Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people.
The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23(ESV) says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return. The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:
1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13(NLT)“13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”. This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Assemblies of God church, Non-Denominational church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church consist of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.
Acts 2:42-47(ESV) 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This could be considered a purpose statement for the church: According to these verses, the purposes/activities of the church should be 1) teaching biblical doctrine, 2) providing a place of fellowship for believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, 4) praying, 5) taking care of each others needs, and 6) Worship
1. Teach Biblical Doctrine
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship,” that’s friendship, “to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul.” People were amazed because God showed up and the Holy Spirit was working. Jesus ascended back into heaven and sent the Spirit, and when the Spirit of God dropped on the people of God, lives were changed in large number, and the world has never been the same.
“And many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” We still see people healed and miracles done because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So here’s what it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” We devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching; we open the Word of God. God used them to teach the Old Testament, to write some of the New Testament, and to be eyewitnesses to others who wrote the rest of the New Testament. Everything connects to apostolic teaching. We believe in the Bible. We believe in the whole Bible. We’re not trying to invent a new religion. We’re not trying to change anything. Our goal is faithfulness to the timeless truths of the Word of God not traditions of man.
2. A Place for Fellowship
Some people joke about the “Bedside Baptists” who attend the “Chapel of the Tube” on Sunday mornings. But it’s more than a joke. Many people refuse to get near a church unless their family member is playing the role of a sheep in the Christmas pageant! They claim they can get more out of a fishing trip than from the typical sermon.
Can a Christian survive apart from a church? Some Christians have no choice. They are trapped in a hospital bed, or working in an isolated area where no church exists. And God is certainly sufficient to care for their needs. You can still get to heaven if you can’t go to church.
The importance of true Christian fellowship is that it reinforces these things in our mind and helps us to focus on Christ and His desires and goals for us. As iron sharpens iron, in true Christian fellowship Christians sharpen one another’s faith and stir one another to exercise that faith in love and good works, all to God’s glory. Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Even in the early church, some were falling into the bad habit of not meeting with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s not the way to go. We need the encouragement that church attendance affords. And the approach of the end times should prompt us to be even more devoted to going to church.
If we cut off a hand or a finger and set it aside from the body it will eventually become dead and rotten. Same with a believer who does not belong to a local body.
Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
The church must be together to carry out many of its purposes.
For these reasons and more, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be regular aspects of a believer’s life. Weekly church attendance is in no sense “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers.
3. The 2 Ordinances (Baptism and Communion)
Protestants and Evangelicals see ordinances as symbolic reenactments of the gospel message that Christ lived, died, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will someday return. Rather than requirements for salvation, ordinances are visual aids to help us better understand and appreciate what Jesus Christ accomplished for us in His redemptive work. Ordinances are determined by three factors: they were instituted by Christ, they were taught by the apostles, and they were practiced by the early church. Since baptism and communion are the only rites which qualify under these three factors, there can be only two ordinances, neither of which are requirements for salvation.
Ordinances are generally understood to be those things Jesus told us to observe with other Christians. Regarding baptism, Matthew 28:18-20(ESV) says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
As for communion, also called the Lord’s Supper, Luke 22:19 (ESV) says, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Most churches observe these two practices, but may not necessarily refer to them as ordinances.
Prayer is Communication with the Father, our Creator. Before Salvation we have no communication with the Father. Just the fact that people like us can speak to the Creator of the universe is itself an amazing thing. Even more astounding is the fact that He hears us and acts on our behalf! The first thing we need to understand about effective prayer is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to suffer and die on the cross to even make it possible for us to approach the throne of grace to worship and pray.
Hebrews 10:19-23 (ESV)19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Without Jesus the only prayer God hears is that of repentance. If you are not saved God is not obligated to listen to any of your prayers.
Jesus is the gate into the House of Prayer, repentance is the key.
Isaiah 59:1-2(HCSB) Indeed, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear. 2 But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.
Acts 2:45 (HCSB)45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.
The word compassion means: (1) a deep awareness and sympathy of the sufferings of another. It also has a second definition: (2) the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.
In addition to having the sorrow that is felt for the suffering of others, it is a willingness and an urge to assist them. The word actually means to do something about feeling sorry, to be affected by their situation. It is to enter into one’s sorrow and pain. When we feel true compassion, we will be moved inwardly. Having empathy; to have one’s heart reach out toward the needs of others. To be compassionate, to pity; to be kindhearted. It means to be tenderhearted; to be sensitive and affectionate, to be moved with tender feelings over the pain and sufferings of others.
This compassion will stand ready to assist the one who is sorrowing. Paul preached that God is the source of all the believer’s ability for showing true compassion. In Colossians. 3:12-13(HCSB) Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
If you’re going to form the vision, you also have to be able to fund the vision.If you want your church to grow, you must learn how to motivate believers to invest their resources into the Kingdom for ministry and for facilities. You can either give by reason or by revelation. Giving by reason means this – I look at what I have, I figure out what’s reasonable, and I commit that amount. It doesn’t take any faith to give by reason. I just figure out what can I afford to give. Giving by revelation means I determine my gift by praying “Lord, what do you want to give through me?” This requires faith. When you give by revelation, you’re committing an act of worship and saying, “How much am I willing to trust God?”
James 2:15-19(HCSB)15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.
James the little brother of Jesus is saying you can say that you believe but the evidence of your belief is in good works! He contrast it by telling people that who are just believing without “good Works” are like the demons but even less because at lest the demons shudder!
There are so many people who suffer and keep on suffering never having their needs met. Which causes many in the world to become hardened to others’ sufferings. Many hoard and build up assets when they could be sacrificing and reaching out so that they can meet the world’s needs. This should not be said of the believer. It does not mean that believers should be without the necessities of life. All believers need to have compassion when they see the sufferings of others. Compassion is to be felt by believers to the point they are moved to act. These actions will include sacrificing and reaching out to meet others’ needs.
Notice how compassion will not leave any room for selfishness. True compassion will have a person deny himself so he can help others in their needs and sufferings. As people assist others, they are drawn together. People being united can be done by compassion – when a person shows a feeling for another and sacrifices – reaching out to help each other. A great bond is formed between the believer and the ones that he ministers to.
What you glory in you will sacrifice for. If you glory in God you will sacrifice all other aspects of life to make sure you are in His presence.
Worship is a lifestyle. People don’t have sin problems they have worship problems. People continue in their sin because they fail to worship the God of scripture. The highest we take people most of the time is into sin management. People glory in football and sacrifice coming to church so they can worship their idol. God wants all of you not just what you want to give him. If you glory in Hunting you will sacrifice for it, God doesn’t say not to do these things but we are not to esteem them above God.
We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions. We see this all the time as people don’t come to church, they don’t worship unless they “feel” like it, their favorite song is played, or their favorite worship leader is leading. We are not to let our worship be dictated by our feelings or our emotions.
John 4:24(ESV)God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Christian worship engages both heart and head. It necessitates true doctrine about the Father and his Son, and their partnership in rescuing sinners, and due emotion about that doctrine. It is both an affair of the heart and an affair of the mind. At bottom, it’s not what we do (or don’t do) with our hands (or what someone else is doing or not doing), but what we do with our hearts and minds — because the one who has captured our hearts and minds. Worship is in spirit and in truth.