What is the Church?

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What is the Church?

By Jonathan Miller


I’ve been on a quest the past few years to clarify and define what “the church” is and what God’s intention is for the church.

You see, I believe that God created the right way to do church, and I wonder if what Christians are doing is matching up with God’s intention.

I find myself speculating if we’ve lost our way as a church.

My personal experience with church has been a mix of “great,” “ok,” and “bad.” The term “no church is perfect” is engrained in my brain.

Just because there is not perfect church, I know believers shouldn’t stop pursuing Truth and living in line with God’s Word.

So, if we’re getting things wrong, we should acknowledge and change it, right? If we’re on track, then we can celebrate and trust God with the results.

In my experience, the church in Western civilization tends to consist of the following elements:

  • once-a-week gathering
  • songs of worship
  • prayer
  • a sermon
  • announcements about events
  • communion
  • baptism
  • ways to get connected to different groups

Then Christians leave the building and do their own thing during the rest of the week. Some will also join in on a small group or Bible study, but most won’t return until the next weekend.

That’s a typical Western church experience, I’d say.

What Does God Say?

Acts 1:8 boils down the description of God’s Church to two succinct words. Jesus spoke these words Himself right before He ascended into heaven. He called the group of his followers “my witnesses.”

What were they witnesses to?

Ultimately, they were witnesses to the fact that Jesus is God. (You can read for more context in Isaiah 43:10-12).

When you think of what these men and women witnessed firsthand with Jesus, it’s a lot. Many of them spent three years with Jesus, seeing His miracles, hearing His teaching, experiencing how He interacted with people, and watching Him die on a cross…

THEN…

They witnessed Jesus rise from the dead three days after his death - proving that he was in fact the Son of God.

So, if we were to simplify the purpose of the church, it seems to me it’s to carry on the witness of who Jesus is.

A couple thoughts come to mind initially:

  1. It can’t be that simple, can it? We have to create programs, and support church staff teams and structure to make church effective, right? Who is going to facilitate the monthly potluck??
  2. If it is that simple…then are Christians getting distracted from the purpose of the church?

Is it that Simple?

When I sat down to write this blog, I had intended to map how Church acted in the book of Acts. But, when I read Jesus’ departing words to the disciples… it truly clarifies what’s important.

Christians are asked to be His witnesses.

To be a witness, you have to have experienced something firsthand in order for your testimony to be valid.

So, the question of whether or not the Church is doing its job right becomes less about the church as a large organization and more about me and you.

It is easy to point fingers and blame a distant entity. It’s more difficult to wrestle with what’s going on inside your very own heart.

If you are a Christian, what have you experienced firsthand from God? Not from a program or from people. These things are imperfect and can let you down or disappoint you. What have you experienced firsthand from God?

I happen to know and believe God’s character is one of grace, forgiveness of sins, hope, and joy.

So, if you’ve experienced those things from Him, that is what the rest of the world needs to hear about!

They need to hear the good news.

I believe Jesus wants to tell you specifically today, “Hey (enter your name here), you are my witness. Please don’t keep what you have witnessed to yourself. It’s meant to be spread.”

Initially the route of this blog was to point a finger at the Western church and blame it for not being biblical…What I found instead was a change in my own heart.

The Big C and the Little c

God has shown me there are two types of “churches” Christians talk about. One is the little-c-church. The little-c-church is often housed in a particular building and filled with a group of people who meet together regularly.

The little-c-church is the corporate entity that I spoke about above with its once-a-week rhythm.

The big-C-Church is totally different. The big-C-Church is not constrained by walls. The big-C-Church is every person who follows Jesus. In addition, all little-c-churches who follow the Jesus of the Bible are also a part of the big-C-Church.

It’s easy to be dissatisfied with the little-c-churches. None of them organizationally could measure up to the church in the Bible.

This is because the Bible mostly talks about the big-C-Church, not the little-c-church.

In some ways, it might be argued that a follower Jesus doesn’t need to be a part of a little-c-church. However, for a follower of Jesus, being a part of the big-C-Church isn’t optional.

Jesus Himself gives very specific guidelines for what it means to follow Him.

What I’d love for you to remember today is, if you believe in and follow Jesus, you’re talking about yourself when you reference God’s Church.

Regardless of what programming looks like at your little-c-church, we are 100% called to be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth as his big-C-Church.

Little-c-churches can be great places to find community, teaching, and encouragement, but they are nothing without every believer taking seriously Jesus’ call to be His witnesses.

I’m going to get to work, personally. I hope you will too! There’s a lot on the line if we don’t.