These words are very well known by many but are a mystery to most! Who is the ‘My’? What does it mean to ‘build’? How can anyone be sure what ‘church’ means these days? If you were a church-goer when you were young, are you still? The fact is that many have stopped ‘going’ to church, the church is ageing, it is divided into many denominations and has suffered many indignations. There’s a lot that can happen to make a person give up on church as you can probably testify. Is it still an ‘institution’ recognised and respected today? If not, why not and what is its future? So many questions, but current statistics reveal much decline in traditional churches although there are various expressions of church bucking the trend in some areas. The pace of secularisation in Europe seems unrelenting with far fewer claiming a Christian identity. And yet, it was the Lord Jesus speaking to his original 12 disciples who said: ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’- Matthew 16:18. Eras of history have shown great advances despite the many setbacks. Wikipedia states that c.2.5 billion people are Christian which is c.30% of the world’s population. It does beg the question as to what it means to be a Christian and to be part of Jesus’ Church.
- ‘A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints’ - Pauline Phillips
- ‘Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile’ - Billy Sunday
- ‘I hate how hard spiritual transformation is and how long it takes. I hate thinking about how many people have gone to church for decades and remain joyless or judgmental or bitter or superior’ - John Ortberg
- ‘Far too often, we have limited the definition of the Church. While not in all cases, in many cases, 'Church' has become an informational, inspirational weekly gathering rather than the group of people that God has ordained from Heaven to operate on his behalf on Earth in order to bring Heaven's viewpoint into history’ - Tony Evans
At its simplest, to be a Christian is to trust and follow Jesus Christ. The word in the Bible most often translated as ‘church’ is the Greek ‘ekklesia’, which means a gathering of people who are ‘called out’ or ‘called forth’. Do you consider yourself as one called by God? The word ‘ekklesia’ can be applied to a local church or to the worldwide universal church. It does not relate to physical buildings but other biblical pictures for ‘church’ include family, bride, temple, building, vine, harvest and body. Each one of these brings a different insight into what it might mean to be part of the church showing it to be far more than a mere club or organisation. It is a living organism with a purpose, a past, a present and a place in God’s plans for the future.
- ‘As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ - 1 Peter 2:4-5
- ‘Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many’ - 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
- ‘For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care’ - 1 Corinthians 3:9-10
- ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready’ - Revelation 19:7
The church is given for us to belong to, where we find our place within God’s family and each one of us can make a new start. Although we are all distinct, we all have a part to play in worshipping God, in the mission of Jesus Christ for salvation and in nurturing each other through the power of the Holy Spirit. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have each given gifts for the building of the church. The Father’s gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 include various ministries and leadership. The Son’s gifts are found in Ephesians 4:7-16 and feature apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit to build the church are ‘distributed to each one individually as He wills’ and are for ‘the common good’ as revealed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
The Church of Jesus Christ continues to be good news, the best news for this hurting world. The neglected old buildings found in villages, towns and cities are often not good adverts. In the past, people of faith were stirred to build these ‘field hospitals’ often in hostile territory but the love and fire of new generations has grown cold. Lesslie Newbigin described the church as a ‘sign, herald and foretaste of the Kingdom of God’. Despite what your experiences may be, the Church continues to be at the centre of God’s plans and his children are to be part of it, not neglecting to meet up (Hebrews 10:25) and fulfil their calling. Church needs to be more than virtual if it is going to be salt and light, shaping communities, meeting needs and preparing for the day when the ‘Spirit and the Bride say, “Come Lord Jesus!”’ (Revelation 22:17) - it needs your hands, your arms, your feet, your legs, your voice and your heart.
TAGS – millennialism, tribulation, rapture, unity, spot, blemish, Lamb, clean linen, marriage