Monday, August 3, 2015

What is a Church?

Our parents take us through a couple questions from the "Catechism for Boys and Girls" by Tom J. Nettles every night, and this was one of the questions a couple weeks ago. The answer to "What is a church?" is given as "A church is an assembly of baptized believers joined by a covenant of discipline and witness who meet together regularly under the preaching of the word of God."

Church is not a building. Lydia and those she worshiped with met at the riverside (Acts 16). The book of Nehemiah tells us of Ezra leading worship in the "square before the water gate". The church is not confined to four walls. The church can be held anywhere, because the church is believers, who "in one body... have many members, and the members do not all have the same function[. S]o we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." But as individuals, we make up part of THE church, but we do not make A church.

The universal church of Christ is all individual believers. Everyone who is called His own and strives to honor him in worship, prayer, and searching of the scripture is a part of the universal church. And with so many resources at our fingertips this day, we can listen to a sermon whenever we want. We have always been able to worship and sing praises to God at any time we want. We are called to pray without ceasing, whether we are at church or not. We can serve others for Christ's sake in ways that are not connected to the church. All of these are part of a church, and should also be carried out in our private life, but alone they are personal worship.

We can meet up with people all the time. We can share some of the things that God has been teaching us. We can witness of His mercies and talk of His teachings among ourselves often. But just meeting up with friends is simply a social outing. We can honor God while we do so -and should delight and seek to do so- but that isn't church, either.

I was reading in Nehemiah yesterday and loved this passage; "And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading" (Nehemiah 8:1-8). 

All the people gathered as one. They made a collective decision to learn from the word of God together. They delighted in it, and attended to it. They blessed the Lord together, and worshiped Him. The leaders explained the Words that they had just read together.

We need believers who make a collective decision to delight to come together as one to learn from the word of God and worship Him. We need those who will share what he has done for them, and seek to show His love to each other regularly. We need likeminded fellowship, not to satisfy our own longings, but to bring glory to Christ and encourage other believers. We need to "contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality" (Romans 12). We need biblical preaching of the Word regularly. This will give us a local church, no matter what the building, or lack thereof, may look like. Following Christ's pattern for a church will often bring joy to the believer, but it should be done for the witness it brings to Christ, not just for what we enjoy from it.

Church isn't just people. People make friendships. But a church without people devoted to Christ isn't church, either. Let us "devote... [our]selves to the... teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and... prayers."

No comments:

Post a Comment

"May the Lord, the God of your fathers... bless you!" Deuteronomy 1:11