What is the church?

Side view of the historic, yet abandoned Peace Lutheran Church in Stonehenge, SK with a canola field and countryside in the background

All my life I have heard people talk about “the church” and in particular why their church is the best church. “Church,” in general terms, implies a church service. We “go to church” to sing songs and hear the word of God. The church can be easily identified in terms of a building. We go to “our church”.

But church in the Biblical sense, is a way to identify the body of believers, a family of like-minded followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. But in the real world, there are those who will contend that if you do not believe exactly what they believe, or follow their denomination, you are not a believer at all. I’d like a dollar for every time I was told that.

People can be rigid in their beliefs

As a hospital chaplain, I was kicked out of many rooms because I was from the “wrong” church. Once a pastor even kicked me out of the room, dismissing me in no uncertain terms and rather harshly, because I wasn’t a part of his denomination and therefore a non-believer. I just asked him how he was feeling. He kicked me out not knowing anything about me.

I’ve been called a heretic for not reading the right Bible, even though I enjoy many versions of the Bible. Some Christians who don’t want to hear the truth from the Bible, or encouragement from anyone but their pastor. They don’t want prayer because they are taught to reject anyone outside of their particular church.

The term church can be problematic

You can see why “church” can be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the church, but it’s people that get in the way. For all the wrong reasons they reject the body of Christ. Some church organizations, or individual congregations, bear little resemblance of the church that Jesus established. They not only reject other believers, they dismiss them entirely.

In order to protect their way of seeing the world, they will sadly reject what the Lord Jesus told us.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

The Jewish authorities, so intimidated by the ministry of Jesus, took action and determined that he must die. Little did they know that God would use their fear and hatred for His own purpose. When Jesus raised Lazarus, the plot started to unfold.

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. (John 11:45-55)

God loves His church

God loves His church, all of the believers, all of the denominations. Think of it as a family of believers. We don’t all agree on every point, but we all agree that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Sadly, the church is divided on who gets to believe the truth. Just like the Pharisees, they sometimes do more harm than good. But the it survives. It’s a good idea. Believers should be connected to a church. Men and women may get in the way, but the Lord Jesus is still in charge.