So Peter was kept in prison, but the Church was earnestly praying for him. Acts 12:5
For decades now Christian weddings have been conducted outside the four walls of a church. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s God who sanctifies marriages, not religious buildings. But, such trends are just one of the signs of the increasingly optional status of the Church in American society. Whereas community churches used to be considered a course of life and light, increasingly their light has grown dimmer when it comes to their connection with life’s most serious moments. Many people view churches as having little to say that is more relevant than what can be found on talks shows or in Internet advice columns. And so they stay away.
So what is the Church? Often people confuse “Church” with “church” the former being the universal body of believers in Christ; the latter being a building constructed for the purpose of the Church meeting together for worship, instruction, service and fellowship. That confusion developed easily in America where churches have proliferated. Many New England towns and villages are characterized by churches built hundreds of years ago as our nation was settled.
In the New Testament the Greek word for church is ekklesia, which means “called out ones” Ekklesia referred to any assembly of people who were called together for a particular purpose and the New Testament writers applied this term to those called together by God. And every time it’s used, it always refers to people, not buildings. The great English Bible translator William Tyndale wisely sought to avoid the confusion between “Church” and “church” by translating ekklesia as “congregation” instead of “church”. Interesting. That means when Christians ask whether or not the Church is having an impact on the world, we only have to look in the mirror.
In early church history the Church had met in homes, in public places and other settings. It wasn’t until the Roman Church began building churches throughout Europe that the “church building” began. That’s when the Church became institutionalized and tied to its property.
I’m not “anti-church building”. Don’t take this that way. I believe buildings play a role in the success of the Church. All the benefits that accrue to a nuclear family from having a physical structure to call home apply to church families as well. Church buildings allow the Church to gather for worship and fellowship, while discipleship is best accomplished outside the walls of the building.
The point I’m getting to is this: We must maintain a clear understanding of the difference between Church and church. The priority of the former over the latter. Keeping focus on people is the biblical priority and will result in the Church’s remaining relevant.
May God grant His Church the discipline to stay focused and the desire to manifest the eternal relevance of Christ to a needy world. Amen