What is "a" church?
What is “a” Church?
Last week we talked about “the” church. In that global sense, we can say that “the” church consists of all God’s people, old covenant and new, who have been redeemed by the blood of His Son.
But there is also “a” church, or we might say in another way, that there are individual “churches”. We’re talking now about the local body of believers who join together as a committed group to live in gospel fellowship and accountability. That is our theme for today.
A church is a body of believers who have covenanted together to be under the preaching of the word, to share in the ordinances of communion and baptism, to practice mutual accountability up to and including church discipline, to worship God together, and to mutually minister as a body made up of its various members.
That may not be a perfect definition, but it’s getting us into the ballpark. Those are the main pieces of the biblical puzzle. Ephesians talks about the way in which church leaders, pastors and teachers are responsible for helping the church to grow stable in order to stand against false doctrine. So, a proper church is not an anything-goes proposition. There is clarity. There are boundaries.
Consider this scenario. You could have a big public event where many Christians gather together. Would that be a church? No. Individually, if they are followers of Christ they are part of “the” church. But, collectively, in that moment it’s a gathering of Christians at an event, but it isn’t “a” church. There are no elder shepherds watching over their souls; there is no agreed standard of doctrine; there is no practice of the ordinances, and there is zero accountability. That doesn’t make that gathering a bad thing at all. It just isn’t “a” church in the biblical sense.
A church is that place and those people where I’m fully committed to participate in all the fifty nine “one-another passages” in scripture—loving one another, admonishing one another, encouraging one another, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns, submitting to one another, bearing one another’s burden, and so on. They’re the people that I’m not to forsake the assembling of as it says in Hebrews 10:25. Every Christian, and that means every person who is part of “the” church, must be in “a church”. It does not exclude us from those outside our church, but it makes sure that we are genuinely practicing what Christ call us to.