WHAT IS A CHURCH?
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:4-5
“I’m going to church” we say to one another. What we really mean is, “We’re going to a building, one where a group of people meet.” The only biblical definition of church is ‘the meeting of a group of people who have put their faith in Christ – a meeting where the Spirit of God rests.’ A church can meet in restaurant, the basement of a school, in a home, or in an institutional building with a steeple. In the last few years, the resurgence of house churches are becoming more commonplace in the U.S. That is a good thing since I can easily become close-minded to such an idea in Western culture.
One disturbing thing though was revealed in a recent USA Today survey. Of the 56 percent of Americans who attend church, 46 percent do so because “It is good for me”, and 26 percent go because it is where they hope to find “peace of mind and spiritual well-being.” Specific doctrine does not appear important to most. Biblical literacy and conviction has given way to whether or not “I feel good” when I go. The entertainment factor, the programs, and who else attends have become determining factors.
Another distortion of true church practice is how we believe that our denomination is what makes up the true church. Baptists tell Presbyterian jokes; Catholics tell Protestant jokes, etc.
Donald Grey Barnhouse tells how he once made slighting remarks about a denomination he considered to be on the fringe of genuine Christianity. A minister from this denomination was present and afterwards told Barnhouse how grieved he was at what he considered an unjust judgment. Barnhouse apologized, and it was agreed that he would meet for lunch with four or five ministers from this particular church.
When they got together, Barnhouse, who had suggested the luncheon, made the additional suggestion that during lunch they should discuss only the points on which they agreed. Afterwards, when they had finished, they could talk about their differences. They began to talk about Jesus Christ and what he meant to each of them. There was a measure of joy as each confessed that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he came to die for our sins and then rose again bodily. Each acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord. They confessed that he had sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that the Lord was living in each of his children by means of the Holy Spirit. They acknowledged the reality of the new birth and that they were looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ, after which they would be spending eternity together.
By this time the meal was drawing to a close. And when they turned to the matters that divided them, they found that they were secondary and they recognized that they were areas in which they could agree to disagree without denying that each was a believer.
So I ask myself some questions at the end here. 1.) Do I have a denominational prejudice? 2.) Am I part of a group of true believers where the Spirit rests? 3.) Am I nit-picking on peripheral issues? 4.) Am I able to feel joy when I meet other believers who are different than me? Jesus has a lot to teach me about the world-wide church and how it looked at Pentecost.
How it looked at Pentecost will be how it looks in heaven. Prepare me to love all that now. Amen