On a hill in the middle of town there stands a beautiful “church”.  It was erected just prior to the turn of the 20th century.  Stained glass, tall ceilings, ornate woodwork and detail and a steeple that pierces the sky majestically; this “church” stands at the center of town as a symbolic emblem.  The landscape surrounding is carefully pruned with a variety of flowers, trees, shrubs and pathways.  The building is an architectural wonder, carefully maintained.  This is a common idea that pops into one’s mind when they hear this word, “church”.  Now let me share with you some remaining details to describe this building.  This building that was built from years gone by is a historic landmark protected by the city municipalities as an exhibit of the past.  The building is no longer the home of a worshipping congregation.  It is not even set-up as a place for religious expression or presentation.  Now the contents of this building are remnants and artifacts detailing the vast histories of this little town somewhere in America.  It is a city museum in a “church”.  The building continues to bear the moniker of “church” ….But is it a church?

 

Question:  What is a Church?

 

The best way to answer that question and define what the word Church means is to review the beginning of the Church.  In the book of Acts we find how the church of Jesus Christ began.  In Acts 1:1-9 we see the risen Jesus interacting with His many disciples.  He tells them that He is going to go to heaven and send the Holy Spirit in exchange.

Acts 1:4-5, 8 (NIV)
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
8 …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The disciples were obedient to Jesus.  They waited patiently.  In Acts 2 it says that while they waited an extraordinary event took place.  The room where they were meeting was filled with a violent blowing wind and something like tongues of fire rested upon each of them.  The Holy Spirit had come.  The result of this event was that they were immediately equipped as witnesses to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.  Peter the apostle was transformed that day.  Under the power of the Holy Spirit he addressed a great crowd and it says that three thousand people were added to them that day.  This was the beginning of the church.  Jesus gave His Spirit so that His disciples could become witnesses.

When Jesus said, “…I will build my church…”  (Matt. 16:18)  this is what he was talking about.  The word “church” here is the Greek word ekklÄ“sia (pronounced ek-klay-see-yah).  This is a compound word which means literally those who are the “called out from” (Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). Jesus was not talking about building a literal building, but rather a group of people “called out from” the constraints of the law, the bondages of sin and death, the appearances of evil, the delusion of piety and the entrapment of guilt.  These people would be called out of these vices for a purpose – the mission of Jesus Christ to Love God (Matt 22:37), Love Each Other (Matt 22:39) and Love the People of Their World (Matt 28:19-20).  Jesus called His people out to be His witnesses, His Loving Church (Ecclesia).

 

Question:  What does it mean to be a witness?  What does it mean to be “called out”?

 

The early church is described in Acts 2:42-47.  In this description we see some important clues as to what a church ought to look like.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Question: In what ways did the early church express their devotion to Jesus purpose of Loving God?

 

 

…Loving Each Other?

 

 

…Loving the People of Their World?

 

Clearly the “Church” is not a building.  It is a group of devoted people called out and empowered by God and in mission together with Jesus Christ.  Jesus has called us to be the church, not go to a church.  He has called us to be a Loving Church.

 

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