What is the Church?

Published November 10, 2011 by

How we think and talk about the church matters. We often use analogies and illustrations from that with which we are familiar to help us understand something unfamiliar. This is true of the church and how even the Scripture teaches us about our relationship with God and with each other.

We are told in 1 Peter 2 that the church is like a building, but not just any building, the temple of God. We are called the body of Christ by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 (and elsewhere). We are described as the family of God (1 Thessalonians 4) and even the bride of Christ (Revelation 21). None of these are what the church is, but the church is all of these and more. These analogies are helpful in understanding what the church is and they all communicate unity with each other and with God. They are used by the New Testament authors to express that the way we function is through cooperation (among other key concepts).

This is upside down from the way the world works. The world functions in competition. Competition can bring variety, improvements, new ideas, growth, knowledge, and even wisdom. But so can cooperation. Competition puts me before others. Cooperation sees others as equal. Competition desires to gain more, cooperation desires to be more.

Sometimes, because we are so familiar with the way the world operates, we don’t recognize when we ware following the pattern of this world. We begin to make our own comparisons to the church from what we know, like running a business. But Jesus is not a product and church attendees are not consumers. We are not in competition with each other or other congregations; we are in cooperation with the Spirit of God and other believers to make disciples, growing to maturity.

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