at the church.” When we do that we totally overlook an important truth: The church is the people! WE are the church, and when the word “church” is used in the Bible it refers to people, not a building nor a service, ministry, or meeting time. The church is the people! To many people, it might seem as if I am splitting hairs here and it really doesn't make much difference. But take just a minute or two to think about it more. How does our perspective change when we begin to think about the church as a building rather than the people? What are we losing when we begin to think about the church as a worship service or performance that we attend rather than a group of people of which we are a valuable part?
How does our perspective change when we begin to think about the church as a building rather than the people?
In Ephesians 4, Paul tells the church that we are one body with many parts. But when we routinely refer to the church as something outside of ourselves, whether it be a building constructed and maintained by others, a worship service dominated by others, or even an organization led by others, we cheat ourselves out of our proper place as valuable members of the body of Christ. We see ourselves as outsiders looking in rather than as an integral part of the body. We stand back and criticize instead of being part of a solution. Problems are seen as someone else's problems and not our own. Because of this, we lose out on the joy and fulfillment of serving God and his people because we are standing on the outside looking at the church rather than being the church.
So try to change your thinking a bit and help others along the way by calling the church building the church facility, campus, or building. Call the Sunday morning service a worship service or Sunday celebration or whatever is an appropriate name for the meeting. And when people ask you why you are making changes to your vocabulary, just tell them, “It is because the church is the people! And we need each and every member of the church to realize that he or she is a valuable part of what God is doing in us and in our community. The church is not a building, service, or organization. We are the church; we must come together and be the church!”
Let's Pray Together: Lord, help me to see Your church the way You see it, as people and relationships rather than buildings and services. Open my eyes so that I can see all that the church can be and should be. Reveal to me any mistakes I have made or misguided ideas that I might have about the church. Thank you that any mistakes I have made are covered by the blood of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross provides forgiveness not only for me but all who call on Your name...(continue praying as you feel led…)
What Others Are Saying: “We live in a day where there exists a ‘primitive church phenomenon.’ Countless Christians around the globe are seeing afresh that the modern practice of “church” is biblically groundless and spiritually ineffective. As a result, many are leaving the institutional church and are seeking to return to simpler forms of church life.” (Frank Viola inFinding Organic Church, p.115)
“Every year, one million adults leave leave the institutional church in the United States. According to missional church expert Reggie McNeal, ‘A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost their faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith.’ We are living in a day of new beginnings. It’s a new season for the restoration of God’s house. God is breaking new ground with respect to the shape, the mission, and the practice of the church.” (Frank Viola inFinding Organic Church, p. 125)
Like This Article? Help us spread the Word! Use the Facebook like or share buttons below or share the link via email or text message. Or, better yet, do it the old-fashioned way by printing it out and passing it to a friend or sharing it at a leadership meeting.
Like This Site? See how you can help! Visit our Support Page.