What is a church? This is a question many have assume they know the answer to while others have try to look at it from a different perspective. Here I’m not referring to the whole body of Christ but a local church. Many Christians thinks church is the building while some have come to see that a church is not a building but the members . Although this is a step closer to the truth but it is not totally true. A church is not the individual member but the assembly of the members.
The Greek word translated as church is ecclesia and it literal meaning is the ‘assembly of the called out ones’. It doesn’t just mean the people but the assembly of these people. Therefore a church is the meeting or gathering of Christians. It is not the building that Christian meet neither is it individual Christians but it is the very meeting, the assembly. The church is a spiritual thing, it is alive and it is not just the physical gathering of believers. A group of believers may be gathered but yet church is absent. Church is the spiritual mixture of the fellowship of believers and the moving Spirit of Christ. It comprises of a candlestick of gold and the burning fire. Christians say things like “let us go to church” but a more correct statement is “let us church” or “let the church be summoned”.
Wherever you have a group of believers meeting or gathering unto Christ it is a church. In the Athens democracy whenever the people meet to discuss the issues of the land it is called ecclesia. And this is where the word church came from, this means that a church is not just the people but the meeting of the people. Now, “the Church” could be refer to as the whole body of Christ i.e every Christian. But “a local church” is the meeting of a group of believers.
We’ve had this assumption that the Christian meeting is a program, an order of activities and a series of religious rituals. We must understand that God creates living organism and man can only build machines. Men build these machines with dead materials, they put these materials together using their intelligence and they power this machines with artificial life force. They also program these machines to behave in certain ways. For example, a robot, this robot can look like a man, move and talk a man. But it is not alive, it can never be termed a living thing. It may look alive but it is not alive. A robot can only do what he had been program to do, it doesn’t have a mind of is own.
Thinking of the Christian meeting as a program is actually assuming that the Christian meeting is a robot. Look very closely at our meetings, what do you see? A dead thing, made of dead materials, human intelligence, human design. Look at all the efforts we put just to power it, just to make it feel alive. All the musical instruments we gather and the musicians we hire. All the jumping and shouting, all our attempt to carry the people along, to make the service lively and enjoyable, it is nothing but artificial life. Look at how well programmed our meeting is, we try to follow the schedule strictly, we try to keep to time and prevent any diversion from the order of the program. As a result our meeting is always the same, always following the same procedure like a robot, it doesn’t have a mind of it’s own. Yes, if you look very closely at our meetings all you would see is a man-made machine.
How then is a church or the Christian meeting according to God’s mind? It is a living organism created by God. It is truly alive, created not by man’s hands but by God and His Word (Christ). Yes, it is a living thing and it has a mind of it own, it cannot be controlled by man like some kind of robot. It does whatever it likes because it has it own will and no one has the right to infringe on it’s will. Christ is the life that powers the meeting and Christ is the meeting himself. The Christian meeting is a person, it has a personality, it is Christ and Christ is Lord. Therefore all must submit to the church so that it can freely express itself. No man tries to intervene as the church expresses it’s life. The meeting cannot be controlled or manipulated by man for it is the Lord Jesus himself.
The Christian meeting is a church and a church is Christ therefore the Christian meeting is not a program. It is not a man-made thing but it is alive, it is a person – yes, it is Christ Jesus himself. A local church cannot be man-made, no! It cannot be a machine, not an ordinary program. A true church is alive, it is nothing else but Christ.