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The church is not a building

October 25, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Church life

“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 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.’” (Matthew 16:17-18)

Ask the average New Englander what a church is, and they will likely answer “a building where Christians go on Sundays.” This, Biblically speaking, is the wrong answer. The church, or ekklesia in Greek, is not a place, but a community of people. More specifically, the church is three things:

1) The family of God – When we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the Bible says that we are adopted as God the Father’s sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:13-16). This reality has many implications. For one, it is good news for the lonely, the widow, the fatherless, the childless, and all who have never experienced a good earthly family. It also means that in Christ, we share a bond deeper than any other defining characteristic – race, nationality, socioeconomic status, etc. As we gather together every Sunday, we experience a true family reunion.

2) The body of Christ – in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells his listeners that they are the body of Christ, and each person fulfills a different role in that body. And as we serve and love one another in our world, Jesus works in us and through us, continuing His ministry to the world. What a sobering reality that is, to know that the way the church loves each other and the world is meant to be a picture of Jesus to those who are watching and receiving that love.

3) The temple of the Holy Spirit – In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul calls the Corinthians church “God’s temple,” reminding them that “God’s Spirit lives in you” (see also Ephesians 2:22). This means that as we gather together as the family of God, God dwells in our midst by His Holy Spirit, graciously ministering to us through His presence, receiving our worship and bringing His comfort, conviction, and help.

Notice the triune nature of that definition. The church is a community shaped by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with each member of the Trinity reflected in our experience. It isn’t primarily a building, a vendor dispensing religious goods and services. It is a community of people, adopted by God, with the divine presence in their midst, empowering them to love and serve the world as the very hands and feet of Christ.

Keep that in mind the next time you talk about “going to church.”

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