The next few posts–about church and church structure, pastors, and church ministry–are all very closely related. They are so closely linked that it was hard to separate them, but I wrote about them separately so the post wouldn’t be so long. In fact, I wrote them all at once, so I could decide where to put various pieces of thought…
There are a lot of people who are leaving the churches in the USA. While I’m sure that some are leaving because they are offended, wounded, or backslidden, there are many who are leaving the church because they love God deeply and don’t feel the established church is speaking the truth.
One of the questions I’ve asked myself, as I’ve struggled with traditions/teachings of the church, is what church ought to look like. Is the way we do church Biblical?
I believe there is a difference between the church (the organization) and the CHURCH (the Body of Christ). I believe that THE CHURCH is the people, the Body of Christ, living stones being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). CHURCH not just a building, a structure, government, traditions, teachings, or way of worship. It isn’t something we attend, or specific place, but something we ARE. WE, those who are the redeemed children of God, are the CHURCH.
I believe that the CHURCH might attend a local church, but not everyone who attends a church is a member of the CHURCH, and not every local church is the CHURCH. A sign on a building or attached to an organization doesn’t make it a CHURCH.
When a person talks about CHURCH being the people and not the place, many Christians get concerned. They say people need to go to church for fellowship and they quote Hebrew 10:25: “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:25).
I absolutely agree that we need to fellowship with other. The question is, however, “what is fellowship?” Just because you meet with a large group of people, it doesn’t mean you’ve experienced “fellowship.” Just because you meet with only one or two others–in person, by phone, or through the Internet–doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced fellowship. I think “fellowship” is a unity of spirit, and that can happen anywhere. Another question is how many people must meet together before they become a “church.” The Jews believe 10 men (a minyan) are necessary in order to have a corporate body. The only number mentioned in the Bible is in Matthew 18:20:
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
So perhaps whenever you have two or three people gathered together in His Name, you have the CHURCH. So when my family and I study the Bible together, we have the CHURCH. When I study with friends over the Internet, we are participating in the CHURCH. When my friend from California and I pray together over the phone, we are the CHURCH. When two or more friends gather together to help each other in the walk with Christ, there is the CHURCH.