What is a church?

The word “church” has different meanings in different contexts and sometimes those meanings
can get confusing. Some people point to a certain building where people meet and call that a
church. Others will refer to a certain denomination, organization, or association of like-minded
religious people and call that a church. When the New Testament refers to a church, it uses a
Greek word which means “the ones who are called out”. The biblical understanding of what a
church is harkens back to this word. Therefore, we understand that a church is a group of people
who are called out of their life in the world, and called together into a new life in Jesus Christ.

The church belongs to Jesus Christ. When Jesus spoke of the church, He referred to it as His
church (Matt 16:18).  In the writings of the apostles, it is again clear that Jesus Christ is the head
of the church (Eph. 5:23, Col 1:18); and that the church is to be set apart for His glory; through
faith (1 Tim 5:11-12), and holiness (1 Cor 1:2), and by upholding and proclaiming the truth (1
Tim 3:15). The church is His bride, and He loves her and died for her (Eph 5:25-27).

The primary purpose of the church is to worship God and to bring praise to the glory of His
grace as seen through changed lives.

The church is called to the sharing of the gospel message of salvation, and the discipleship of
those who respond (Matt 28:18-20). This Christian community is called to love one another and
to have as its goal the building up of each member in truth and love (Eph 4:15-16). This love is
to be manifest in many ways including; hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), sharing in physical and spiritual
needs (Acts 2:45, Rom 12:10-13, James 1:27), and participating in relationships of accountability
(Gal 6:1). The gospel is to be preached in the local churches to all who would come and hear it,
in homes by believing parents to their children, and to our neighbors as well.

This disciple-making purpose of the church is met through the gathering together of committed
believers into a local group. This church then, is a people who desire to live the Christian life in
unity by meeting regularly for prayer (Acts 12:5), biblical preaching (2 Tim 4:1-4), worshiping
God through song (Eph 5:19), through “breaking bread” and fellowship (Acts 2:42), through
sharing in the Lord’s Supper and baptism (1 Cor 11:20-32), and through reaching out to the world
around them (Acts 2:40-42).

The church has been commissioned to multiply itself through the establishing of new
congregations with qualified elders (Titus 1:5-9). Having a biblical form of church leadership is
a necessary part of a healthy church. It is given to the church to appoint elders who will serve
the church (1 Peter 5:1-4) by prayer and preparation in the scriptures (Acts 6:4), teaching sound
doctrine and protecting the church from false doctrine (Titus 1:9), and by caring for and
watching over the souls of those in the church (Heb 13:17). Deacons are also appointed as a
practical help, as needed. (Acts 6:1-5, 1 Tim 3:8-10)

All these local churches described above, by virtue of ultimately being under Jesus Christ the
Chief Shepherd, are united together and will share together in the glories of the kingdom of God
(Rev 5:8-14). These local churches as are as described, regardless of location, culture, or size,
share in one faith and all belong to the one universal church which is made up of all those today,
and those who throughout the centuries have called upon the name of Jesus Christ in faith and obedience (Eph 4:1-6).