Wherever the Word of God is preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults. – John Calvin
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
Usually, when someone says “church”, the first picture that comes into our minds is the picture of a building or a steeple. However, in the Scriptures, the word “Church” neither refers to a building nor an organisation but to a group of people. So the right question is not, “What is the Church?” but, “Who is the Church?” The Scriptures put it like this:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” – Ephesians 2:19
When you become a Christian by trusting Him for your salvation, you become a part of his church here on earth. Every believer is automatically part of what they call the universal church, “God’s people”, from the moment of rebirth. Jesus didn’t die for a building or an organisation; he died for people.
“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25
Jesus loves His Church. The Scriptures show us that He is the head of the church (Colossians 1:8). He founded it, died for it and sustains it. We cannot say we love God but don’t love his Church. To love God is to love his people. To be committed to Jesus is to be committed to his church.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
– Galatians 5:22 – 23
WHAT IS THE LOCAL CHURCH?
The visual expression of the universal church is the local church, a gathering of believers at a particular time and space. A Christian’s faith finds reality within a local church. The early church in the Scriptures gives us a blueprint of how the local church should be expressed
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:46 – 47
We see they met together in the temple courts (large areas where people gather) and in their homes. Here at One Life Church believers get together on Sunday in Big Groups and during the week in smaller groups, which we call “Connect Groups”. We believe that for a believer to mature in their faith, they need both. Sunday meetings are not enough to develop enduring relationships. But committing to meet with a few people on a regular basis is a great way to do this. Jesus calls us to build relationships with other Christians so that we can encourage, strengthen, care for, support, challenge and sharpen one another. Together we stand, isolated we fall. However, we believe big things can happen in small groups.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN BELIEVERS GET TOGETHER?
What happens when the church gets together? What can be expected when God’s people gather together?
Firstly, God is among his people when they gather together corporately. God is also with us individually; however, he’s with us in a different way when believers get together. Here’s how the Scriptures put it:
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV
The “you” in the verse is not an individual “you” but a plural “you.” God dwells with his people when they come together differently than when an individual simply spends time with Him alone.
Secondly, there is worship. Worship usually happens in the form of singing and giving thanks.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:16
However, worship can also be in other forms besides singing, such as the giving of our tithes and offerings. (Phil. 4:18).
Thirdly, there is preaching from the Scriptures. One of the things the early church did when they gathered was to devote themselves to the Apostles’ teachings (in other words, the Scriptures).
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42 (NIV)
Every Sunday, when we gather, we gather around his word.
Fourthly, we see the breaking of bread or communion. Communion is a symbolic reenactment and reminder of the central saving event of history (the crucifixion of Christ on the cross). It reminds us of our salvation through our identification with Christ on the cross and leads to worship and thanksgiving as we remember what Christ has done for us; it proclaims the basic truths of the gospel to all present.
WHY DO I NEED THE CHURCH?
The Christian needs the local church both for what he receives and for what he gives: growth and maturity are impossible without both. Not only is it impossible to survive and grow as a Christian in isolation, but such an idea is foreign to Scripture. Let’s use an illustration to explain the importance of belonging to a local church. Imagine you’re sitting in front of a fireplace and notice that one of the coals has popped out; you’ll notice that the coal outside of the fireplace begins to cool far quicker than if it was among the other coals. The church is like that; Christianity in isolation quickly cools us to the things of God. We quickly become passive and ineffective in our spiritual walk. The Scriptures put it like this:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—. – Hebrews 10:24 – 25
WHY DOES THE CHURCH NEED ME?
Similarly, the church needs you. But before we get there, we will use a picture to explain your role within the local church. There are many pictures of the church in Scripture that help us understand the nature and purpose of the church (nation, bride, family, temple, priesthood army). Every picture emphasises the place and role of the believer in the church; for instance, the responsibility of every citizen is for the prosperity of the nation; each member of a family has a part to play and can help their siblings; each stone has an exact place in the temple; every believer is a priest ministering to God and others; an inactive soldier endangers the whole army. However, the most common picture in Scripture is that of a body! Here is what Paul writes:
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ…27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:12; 27
You have a part to play in the church. The body needs all its parts to function effectively. It’s a missing one of them it becomes severely disabled and less effective. Here’s another illustration of why the church needs you: Imagine you have a beautiful painting you’d like to put it up in your home. You realise you need to put a screw into the wall. So you go to your garage and look around, and all you find is a spanner and a measuring tape but no drill. The measuring tape helps judge how far the painting should be from the floor; however, the spanner is useless. The essential tool you’re missing is a drill. The project ended because the right tools weren’t in your tool kit. God has gifted and enabled you by His Spirit to participate in His church. You need the church, and the church needs you.
WHAT IS MY GIFT?
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what your gift is and how it can be used to its full effect within the church. It’s vital to remember that we all have a gift given to us by the Spirit to help the body:
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other – 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 5
WHAT ARE SOME OF THESE GIFTS?
There is no exhaustive list of all the gifts; however, Paul the Apostle lists some here.
“Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11
HOW DO I FIND MY ROLE IN THE CHURCH?
This diagram is a helpful tool to find your role within the local church. The first circle represents your passion. The second is your gift, and the third is where there is a need in the church. Where these three overlap is where you find your role within the local church. We call it the sweet spot!
For example, maybe God has gifted you administratively. When told to organise something, you’re really good at it and could almost do it in your sleep; however, what you’re really passionate about is music and would love to be involved with the band. The only problem you realise is that music might be your passion, but it’s not your gift. You’re actually pretty tone-deaf! However, there is a need on the worship team for someone to help administer the worship teams and ensure they’re organised Sunday after Sunday. This is a perfect role for you! It’s where your gifting/passion and the church’s needs overlap.
Day 1: “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” – Colossians 1:18
Day 2: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”‘ – Matthew 18:20
Day 3: …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” – Ephesians 5:25
Day 4: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” – Ephesians 2:19
Day 5: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” – Hebrews 10:24 – 25
Day 6: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
– Romans 12:4 – 5
Day 7: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10
- Who or what do you typically associate with the term “church,” and how does that align with the scriptural perspective discussed in this chapter? How has your understanding of the church evolved after reading this chapter?
- In the chapter, it is emphasised that God’s people coming together in a local church is significant. Why do you think it is important for believers to gather in a local church, and how does this contribute to their spiritual growth and maturity?
- The chapter also discusses the concept of spiritual gifts and the role of each member within the church. Have you ever considered your own spiritual gifts and how you can use them within the church community? How might you apply the diagram presented in the chapter to identify your role within your local church?
- Join a Connect Group at your site and find out how you can involved