“Church” Clarification

By David Holder

Listening to the terminology that some people use when talking about the Lord’s church reveals that either these people do not understand what the church is or that they are not very careful about the language they use. The church is very important in the lives of God’s people and we need to understand what the Bible teaches about this matter. There are some things that need to be clarified regarding the church of Christ.

“Our” Church. Often people say “my church” or “our church.” I think I know what these people mean, but I also know what they said. We need to understand clearly that the church belongs to Christ, not to those who make it up. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church . . . .” Paul tells us that Jesus purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). In Romans 16:16 we read of “the churches of Christ.” We belong to the Lord’s church, but the church does not belong to us!

The Church Building. We need to learn that the church is not the building. “Church” is from the Greek word ekklesia which means the called out one, in this case those called out of sin to live in righteousness. The church then is made up of people -Christians. The church is a spiritual body. It is degrading to ourselves and demonstrates our lack of carefulness when we say the meeting house is the church.

“Going to church. ” Again, this is another misuse of the word church that is used frequently. On Sundays, Wednesdays, and other special times we come to worship or to Bible study, but we do not “come to church.” The church is not a worship service or a Bible study, the church is Christians who have obeyed Christ. We come to the building to be with the church but we do not “come to church.”

“I am church of Christ. ” This statement portrays that the New Testament church is a denominational body. When someone asks us what we are religiously, it is incorrect to say, “I am church of Christ.” The correct response would be that we are Christians or` members of the church of Christ. The church of Christ revealed in the New Testament is not a denominational body. The New Testament speaks of only one church. This is the church that Jesus established and that wears His name and respects His authority. There is no other. The Bible says nothing about denominations of churches. Hence, when we speak of our membership in the church we need to make it clear that we are Christians, members of the body of Christ, not that we are “church of Christ.”

Church headquarters. Some people ask where is our “church headquarters.” Nowhere in the Bible do we find the church organized with a central rule-making body. The church has only one head – Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23). Christians, wherever they might be, make up the body of Christ with Christ as the head over the body. Then according to the New Testament, the church is organized on the local level, i.e. Christians meeting together in a particular locality, thus “the church of Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2). Each local congregation is to have its own elders (Acts 14:23) and deacons (Phil. 1:1). Each local congregation is independent of any other local church in work and worship, and independent of any governing body or centralized control. This is the New Testament pattern for church organization. We must let the church be what God designed it to be – nothing more or less.

It is sad that the word “church” has been misused. This misuse has caused many people to misunderstand what the church is. We need to be careful when talking about the church of our Lord. The church is a precious institution and our language should reflect that we understand how important the church is.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 3, p. 84
February 3, 1983